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Argentina: Iberá Wetlands

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Iberá Wetlands > Argentina > Americas

[Visited: September 2016]

The nightly bus trip from Buenos Aires was luxurious, but when we arrive at the bus station of Mercedes in Corrientes province, we are not sure how we can proceed to our destination, the wetlands of Iberá in the north. To our surprise, someone approaches us, and informs us that he will take us, and a few others, in his small bus: the message I sent before boarding the bus apparently has arrived! Especially the second part of the drive is beautiful: the road is pretty bad, the landscape is a farmhouse here and there, with lots of open space in between. After arrival in the village of Carlos Pellegrini, and booking a late afternoon boat tour, we cannot wait to get out and start exploring. Walking the dusty and deserted streets of the village, we suddenly feel very far from the madness of Buenos Aires - it cannot get much more peaceful than this! We walk towards the visitor centre, over a causeway, keeping our eyes open to the wildlife in the air and the water. Before we know it, we spot our first caiman, lazing in the sun with its beak open. It gets us all excited: little do we know that we will see many more.

Picture of Iberá Wetlands (Argentina): Caiman on the shore of the laguna at the end of the day

The visitor centre offers a good introduction to the wetlands and its history. The name Iberá derives from the local Guaraní language: y bera, meaning bright water. Human activity, mostly hunting, actually threatened to wipe out the local animals, but fortunately, the area was turned into a reserve in the early 1980s; numbers have recovered since, and former hunters have turned into rangers or guides. We are out on a first short walk, in which we unfortunately do not see or hear the howler monkeys, the loudest monkeys on earth. Back at the visitor centre, we see our first capybaras, the largest rodents on the planet; they turn out to be lazy and not shy at all, munching away at the grass fields. We walk the boardwalk at the edge of the laguna, and see several caimans, capybaras, birds, and deer. When we are back at the beginning, watching one of the caimans, we notice another one hurling a ray into the air. We watch in fascination as the beastly animal holds the big ray in its mouth, sits still for minutes, and then tries to move it again. One of the rangers sees us, and comes to explain that a caiman can only swallow rather than eat; it will take many hours for the animal to actually consume this ray.

Picture of Iberá Wetlands (Argentina): Refuscent tiger heron in the vegetation of the Iberá wetlands

Our boat trip starts on a mirror-like lake, and we first pass the caiman who is indeed still struggling to cope with the big ray, before we set off to explore more of the wetlands. We see many more caimans basking in the late afternoon light, we see families of southern screamers, we see a tree full of cormorants at an islet, we see deer in the wetlands, and then the sun sets the sky on fire when it sinks towards the horizon. Who would have expected this safari-like experience in Argentina, land mostly known for glaciers, deserts, desolate landscapes? We are up before it rises again the next morning; we walk to the visitor centre again while the early sun disappears into a cloudy sky, to do the longer walk. The caiman has apparently eaten his ray and is gone, the capybaras are everywhere, and we see many birds again. Back in Carlos Pellegrini, we take a horseride to the edge of the laguna for a different view of the village and its surroundings. After a delicious lunch, and a walk on a shaky old boardwalk where there are a couple more caimans in the laguna, there is some time to relax and let the images of our visit sink in before we head back to Mercedes to take the long ride back to Buenos Aires.

Picture of Iberá Wetlands (Argentina): Bird sitting on the back of a capybara
Picture of Iberá Wetlands (Argentina): The Laguna del Iberá under the rising sun
Picture of Iberá Wetlands (Argentina): Capybara in the afternoon sunlight
Picture of Iberá Wetlands (Argentina): Laguna del Iberá quiet waters at the end of the day
Picture of Iberá Wetlands (Argentina): Laguna del Iberá sunset
Picture of Iberá Wetlands (Argentina): Flowers with butterfly in the Iberá wetlands
Picture of Iberá Wetlands (Argentina): Caiman with a ray in his beak
Picture of Iberá Wetlands (Argentina): Caiman basking in the afternoon sunlight of the Iberá wetlands
Picture of Iberá Wetlands (Argentina): Southern screamer in the wetlands of Iberá
Picture of Iberá Wetlands (Argentina): Clouds in the morning over the wetlands of Iberá
Picture of Iberá Wetlands (Argentina): Grazing deer in the wetlands of Iberá
Picture of Iberá Wetlands (Argentina): Southern screamers in the Iberá wetlands
Picture of Iberá Wetlands (Argentina): Typical landscape of the Iberá wetlands

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