Ecotourism in the Ibera Marshes

BOAT TOURS OF IBERÁ

In talking about the Iberá Wetlands, inevitably we are drawn to the concept of water and the infinite forms that it can take. It is certainly true in this immense land of marshes that water is an essential element on which all life here is based.

Thousands of AMAPOLAS DE AGUA flowers open daily to contemplate the sun. After noon, they close again. They contribute in making the boat tours very colorful.

Due to its colossal size, among other factors, different aquatic ecosystems can be found, which often blend into one another, and in many cases it can be difficult to tell one from the other. The local people (hunters, fisherfolk, and menchos, as gauchos are locally known) know these water lands very well, and in fact are the authors of the vocabulary that we use to describe types of marshes and lagoons: cañada, bañado, estero, tapial, pirizal, among others.

 

This young YACARÉ NEGRO is trying to camouflage itself in the vegetation and mud. In their first years of life, a large percentage of YACARÉS are preyed upon by larger individuals, snakes, and birds of prey.
Obviously, many parts of the region remains unexplored, whether because they have been declared “off-limits” by the Direction of Parks and Reserves, or because they are simply inaccessible because of the difficulties the terrain presents.
Laguna Iberá, or the Iberá Lagoon, is the second biggest body of water of the Iberá Wetlands, covers approximately 5,500 hectares, and its depth is an average of 3.5 m. As in the rest of the lagoon, the color of its waters is blue-ochre due to its muddy bottom, rich in organic material. This great body of water and the waters that flow into it surround Colonia Carlos Pellegrini, practically converting it into a peninsula. The principal access is by way of picturesque Bayley Bridge, which was built in the ´70s.

 

 

A picturesque setting on the Arroyo Corriente. A boat stops to better contemplate the sunset. In summer, fires in the grasslands is a common occurence, as they are set by the gauchos to facilitate new grass growth in the cattle pastures.

Iberá Lagoon relies on several flowing tributaries, locally known as arroyos. Arroyo Miriñay flows in from the SE, bringing with it water from the wetlands of Camba Trapo and Jukeí. Here, floating islands reign, with marshland plants such as PIRÍ, JUNCO, TOTORA, and PEGUAHÓ. Navigating this tight canal, we come face-to-face with all types of wild fauna such as caimans, capybara, marsh deer, and an incomparable amount of birds: varieties of egrets, MARTIN PESCADORES, JACANAS, southern screamers, and FEDERALES, to name just some of the more outstanding ones you will see. In summer it is easy to spot a caiman alligator´s nest (incubation from Jan to March), or the enormous spiderwebs of harmless ARAÑAS COLONIALES.

 

 

 

The GARCITO BLANCA is agile cargo on the back of a capybara, in this way able to prey on fish and insects stirred up by the passing of the mammal. In turn, the bird eats the capybara´s parasites, resulting in a relationship that is beneficial to both.

We should also point out the coast of Paso Claro, whose name comes from the first inhabitants of the region, and makes allusion to the place where, at the end of the 19th century, they crossed the waters to occupy what would become Carlos Pellegrini. The banks show views which alternate between ESTEROS, marshes, and gallery forests. It boasts without a doubt one of the best local landscapes. This is the ideal place to come across a Curiyú Boa in the summer months, as they come out to sunbathe and digest their food. A great number of SEABIRDS line the beaches in the springtime and summer to feed among the sandy banks. On the other side, if we go towards the SW, we come across Arroyo Corriente, which empties naturally into the lagoon. Floating islands dominate here, and the vegetation changes dramatically. The vegetation of the islands varies between wet plains, little forests of bushes, and even small trees. It is almost incomprehensible how animals, in their most diverse forms, live together in such small areas. Caimans of different sizes, large herds of capybaras, birds of all colors, fish on the muddy banks, and even barely imaginable insects. The colors of the aquatic flowers in the spring and summer are extraordinary: intensely yellow AMAPOLAS DE AGUA, deep blue JACINTOS, and white ESTRELLAS DE AGUA, or water stars, with their unmistakable shape. The nautical tours are done aboard “tracker-style” boats, equipped with lifejackets. They use small motors to reduce emissions and produce as little sound pollution as possible. In some areas, the guide chooses to move with a special type of oar, called a botador or pala, made with takuara bamboo. In pushing the boat along slowly and silently “gondola-style”, the guide allows you to approach the animals up close, as well as allowing you to enjoy the sounds of nature.

On the tours, you can wear whatever kind of clothes you are comfortable in: long pants or shorts, sneakers or flipflops, tee shirts or long sleeves, depending on the meteorological conditions. Do not, however, forget your camera, water, and a hat or visor. You can also bring along maté, if you like, since the tour is done in a very calm, serene manner. It is recommended that you bring plastic bags to protect camera equipment against splashes and rain. Each excursion lasts 2 hours, and they are available in the morning and in the afternoon. There is no fixed time schedule, due to the climactic conditions, but in normal circumstances they depart at 7:30 in the morning and 4 PM in the afternoon. The excursion´s itinerary is drawn up the day before to meet the specific desires of the passengers.

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