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Travel Tales from Argentina and South America
Iberá’s freshwater system of lagoons, streams, and marshes covers over 3.2 million acres of land, making Iberá the second-largest freshwater wetland on earth. Over twice the acreage of the Florida Everglades, Iberá is exceeded in size only by Brazil’s Pantanal.
It’s no wonder why Iberá natives gave the wetland its name. On a clear day, the surface of Laguna Iberá is dazzling. With its smooth water and open horizon, Iberá sets the scene for some breathtaking sunsets.
Douglas Tompkins, founder of The North Face, was so moved by the beauty of South America that he established the Conservation Land Trust, an organization dedicated to the expansion of provincial and national parks and the preservation of their ecosystems. Since Tompkins’ introduction to Iberá in the late 1990s, over 400,000 acres of the wetlands have been acquired for the purpose of conservation.
Two hours by car from the nearest city, the town of Carlos Pellegrini serves as a base for most travelers exploring Iberá. You can get there by bus or by car, but only with good weather. In the rain, the rutted dirt road through the wetlands becomes hazardous, if not impassable.
Although being 8 hours away from Iguazú Falls, it is common to visit the Falls and these marshlands as you will fly to the same national airport in Posadas.
One of the 7 natural wonders plus the second-biggest wetland in the world? That sounds like a true adventure.
With caffeine levels comparable to coffee and the health benefits of green tea, it’s no mystery why this slightly bitter beverage is Argentina’s most popular drink. The leaves only grow in two regions of Argentina– and Iberá’s Corrientes Province is one of them. Yerba mate was first consumed by Guarani natives and was later discovered by Jesuit missionaries, who cultivated the plant into a cash crop.
The route into Iberá cuts through wide expanses of grassy estancias (cattle ranches). Travelers may glimpse gauchos on horseback and herds of cattle ambling dangerously close to the road. Drive carefully!But as we state, the Iberá wetlands is more an experience than a tour. Explore this lush land on a horseback ride, like traditional gauchos used to do. Marvel yourself with the impressive vegetation and spot unique local wildlife species that live in this area.
Established as a provincial reserve in 1983, the wetlands are now named as National Park since 2018.
Hosting 183,500 acres, and countless wildlife species some of them declared as Provincial Natural Monuments like the capybara, represents also the opportunity of reinserting locally extinct native species like the ant-bear, tapir, and many others.
From the giant otter to the jaguar, several endangered species native to Iberá have already disappeared from the wetlands. Luckily, several programs to re-introduce these animals are ongoing. Some threatened populations, such as the anteater, have already been successfully reestablished, and efforts are currently being made to reintroduce the jaguar and stabilize the ecosystem’s food chain.
Did you know some of the local wildlife species in this Reserve were named Provincial Natural Monuments? Yes, an excellent example is the fantastic marsh deer!
It’s hard to believe that such a large body of water has no river or underground source. While the wetland does filter into one of the largest underground lakes in the world, the Guarani Aquifer, the wetland itself is the result of rainwater pooling in a basin created by shifting tectonic plates.
The natural landscape makes it a great destination for Ecotourism in this area. Sustainable accommodation is provided, tours are guided by local expertise, and for sure, leaving no trace and being respectful of the environment is a must.
Before the wetlands became a reserve, inhabitants of the region sold animal skins to support themselves and their families. As a result, many of the hunted species disappeared from the wetlands.
Ecotourism emerged as an opportunity for hunters to use their knowledge of the terrain to protect the animals they once hunted, meaning these former mariscadores (hunters of the wetland) are known today as the first park rangers of Iberá.Ready to explore the marvels of Eastern Argentina? Iberá wetlands await you! Get your luggage done and let’s get this adventure started!
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