The second largest wetlands in the world (after the Pantanal in Brazil) are found in the northeast of Argentina.
Such reserves house unique and rich ecosystems, so we were keen to visit one.
Sadly, it appeared to us that accessing the wetlands in Brazil would be prohibitively expensive for this trip, so we plumped for the 18,000 hectare Argentine equivalent.
With few inhabitants and little infrastructure, we knew it would be difficult to enter. Discovering we could take a day trip from the town of Ituzaingo made our travel logistics simpler, as we could stop there en route from Corrientes to Puerto Iguazu. This is just one example of how we have discovered some relatively unknown travel, by undertaking lots of research and talking to locals.
We stopped overnight at La Valentina in the small provincial town of Ituzaingó that perches on the mighty Paraná River. This isn’t a town that seems overly used to foreign tourists, so it was great to mingle with the locals at the playpark, on the river beach and in the shops.
Iberá Provincial Reserve is a vast protected area. Driving in with our tour guide, all we could see were endless flat grasslands stretching far and wide for miles.
Delving deeper into its interior, the terrain became more swampy, with lagoons drowning the marsh vegetation.
The reserve is temporarily or permanently flooded depending on the location, and houses an abundance of wildlife, home to over 4,000 plant and animal species, which accounts for one third of the country’s biodiversity. With around 300 species of bird, 85 species of mammal, 45 species of amphibian and 35 species of reptile, Iberá is just as rich as the better known Pantanal .
If you’re interested in birds, we kept a list of all the different ones we saw! Unfortunately, we didn’t get photos of them all – sorry!
Here’s the list (not exhaustive): white monjita, guira cuckoo, egret, roseate spoonbill, kingfisher, southern lapwing, jabiru (the tallest flying bird in the Americas), giant wood rail, vulture, stork, caracara, southern screamer (looks like an eagle when flying), jacana, macaw, road side hawk, lesser yellow headed vulture.
Our strangest animal sightings were capybaras. These are the largest rodents in the world! We can only describe them as a cross between a giant guinea pig, a medium-sized dog, a beaver and a rat! They are funny things to watch!
Further in, we spied our first caiman (alligator) basking in the sun!
Daring to get a little closer, we could make out its scaly skin and strong spiny tail.
As the sun warmed, more and more caiman appeared as if from nowhere. We spotted them underwater, peeking their noses out and even protecting little babies the size of large lizards!
We also found the emblematic marsh deer hiding in longer grass, but unfortunately didn’t see giant otters or jaguars (more commonly found in the Brazilian Wetlands).
This was a bonus find on our travels, so we left for Iguazu, on our Rio Uruguay bus, feeling very lucky to have discovered a hidden treasure.