The Ibera Natural Reserve, Corrientes Province, Argentina
If you are traveling from Buenos Aries to the Iguaçu Falls in Argentina by land and you are a lover of nature, you would be well advised to spend 2-3 days exploring the Ibera Natural Reserve, or as it is called in Argentina, Esteros del Ibera. The name Ibera means ‘sparkling waters’ in Guarani. This natural habitat is a vast area of wetlands, that is the equivalent of Brazils Pantanal’s. It is approximately 93 miles long by 31 miles wide and is located in the province of Corrientes, in north east Argentina.
The region consists of a complex system of estuaries, lagoons, marshlands and swamps that forms the Ibera basin. The region is situated between the rivers of Parana and the Paraguay. The marshlands consist of floating vegetation, strong enough to support a man, that drift and are home to many amphibious creatures. At the epicenter is the Ibera Lagoon which is an important wildlife refuge and is a focal point for eco-tourists. The natural reserve is a delicate eco-system of flora and fauna with over 350 species of birds. These include herons, storks, ibises, Jabiru storks, wattled jacanas, Muscovy ducks, roseate spoonbills, American darters, limpkins and three species of kingfishers. There are also a thousand specious of butterflies.
Many species have been hunted by poachers almost to extinction. For that reason the government of Corrientes passed laws in 1983 to protect the wildlife of the natural reserve. Although the local government has limited resources it has managed to stop poaching at least at the southern section of the natural reserve.
In terms of preservation and protection the most important species in the reserve are the maned wolf, venison, deer and the giant river otter. There are also capybara, broad-snouted caimans, anacondas, armadillos, Pampas guinea-pigs and caraya monkeys. Some animals which were abundant in past years have seen their numbers dwindle and in some cases become locally extinct. These include jaguars, pumas, ocelot’s, guazu’s, and the yellow anaconda.
A green kingfisher.
Lodges and tour guides can be found at the village of Colonia Pellegrini, which is considered the gateway to the reserve. Most of the guides are Gauchos. Gauchos have a tradition of hunting, but since hunting was banned, the tourist industry, which began in the 1990’s, has helped to provide work for them. Furthermore the Gauchos know the natural reserve like the back of their hand.
The Ibera natural reserve can be seen by horse riding and trekking. Although it is often said the best way to experience this unique natural paradise is by boat. Tour guides operate motorized boats. However the sound of the boats engines can spoil the peace and serenity of this natural wilderness. Another choice is canoeing.
A red crested cardinal.
Sunset over the Esteros del Ibera of Argentina.
All images form flickr.com with creative commons licence.