Mysterious Nature at Iberá Swamps
The province of Corrientes is home to one of the most important wetlands in the American continent. A place of magnetic beauty named “Iberá” by the ancient inhabitants of the region, which means “shiny water” in guaraní language.
A long stick is used by local guides to slowly push the boat forward between the water plants that close the path: aguapés e irupés with beautiful flowers, small cabbages and water lentils. The guide turns the engine off in order to contemplate the animals at a short distance, without disturbing them. It’s absolutely quiet all around. Yacaré caimans hold their mouths open while they enjoy a nap under the sun. Capybaras appear from time to time with their big rodent heads in the middle of the vegetation. Further ahead, a marsh deer antler is visible. Silence is only interrupted by the sound of birds singing. Pay full attention in order to spot them between the branches of trees and high pasture; there are more than 350 bird species living within these wetlands.
Iberá Swamps are nature at its best: an ecosystem of 1.300.000 hectares in the northeast of the country, in Corrientes province, which remains practically unexplored. This is a place that has little interaction with human beings, and that fact makes it both appealing and enigmatic.
In order to visit Iberá Swamps, it’s necessary to go to Colonia Carlos Pellegrini, on the shores of Laguna Iberá, the second most important lagoon in the system. Even though Colonia Carlos Pellegrini is considered the main touristic centre, it is a small town with dirt roads and nice people that have developed the touristic activity over the last few years in perfect harmony with nature.
Before the creation of Iberá National Reservation, many of the local people used to make a living out of hunting and selling furs and leather from animals. Nowadays, new generations apply the knowledge of the land and the behavior of animals inherited by their grandparents -and great grandparents- and work as guard parks and specialized guides.
Shiny waters explorers
The Iberá Swamps are a huge protected area. Yacaré caiman and broad-snouted caiman yacarés live in its territory, and you can watch them lying quietly under the sun, without moving, a curious habit which enables them to control their body temperature. There are also lobitos de río, a species from the otter family, and capybara, the biggest rodents known to this day.
The marsh deer, the biggest southamerican deer, is also visible from a distance. The lonely aguará guazú (means “zorro grande”) can be seen as well; it’s the biggest fox in Argentina and it’s an endangered species. Between the pastures, the very poisonous yarará snakes can be found, as well as ñacaniñá serpents and the curiyú boa constrictor. On the top of canopy, the howl from carayá monkeys can be heard, along with the singing from many species of birds that fly around these wetlands, like the cardenal amarillo, the chinchero grande, the águila coronada, the cacholote castaño and thel jabirú, just to mention a few.
An amazing diversity of astonishing fauna awaits there. Sunrise and sunset are the best moments to do some watching, because it’s the time when animals move quite a lot. Not to be missed experience: navigate the swamps in boats or canoes, with specialized guides who know how to move around intelligently and in a subtle way, and who can recognize immediately, among pasture and embalsados (mass of floating water weeds), the different species of local wildlife in order to approach them cleverly. Under the intense sun of Corrientes, the water shines between the numerous floating plants. Little by little, the navigation acquires a hypnotic power.
Another interesting option is to go for a walk among the palm trees and embalsados, always in the company of an expert guide, searching for some specific animals or doing bird-watching. There are also horses available for the adventurers who want to ride in the areas of difficult access.
End of the day at Iberá
Iberá becomes magical at sunset. Watching the sun go down next to a lagoon is a wonderful experience for anyone visiting the place. The waters turn gold, the horizon turns black on a furious orange, and water plants dance smoothly. Far away, the town feels much smaller. Nature encompasses everything.
When night falls, foxes and skunks, tatú and mount cat are ready to wander around. Capybaras, corzuelas, vizcachas and birds can be found under the big starry sky. There are night-time safaris, walks and 4×4 excursions around Iberá Swamps and its lagoons.
Even though the touristic services have increased during the last years, Colonia Carlos Pellegrini manages to avoid huge groups of people, and has become a favorite destination for wildlife lovers and authentic cultures explorers.
Various accommodation offers are available, in case you want to stay for the night, which varies from camping to top quality inns. Either way, the idea is to be in proximity with the environment, in a respectful manner.
Iberá Swamps is the ideal place for travelers who want to feel an intimate connection with Nature.
How to get there: There are regular flights from Buenos Aires to Posadas Airport. From Posadas, capital city of the province of Misiones, take a “transfer”, a private bus service that drives 120 kilometers to Colonia Carlos Pellegrini. You can also arrive via the city of Mercedes, in Corrientes, through 120 kilometers of gravel road, in 4×4 vehicles or by public transportation (one service daily only). During this journey, there are neither gas stations nor mobile phone signal. Mercedes city is located 815 kilometers from Buenos Aires.
Tips: During Winter, waterproof shoe wear and warm clothes are advisable. The rest of the year, light trousers, mosquito repellent, sunscreen and a hat are recommended.