Bird’s-eye view
Devil’s Throat
A closer look of Iguazu Falls
Iguazu Falls
Within Iguazu Falls
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Argentina and Brazil’s Star Attraction

Formed by volcanic activity nearly 100 million years ago, you can hear Iguazu (ee-gwa-ZOO) Falls’ thundering roar long before you come upon its majestic and awesome beauty.

To get to the most popular spot near the falls, you would have walked nearly a mile on winding trails, and over bridges and outcroppings of massive boulders through a semi-tropical jungle ecosystem.

Safe and sturdy today, the first time I visited the falls, these beautifully engineered metal walkways did not exist, and the trek on rustic wooden paths seemed a rather perilous one. Now we blissfully barrelled along in an expectant but jauntily carefree mood.

And then we arrived. We were now at the legendary and powerful Devil’s Throat section of the falls. While all the approximately two-mile expanse of this incredibly massive non-stop rush of water is jaw-droppingly impressive, it’s this U-shaped formation made up of fourteen separate falls that attracts the most attention.

Because the spray sometimes gets a bit frisky here and can rise over eighty feet into the air, those who like to be up close and personal yet wish to avoid getting doused with the Devil’s Throat spit, don rather smartly designed transparent plastic coverings for the occasion.

But anyone without protective gear quickly forgets all about their damp clothing at the appearance of the omnipresent giant rainbows that form here as the shafts of sunlight meet the mist.

Depending on the time of year, whether the dry season in winter or the wet season in summer, individual falls comprising Iguazu can total in the hundreds, with the height of the tallest reaching a towering 250 feet.

Straddling the border between Brazil and Argentina, Iguazu Falls certainly deserves its UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site status. It is said Eleanor Roosevelt was so overcome at its size and grandeur when she visited back in the 1950s, thinking of the famous falls back home, she gushed “Compared to Iguazu, Niagara looks as though someone left the tap on!”

Certainly, they are one of those enormous structures of legendary renown that descriptions alone don’t do it justice and must be seen to be believed. The Grand Canyon is one, as are the Pyramids in Giza, Peru’s Machu Pichu and Jordan’s incredible Petra. Even though I had told Cliff about my much earlier visit to the falls in detail, his reaction upon observing it first-hand was overwhelming. He admitted the reality was as though I had never even mentioned it before.

Those who wish to invest more time in the falls and its surroundings can do so in comfort. There’s a hotel on each side of the Iguazu River in both national parks: the Sheraton on the Argentina side and Hotel das Cataratas in Brazil.

Both national parks are near the falls with their own jungle trails, bird hikes and various kinds of nature walks. Not only are there a staggering 500-plus species of birds that call this tropical environment home, but the area is also teeming with a huge population of beautiful butterflies, an immense variety of reptiles, fish, and insects, eighty species of mammals and even monkeys, crocodiles, coatis (aside from our sighting of the amazing toucan, the only local critters with whom we came face-to-face) and jaguars.

The falls were discovered way back in 1542 by the explorer Cabeza de Vaca, who was on an expedition in search of a river route to Paraguay when he came upon this daunting obstacle.

Alberto Dumont, the famous and dashing aviator (for whom Cartier named their popular tank watch), was so dazzled by the size and location of the falls that he led a drive to make the region a national park. His goal came quickly to fruition, and in less than six months the deed was done.

If Iguazu sounds like someplace you would like to visit, then plan on going in spring or autumn, as it is too humid and hot in summer and the falls are not at their full and robust best during winter’s dry season.

Bring comfortable walking shoes, insect repellent, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat, and if you want to capture as much of Iguazu for posterity as possible and not just rely on your memory, then get yourself a wide-angle lens for your camera. The photos you will be able to take will be a lasting record of Iguazu and succeed in bringing you back to the falls in all its magnificence for years to come. The only thing missing will be the spray.

Text Sandi Butchkiss / Photos Cliff Shaffran