Southern Brazil is famous first and foremost for one sight: Iguaçu. These are the world’s mightiest and grandest waterfalls, surrounded on all sides by lush subtropical forest, stretching for almost 3 km, and falling in a thunderous two-tier curtain from a height almost twice that of Niagara.
Foz do Iguaçu, or Las Cataratas del Iguazú as they are known in Spanish, are the most overwhelming and spectacular waterfalls in the world. Situated on the Rio Iguaçu (meaning ‘big water’ in Guaraní), which forms the border between Argentina and Brazil, they are made up of no less than 275 separate waterfalls.
The most spectacular part is the Garganta do Diabo (Devil’s Throat), the mouth of a 28-km-long gorge that stretches downstream to the Alto Río Paraná. Viewed from below, the water tumbles and roars over the craggy brown cliffs, framed by verdant rainforest encrusted with bromeliads, orchids, begonias and dripping ferns. A seemingly perpetual rainbow hovers over the scene and toco toucans, flocks of parakeets, caciques and great dusky swifts dodge in and out of the vapour whilst a vast number of butterflies dance over the forest walkways and lookouts.
The parks on both sides of the falls are replete with wildlife and are a haven for birders. The most common mammals seen are coatis, which look like long-nosed racoons and squeakily demand food from visitors. There are other mammals here too, including jaguar, puma, ocelot and margay, which can occasionally be seen along the park roads just before and after dawn. Most frequently encountered are little and red brocket deer, white-eared opossum, paca (which look like large dappled guinea pigs) and a subspecies of the brown capuchin monkey. Other mammals include white-lipped peccary, bush dog and southern river otter. The endangered tegu lizard is common. Over 100 species of butterflies have been identified, among them the electric blue morpho, the poisonous red and black heliconius and species of papilionidae and pieridae.
The birdlife is especially rewarding. Five members of the toucan family can be seen: toco and red-breasted toucans, chestnut-eared araçari, saffron and spot-billed toucanets. From the bamboo stands you may see spotted bamboo wren, grey-bellied spinetail, several antshrikes and short-tailed ant-thrush. In the forest you might see rufous-thighed kite, black- and-white hawk-eagle, black-fronted piping-guan, blue ground dove, dark- billed cuckoo, black-capped screech-owl, surucua trogon, rufous-winged antwren, black- crowned tityra, red-ruffed fruitcrow, white-winged swallow, plush-crested jay, cream- bellied gnatcatcher, black-goggled and magpie tanagers, green-chinned euphonia, black- throated and utlra- marine grosbeaks, yellow-billed cardinal, red-crested finch.