Sunday, March 15, 2020

Iguazu Falls - By Foot, Boat and Helicopter

We just got back from a COVID-19 shortened trip to Iguazu Falls, Buenos Aires, Colonia del Sacramento, El Calafate, Torres del Paine NP and Punta Arenas. We were scheduled for 12 days and got just a little over a day of actual sight-seeing in Iguazu Falls, Brazil and Argentina, before having to return home. 

We flew into Iguazu Falls, Brazil on Wednesday evening about 6:35 p.m. We checked into the San Martin Cataratas Resort & Spa, had their buffet for dinner, then went with two of Judy's siblings and their spouses, with a taxi driver, across the border into Argentina for a special full moon night-time visit to the Devil's Throat, something that only happens a few times a month when the moon is full.

After entering Iguazu Falls National Park we took the Ecological Jungle Train, a natural gas powered train that covers 14 km in 25 minutes to reach the Devil's Throat Trail (Garganta del Diablo).  It left about 10:00 p.m. When we reached Devil's Throat Station we then walked a moonlight-lit 1,200 yard long (.7 mile) footbridge leading to the Devil's Throat, which channels about 50% of the Iguazu River flow and has the highest falls (269 feet), in addition to the most volume. The Brazil/Argentina border runs through the center of the Devil's Throat. 

It was so dark that I had a hard time getting my auto-focus camera to focus and the few photos I did get were way too blurry because I didn't have a tripod. 
Moonlight is the only light available to us. This is the top of the falls where the water begins its cascade downward. 
This is a dark, blurry photo of the water rushing into the Devil's Throat. 
We didn't get back to our hotel until after 1:00 a.m. the next morning. This was all a little too much because we'd spent the night before flying from Los Angeles to Lima and that morning needed to be up to leave by 9:00 a.m. However, I'm glad we did it because it was a big part of what little we were able to do before having to shorten our trip. 

The next morning we met our taxi about 9:00 a.m., after a buffet breakfast at the hotel, for a short drive to take a helicopter flight over the falls. The 14 minute flight was a very reasonably priced $100 per person (compared to other helicopter rides we've been exposed to, including the one we took at Victoria Falls). Unfortunately, only three of the six of us took the helicopter. It provided a great perspective of the falls that is difficult to get otherwise. 
This is the helicopter that flew us over the falls. 
We circled the falls several times, giving those on each side of the helicopter good views before returning to the helicopter pad. 
Flying above the Iguazu River. The waterfalls extend over quite a length. 
Some of the falls lower on the Iguazu River. Note a couple of motorboats in the river, like the one we took later in the day. 
A view of the falls from high above the Brazilian side. The Devil's Throat is to the left. The walkway we took to the viewpoint over the Devil's Throat is visible on the Argentine side. 
The Devil's Throat and a portion of the Igauzu River below. 
A view into the Devil's Throat. 
Afterwards, our taxi driver dropped us off at Iguacu National Park in Brazil where we got on a double decker bus. We later transferred to a tram with seating and drove through the jungle to a spot on the Iguazu River below the falls. We put on our rain ponchos and life preserver and hopped on a powerful open boat to drive up-river to see the falls. It was a stifling 99 degrees with humidity that must have been in the 90s. Sitting on the boat before we started, sweltering in the plastic poncho, sweat was pouring off my face. As we started up-river, I was on the front seat of the boat and the wind immediately cooled me down. It was incredible to think that this very narrow river was draining all the water flow from the huge waterfall up-river. 
The boat in the photo is the kind we were on. 
We stopped several places to look at smaller waterfalls on the Argentine side. We hit some tremendously large rapids which the large power boat had no problem maneuvering through. However, our boat driver decided to drench us in a waterfall much sooner than I expected and I was not able to get my camera in a dry bag, or get my dry bag, which contained my extended lens, closed. We got absolutely drenched, about four times. My camera with small lens was okay, but my extended lens is full of moisture and probably ruined. On the way back our boat intentionally hit waves in a way that drenched us some more. It felt good, but my lens has not forgiven me. There were two options on boats available: a wet boat and a dry boat. The other five in my boat went on the wet boat and, although I preferred the dry boat, I went with my group. I should have taken the dry boat. 
The waterfalls extend quite a ways down the canyon.
The upper most section of the canyon becomes visible. 
Devil's Throat, the end of the canyon, is straight ahead. 
After we docked, we made our way by tram back to the main road and caught another double decker bus to the end of the road in the national park. We took an elevator down and walked some footpaths into the canyon that provided views of the waterfalls. The paths were very crowded and getting spots for photos was very difficult in prime locations. 
This is a photo of the Iguazu River from space, borrowed from Wikipedia. The Iguazu River has a "J" shape and the falls begin at the curve in the inner "J". 
Top of the falls on the Brazilian side. 
The bottom of some falls.
Looking into the Devil's Throat from the innermost walkway.
A closer view of the Devil's Throat.
Looking down-river. A boat approaches the same waterfall that our boat went under to soak us. That boat did the same thing to its human cargo a minute later. I would have appreciated some warning before the dunking. 
When we finished our taxi took us over the border to Argentina where we checked into an Argentine hotel for the night. Unfortunately, we learned that Argentina was imposing a mandatory 14 day quarantine on visitors from the U.S. and it was recommended to us by legal counsel in Buenos Aires that we get back into Brazil before the quarantine was implemented and fly back home. We had planned to go on hikes along the Argentine side the next morning and to visit the Devil's Throat lookout again in the daylight, then fly on to Buenos Aires. Instead, we made our way back to Brazil and made our way back home, which in hindsight, looks like the right decision. 


  1. Beautiful shots from the helicopter. I do wish I'd chosen to go along. This disadvantage would've been that then someone would not have gotten a window seat. This is a spectacular waterfall, something on my bucket list now checked off. I'm glad we got at least this site in.