Alone with a giant: Iguazu Falls

A spray-soaked tourist in a plastic rain poncho gawks at the might even of one of Iguazu’s lesser falls, Brazil. 5D Mark II camera and Canon 24-105mm f4L IS USM lens. Exposure Details: 1/1250 seconds @ f7.1 ISO 320.

It’s hard to sum up Iguazu Falls in words or pictures though I’m sure the 200,000 visitors that pour through the ticket gates every year do their best in a million different formats. For those who don’t know, Iguazu Falls is a gargantuan waterfall complex where actually 275 discrete falls plunge the entire Iguazu river 84 metres off a plateau of hard volcanic rock. The falls are the widest on earth, have the 2nd highest average flow in the world (behind Niagara) and divide the three nations of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.

My experience there was typical, I flew in from Rio de Janeiro (on my way to Paraguay), landed on the Brazilian side of the border and initially got a little unsettled gawking from my bus window at just how close the airport was to the National Park and the number of conspicuous hotels built in and around it. Though unsettled I was not surprised and knew if I was going to check out this epic watercourse I would have to embrace my inner tourist and go with the flow.

Once there you have two options of viewing the falls, the Brazilian side or the Argentinian. Many people will tell you (and not just the locals for whom it is an object of national pride) not to bother with the Brazilian side as the Argentinian is a far superior viewing experience. I’d agree there is far more to see from the Argentinian side but would recommend also visiting the Brazilian side, though with the caveat that you visit this side first so that then visiting the Argentinian side only ramps up the awesomeness. The reverse I can see may be a let down.

Inevitably I was herded around like a head of cattle and parted with cash all too easily like in any world renowned tourist trap (click here for more on those), though at Iguazu I felt there was at least enough space to find some quiet moments by myself to appreciate the awesomeness of the place. And it was awesome. An endless array of mega-thundering towers of water plunge into an impenetrable foamy white abyss and blast you with a refreshing spray as untold trillions of tiny droplets wind around you glinting in the hot tropical sun. The entire national park seems to be set in a water world bursting at the seams, the forest barely managing to cling to the rock and survive the tide that flows in every possible way under, over and around it.

As usual however, my photographic inspiration followed an inverse function of the number of fellow tourists crowding into the same space and pointing their cameras over every guard rail at every occasion. The experience is something like kryptonite to photographers I think, the higher the concentration of squinting faces on LCD screens at arm’s length, the more intense the cringe. But I’ve long since learned you can’t fight it and even helped quite a few people out with their group shots and latest Facebook profile pics.

The shot above stood out to me because it portrayed the sense I had of the tourism development’s intrusion on the place despite the fact that it did very little to reduce the sense of power the Falls give in person. It was not one of the bigger falls or the most impressive places I visited, but reminded me of the quieter moments I had there. Amongst the ebb and flow of tourists clanging along the metallic walkways, one person can suddenly find themself alone with a giant, and the experience is worth it.

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Cheers guys and thanks for reading =D


4 thoughts on “Alone with a giant: Iguazu Falls

  1. Great Post Cam,

    I have just spend the last 10 minutes after reading your post, daydreaming of my time there. ahhhh….

    I think of all the natural wonders that are tourist traps, Iguazu has done one of best jobs of distributing the flow of people (obviously helped by the size of the area over which the falls are spread) but also in preserving the natural beauty of the place. The paths are raised for the most part and prevent people treading on flora and fauna. There are bins and recyling depot everyone, something rare in the third world. There were many times I found myself alone with just a butterfly or coati to follow along the trails.

    Admittadly the jet boat ride and the multiple kiosks selling trinkets are annoying, but overall we spend an entire day in the argenitinian side and thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Cheers, and look forward to your next post.

    • Cheers mate, fair call on the walkways, I also thought they were quite well done, was more surprised by the proximity of the airports and hotels. The train I thought was kind of gimmicky but funny because it seems so old and kitch, kind of a museum piece to 1960s tourism. And yes you can’t get away without a whole day on the Argentinian side, so many awesome places to see!

      Did you see the old walkway ruins near the Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat)? I think they said the old walkway got washed away in a flood, must have been insane!


  2. Much to my shame (Argie blood and all that), I have not seen the Giant, yet.

    Awesome piece. Thoroughly enjoyed the writing and most certainly identified with the selfish anthropophobe feeling where you wish you the world (and the handy facilities of the 21st century such as planes and walkways) for yourself.

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