How the mighty falls
You hear Iguazu Falls before you see them. The sound of constant crashing sneaks up on you, slowly increasing in volume until you abruptly realise it’s drowning out the sounds of birds and insects around you. The source must be close, you think. Just a few more turns along the path between the trees and then the cascading curtains reveal themselves. Footsteps falter, exclamations are uttered, and eyes meet with the same look of awe. The waterfalls at Iguazu are before you and they truly are one of the most spectacular natural wonders on this planet.
In fact, a few months ago the Iguazu Falls were named as one of the 7 New Wonders of Nature in a global competition. There has been some controversy about the process, as Michael Hodson detailed so well in this blog post. But regardless, there’s no denying that they deserve a place on any list of amazing destinations. The statistics speak for themselves. At the top of the falls, the water flows through a chasm called Devil’s Throat, which is 82 metres high, 150 metres wide and 700 metres long. Along the entire length of the site, there are about 275 waterfalls of various sizes. And the highest ever recorded flow of water was more than 12,000 cubic metres a second (if that figures doesn’t mean much to you just know that it’s much more than the highest flow ever recorded at Niagra Falls or Victoria Falls).
Is Brazil or Argentina better for Iguazu?
The facts and figures are one thing – seeing Iguazu for yourself is another. There’s no room for numbers when you have the immense power and beauty of nature so close. One of the constant conversations I’ve had, though, is which country is the best one from which to see Iguazu. The river system forms the boundaries of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. Poor Paraguay doesn’t really have a view at all but the other two nations have established amazing viewing opportunities and if you only have one day to spend there you pretty much have to choose a side.
Most people I’ve spoken with say Argentina is the best choice. I, however, disagree. This may be as controversial as the 7 Wonders competition (although probably not) but I’m going to recommend Brazil.
The Argentinian side of Iguazu Falls is nothing short of breathtaking, don’t get me wrong. About 80 per cent of the waterfalls are on the Argentinian side and the paths for visitors take you up close to the action. In fact, you can even take a boat underneath some of the waterfalls which is about as close as you could get (and as wet as you could get too, I can attest!). Standing metres from the cascades lets you experience the power of the water – you can feel the energy coming from it. And nowhere is this more the case than at the very top of Devil’s Throat where a wall of water, larger than you could have imagined, seems to come alive as the torrents plummet down from the river above.
From the Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls, though, you get the overview of the whole waterfall complex and, for me, this is where the true awe lies. It’s when you realise the scale of not just the individual cascades but the entire system that you appreciate this experience. The white animation of the water contrasting with the brown cliffs, the striking clouds on the blue sky mimicking the colour of the water, and the green of the jungle bringing it altogether… it’s a photographer’s dream. I couldn’t stop my camera, it was like it had a life of its own, and from every new vantage point there seemed to appear new angles that needed to be captured.
There is no right way to see Iguazu and there is no wrong way to see Iguazu. There is wonder, awe and amazement from every perspective. The most important thing, in my humble opinion, is to make some time in your life to go there and appreciate what nature can do.
What do you think? Where is the best place to appreciate Iguazu Falls? Leave a comment below if you’ve been there.