The next day in Iguazu, I had a full day national park excursion scheduled. My travel agent had billed it as a Iguazu Jungle Explorer Great Adventure, which is why I did the national park on my own the previous day. However, once talking to my guide that morning, I realized that the river adventure included a guided tour of the park. We started off early, to beat the heat and the crowds, and did a guided tour of the same trails I had seen the day before. I enjoyed seeing the views again, but I wasn’t bothered by the quicker pace, because I had spent plenty of time seeing the waterfalls the day prior. I got to spend all the time I wanted at each viewpoint, so I viewed the tour today as just getting to relive the views. Even though my pictures turned out well, nothing beats the in person experience. And seeing those falls and the rushing water and surrounding green landscape was just as exciting this day as it was when I was seeing them for the first time.
There is a wide variety of flora and fauna in the park. I saw a variety of birds, most memorably a toucan, and the most common mammal I saw was the coati, which is sort of like a raccoon. They tend to congregate where people are, hoping to get some food. Cute little critters, but best to keep your distance in case they attack and bite. I know larger mammals exist in the park, like pumas, but chances of seeing them with lots of people around are very remote.
We spent the morning walking the Superior and Inferior Circuit trails, and the afternoon was the Gran Aventura excursion with Iguazu Jungle Explorer. I was the only one from my group doing that excursion, so my guide dropped me off at the ticket place where I would board the jungle van.
The first part of the excursion is taking an open air truck trip down the road to the pier. This was a good opportunity to just enjoy the view of the tall jungle trees and just marvel at all the green around you. The journey ends at the stairs that you take down to the pier on the river. You get a life jacket and a dry bag to put all your stuff you don’t want to get wet (including your shoes if you desire) and then board the motorized rubber boats.
They take you on a super fast journey up the river until you reach the falls near San Martin Island. So you are looking at the falls from a completely different perspective. The prior day and this morning, I got my fill of the falls from overlooking the tops of the falls. But now I was looking up at the falls from the vantage point of the river, and I could really feel just how enormous and powerful these falls are.
You are given ample time to take in the view and take all your photos. And then the fun begins. The driver gets you as close to the pounding falls as possible. Since I was there in spring, the river levels were pretty high, so the falls were absolutely thundering. So while we weren’t able to get directly under the falls, we got so close, that we were absolutely drenched. The spray is overwhelming, and it’s hard keeping your eyes open. You just have to feel the cool, refreshing water soaking you completely. We got to enjoy this experience from two different vantage points. The first was at the base of the Tres Masqueteros Falls, and the other was near the base of the Mbigua Falls. Those views are on either side of San Martin Island that sits imposing in the river in front of the falls.
The entire effect was thrilling and an adrenaline rush, even if you are just enjoying the view from the boat. But to feel the awesome power of those falls is an experience to behold. Plus the river water is cool and feels oh so good in that bright hot sun. After our waterfall stops, we sped back to the pier at high speeds. You are still on an adrenaline high when you get back and walk up the stairs to the truck stop to get back to the starting point. Even though you are completely drenched after arriving at the pier, you will quickly dry off in the heat, and in no time, it didn’t even look like you got soaked.
This excursion is an add on to park admission, and it isn’t cheap (at least by Argentine standards). But I thought it was worth it. It is a very different, much more thrilling look at the falls. It may not last long, but the experience is memorable and the view worth it.