Ecotourism in Argentina
THE ECOTOURISM CORRIDOR OF ARGENTINA'S NORTH COAST BOASTS THE FASCINATION OF LOCATIONS THAT ARE ABSOLUTELY UNTAPPED
The border area that abuts the country's further north is called El Litoral (The Littoral) by the Argentineans. This is the case with the famous Iguazu Falls, located on the Triple Border (Argentina-brazil-paraguay). The numerous waterfalls on the Argentine side belong to the province of Misiones, named after the architectural remains of the Jesuit Missions, which became a World Heritage Site. The following provinces on the left are Corrientes, Chaco and Formosa.
In all of them, there are some littleknown Natural Parks, which are a continuity of the Iguazu Falls Park, because in its nonstop interrelation, nature knows no borders. They all have aspects in common in terms of configuration, while they are part of the basin of the great Paraná River and, in the same breath, they are very different. Its enormous appeal paves the way for travelers keen on adventure tourism, those who want contact with a very pristine nature, away from the jam-packed and crowded destinations. So, let's get to know the Ecotourism Corridor of the Argentine North Coast.
ESTEROS DEL IBERÁ
Thousands of years ago, the Paraná River ran through this vast flat region, drawing huge meanders. For geological reasons, the watercourse was removed, thus leaving thousands of lagoons that were watered by the torrential subtropical rains of the region. This set up a one million-hectare wildlife reserve, Argentina's largest: an ecological jewel of world importance, at the level of Brazil's famous Pantanal. Although I would dare to say a whole lot more, because it is flowed by rivers loaded with agrochemical pollution, while the Esteros del Iberá are exclusively made up of pure rainwater, in clear honor of its name, since Iberá means “bright water” in Guarani. Certainly, the first thing that caught my attention was the clarity of its waters. You could make out the bottom with a variety of colorful aquatic plants and grazing fish.
Despite low human density, those who live there depend on hunting, fishing and livestock for livelihood. Luckily enough, the government has been able to strip of this predatory vision and get a new approach based on compatibility between conservation and production, with the invaluable help of American millionaire Douglas Tompkins, who through its CLT (Conservation Land Trust), buys extensive properties that are then donated to the State, while reintroducing missing native species on the premises. Today, there is enough awareness to know that ecotourism is more profitable than other nefarious and ill-fated actions. For example, one of the most amazing experiences of my life was the horse-drawn boat ride, where a local hitches his powerful horse to the boat by tying a rope to the bridles. The end result is an unforgettable ride inside the grass-carpeted surface. And like
this one, there are many activities aimed at enjoying nature without causing any damage to it.
That impacts the meekness of birds and other animals, which allow the approach to be appreciated and photographed close at hand without the need for large telephoto lenses. They no longer see human beings as their enemies, but as part of the environment, who does not kill them, who does not attack them. What prevails is the experience of contact with nature without any tourist massification.
BAÑADO DE LA ESTRELLA
Most of nature's wonders have been forming over thousands or millions of years, but this has been around for only 70 years. In the 1960s, the Pilcomayo River, which bears a lot of silt in suspension, formed a dam that diverted part of its waters to the great plains of the province of Formosa. Thousands of hectares were permanently flooded and life changed, creating patches of forests in what was a semiarid plain died. But its hardwood trunk still supports vines that arise from the water and give it a new lease on life with ghostly formations called champagnes. Meanwhile, on the aquatic surface, caranday palm forests have been perfectly adapted to this wetland, the second largest in Argentina.
This site is of great ornithological importance; and just one of its attractions is sailing down the watercourse to discover at first glance a multitude of birds.
At the moment, it is a great place for travelers who like secluded places. Even though it has a basic tourism infrastructure, the Bañado de la Estrella was chosen this year as one of the Seven Argentine Natural Wonders, in a contest where more than a million people voted.
In the adjoining province of Chaco lies this natural park of defiant name, due to its dense and closed plant cover, with species of thorny shrubs that grow and make it nearly impossible to get off the beaten track. There is also a diversity of wetlands. With all this, the place has the fascination of the untapped environments.
Its difficulty has led to the conservation of seriously-threatened animal species, such as the yaguareté (jaguar), the tatu carreta (the largest armadillo in the world, a true relic of antediluvian wildlife) or the anteater. The main species of trees are the quebracho. As the name indicates, the quebracho (axe-breaker in English) is very hard wood; and the palo borracho (drunken stick) gets this name because its trunk swells heavily to store liquid.
To get to this site it is necessary to enter through the Interpretation Center in Miraflores, where the visitor will receive all kinds of information. From there, there are 60 km of dirt roads that should be traveled in a four-wheel-drive vehicle. The property is perched on the nearby towns of Miraflores and Juan José Castelli. The food is excellent and the craftsmanship made by the local Wichis aboriginals is also very interesting.
Acknowledgements: Nicolás Fresco from INPROTUR and to the Tourism Offices of the Corrientes, Chaco and Formosa provinces.
Explorar los humedales propicia disfrutar experiencias inigualables. / Exploring wetlands results in enjoying unique experiences.
Barca tirada por caballo. Esteros del Iberá A horse-hauled boat. Esteros del Iberá