Behind the Falls & into the Jungle

Dawn in Iguazú brings the first rays of light through the forest canopy, as orchids, butterflies, frogs, lizards, parrots, and monkeys awaken and spread color and life through the forest. Binoculars in hand, step softly into this wonderland, where most sounds are masked by the roar from the falls.

You'll see parakeets long before entering the jungle. Their green bodies and loud song make them easy to spot; macaws, parrots, and toucans also live here. Look and listen carefully for the great dusky swift, which nests near the waterfalls, and the great yellow-breasted kiskadee, whose family name -- Tyrannidae -- tells much about its hunting prowess. Look below the canopy to observe an enormous population of butterflies, the other flying wonders of the park. Brilliant blue flyers, known as morpho butterflies, flit between deciduous trees and above lines of leaf-cutter ants, along with beautiful red, black, and yellow butterfly species.

It's close to impossible to walk through the park without running across some local indigenous reptiles. Ubiquitous tropidurus lizards, which feed on bird eggs, scamper everywhere. Colorful tree frogs hop and croak the nights away. Only patient and persistent visitors, however, will discover larger and rarer creatures, such as the 1.5m-long (5-ft.) tegu lizard and the caiman, a crocodile-like reptile.

Warm-blooded creatures share this forest as well. Coatis -- aardvarklike mammals that travel in groups searching for insects and fruit -- are frequent and fearless visitors to the trails. Swinging above the footpaths are brown capuchin monkeys, whose chatter and gestures make them seem more human than most primates. The predators of this warm-blooded group range from vampire bats to endangered jaguars and pumas. For your safety, stay on the walking paths and, when you're in the jungle, with your tour operator.

An array of subtropical flora surrounds Iguazú's resident animals and insects. Bamboo, ficus, fig, and ancient rosewood trees -- up to 1,000 years old -- are but a few of the trees that grow near the river and compete for light, along with a proliferation of epiphytes (plants growing on other plants), such as bromeliads, güembés, and orchids. Eighty-five species of orchid thrive in the park, mostly close to the damp and well-lit waterfalls.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.