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Iberá, which means "shining water" in the Guaraní language, is the largest wetland in Argentina. With an area of 13,000 km2 it covers almost 15% of the province of Corrientes in the Argentine Northeast.
The Great Iberá Park is one of the best destinations in Latin America for wildlife observation. From different access portals with growing tourist infrastructure, different itinearies can be undertaken by boat, canoe or kayak; on foot, horseback, bicycle or vehicle, to observe birds, mammals and reptiles in their natural environment. With more than 4,000 species of flora and fauna, the region is home to 30% of the country's biodiversity. Due to its climate, with an average annual temperature of 25ºC, it can be visited all year round, making it an ideal place to combine various interests: ecology, adventure, culture and tradition, history, rural life and gastronomy.
The wetland occupies the basin of the ancient valley of the Paraná River with which it remained connected until about 10,000 years ago. The water that today gives life to its marshes and its more than 60 lagoons is brought in by rainfall and retained by the marsh vegetation, with only a quarter of it draining through the Corriente River.
Large marshlands, temporarily flooded "bañados," mantles of floating vegetation (embalsados), lagoons and large mirrors of water, interspersed with grasslands on sandy hills, palm groves, dry savannahs, humid woodlands, are some examples of the landscape diversity of this wetland, which has allowed the development of a great variety of fauna.
Ornithologists and birdwatchers from all over the world visit Iberá to see birds in their natural habitat belonging to more than 340 species. Many of these are very rare and endangered elsewhere, such as the strange-tailed tyrant (Alectrurus risora), the Park's emblematic bird.
Iberá is also an unparalleled place to easily spot large mammals and reptiles, such as marsh deer, capybaras, foxes, yacare caimans and curiyú boas, and occasionally also even aguará-guazús (maned wolves), wild cats, anteaters, and collared peccaries.
The Park is today a successful project of restoration and preservation of native fauna, in which ecotourism plays an important role for conservation, as well as in the economic development of the surrounding localities. For a long time during the last century, Iberá experienced the negative impact of human activity that produced local extinctions of several species. But already for almost 40 years, with the creation of the Natural Park in 1983, the Provincial Park in 1993, and the National Park in 2018, provincial and national government agencies, foundations (such as The Conservation Land Trust, Flora y Fauna Argentina and Conservation Wildlife Trust), NGOs, researchers and citizens have been actively working for the restoration of the region's ecological balance. This has allowed the recovery of populations of marsh deer, capybaras and caimans. Since 2007 Iberá has been a key rewilding site for animals such as the anteater, tapir, collared peccary, pampas deer, ocelot, giant otter and jaguar.
In early January 2021, the Jaguar Reintroduction Center, established in 2015 by Fundación Rewilding Argentina in the heart of the Esteros del Iberá, opened the enclosure where two jaguar cubs were born and raised, which together with their mother became the first to live totally free in Corrientes after more than 70 years of absence of the species in the province.
The Great Iberá Park, with over 700,000 ha of protected area, is composed of the 550,000 ha Provincial Park (created in 1993), and the 183,000 ha National Park, established in 2018 on land donated by The Conservation Land Trust Foundation for this purpose. It is located within the Iberá Natural Reserve that was created in 1983, covering 1,300,000 hectares which coincide with the limits of the Iberá marshes basin and includes areas of private domain.
In most cases, access to the park area is through rural roads that cross private properties. To the first public access from the town of Carlos Pellegrini, the accesses through Ituzaingó, San Miguel, Uguay and Concepción have been added, and finally those of Loreto, Chavarría, Mercedes and Galarza. These access portals each have their own proposal of tours and experiences with tourist activities such as boating, canoeing or kayaking, trekking, horseback riding, cycling and photographic safaris from the vehicle. They also offer cultural experiences of the local inhabitants, introducing their Chamamé music, gastronomy, handicrafts, stories, traditions, rural activities, etc.
(Summarized from information from materials published by the Ministry of Tourism of Corrientes, Fundación Rewilding Argentina, and other sources.)
© Cover photo: Kathy Binder.
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Compilation of information, editing, translations, photos: Universes in Universe, unless otherwise indicated