22 March 2012
The Real Iguassu Experience
Step outside Brazil's Hotel das Cataratas - and into another world.
Hotel das Cataratas is the ultimate place from which to discover the mysteries of the Iguassu rainforest.
The hotel has its own eco-guide who escorts guests on walking tours along tree-hung trails to the Falls. He also arranges private boat cruises higher upriver, where it is usual to spot broad-snouted caimans and a wealth of bird life including the rare harpy eagle and Amazon parrots. A further part of his work is the Carnivores Project, a study into the behaviour of spotted jaguars, a species threatened with extinction. Hotel das Cataratas has supported this and other ecological activities in the park for many years.
What's in a Name?The name Iguassu means 'big water' in the local dialect.
The eco-guide sets off on the 90-minute walk from the hotel along a narrow trail through the forest overhung by spiders' webs. He might point to one of these to explain the interlocking aspects of nature; how animals, plants and people
are linked together. The path then reaches an open area where a community of Guarani Indians once lived, before joining a wider trail where birds like toucans and large rodents such as agoutis and capuchin monkeys usually appear. Toucans are among the most important birds in the forest as they control populations of other birds, reptiles and amphibians by feeding on their eggs and offspring, and spreading seeds around the area.
The guide points out fabulous plants and tress, some up to 100 feet tall, hung with orchids and bromeliads. Certain plants, such as cedar trees, are used by Indians for medicinal and other purposes. Raccoon-like coatis climb up into the trees to have their babies, and are extremely agile - like monkeys. They also scratch the soil in search of earthworms - helping to oxygenate it.
The route eventually arrives at the Falls, where everyone walks into the spray - and comes out dripping wet, but totally exhilarated. As part of the walk, guests discover how the Iguassu National Park, and Hotel das Cataratas within it, are run on ecological principles to ensure that they are a positive part of the natural "web" system all around.
What you do remember about the tropical environment at Iguassu?