15.02.2013 - 19.02.2013
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15th to 19th February
This morning we headed for Esteros del Ibera (The Ibera Wetlands). The esteros are the second-largest wetlands in the world after Pantanal in Brazil. Since 1983, the wetlands are part of a protected area which comprises 13,000 km². Iberá is also one of the most important fresh water reservoirs in the continent. They are a mixture of marshlands, lagoons and savannah grasslands. It is home to the two Argentine species of alligator, the Yacare caiman and the broad snouted caiman as well as the capybara (the world's largest rodent) and about 350 species of birds.
This was to be a 7 hour drive. We had 5 hours of tarmac and 2 hours of dirt road. The real adventure began on the dirt road. It was amazing, as soon as we turned onto the dirt road there was an abundance of birds such as cranes, herons and pink spoonbills.
This is the Garza Rosada (pink spoonbill)
We headed for a little town called Colonia Carlos Pellegrini in the province of Corrientes.
It is a quaint little town with dirt roads and old fashioned street lights and has a population of 800 people. We arrived at the Posada Aguape which is our home for the next 4 days. It is located right on the Ibera lagoon.
Being summer it doesn’t even cool down much in the evenings and there is a nice outdoor area where we have all of our meals. As it is quite a remote place all meals have been provided and the food has been excellent. Both lunch and dinner have been 3 course meals.
They leave the left over bread out for the birds who provide us with never ending entertainment. Not only because of the variety of birds that arrive but also because of the cat and mouse games that they play, especially between the Giant Woodrails and the Southern Lapwings. As we eat our meals a lovely little Red Crested Cardinal always comes to visit, he sits right along side you as you eat.
On our first evening we walked along the little boardwalk to see the sun set and next minute we heard a big splash. We were lucky enough to come across our first caiman.
We left our room in the evening to go to dinner and we both jumped. As we opened our door 2 little toads try to hop through the door. They were everywhere and come out in the evenings. I was worried I was going to step on them. You had to gently kick them away from the door to get in and out.
The weather was extremely hot the first two days and the swimming pool came in very handy each afternoon. The first afternoon that we were sitting in the pool a capybara walked straight through the gardens, we followed him and came upon his little family with 3 babies.
We have come to the posada at a time when most of the staff are taking a holiday, but as we booked some time ago they have opened up for us and another couple so it has been great. After the second night the other couple departed and we have had the posada to ourselves, this has enabled us to really get to know Maria who runs the posada, Claudia who assists the guests on our outings and Natalia who has just arrived to eventually take Claudia’s position. We have really had some laughs over dinner and some great Argentinian wine and we have learned a lot about them and Argentina and we have tried to share some of Australia with them too.
From the left - Maria, Claudia, Shane, Natalia and me.
We had a few excursions that the posada arranged around the wetlands. On day one in the morning we took a boat tour with Jorge as our guide along the external coast of the lagoon where we saw lots of aquatic birds and capybara. We were also told that marsh deer are usually seen grazing along the coast. We were in luck.
We also got to see some caiman.
In the evening we had a night outing. We walked along “Cerrito’s trail” that led us to a native forest of Caranday palms and then we reached the lagoon coast. We enjoyed the nocturnal fauna and saw a grey fox, a wild pig, some Viscacha, lots of Caiman out of the water and Capybara grazing with their families. The one animal I was desperate to see was an armadillo. Once again we were in luck. Initially he was hiding in his burrow and I got a photo of him curled up but then to our surprise he came out. That was the highlight of the evening for me. We sailed back to the posada at 10pm in the pitch black, it was lovely as out in the middle of the lagoon it was a clear sky and we just looked up at the stars. We had not had dinner so it was Argentinian time dinner tonight. They usually eat really late at night but it is not something I could get used to.
This is the viscacha. They are rodents and look similar to rabbits, apart from their longer tails.
Caiman on the bank at night
On the second day we sailed across the lagoon to the Corriente stream and sailed amongst the embalsados (floating islands). We saw lots more birds and got really close to a caiman. Our guide thinks he is about 70 years old.
Unfortunately it began to rain after lunch so we could not venture out in the afternoon. We were due to go the marshland to see a lot of water birds but it was 30km away on a sandy road. It was disappointing but there isn’t much you can do about the weather, it is the rainy season.
On our third day it was still raining in the morning so Maria took us around to the rangers station where they have an interpretation centre.
Whilst we were there this little grey fox walked in out of the rain and curled up on a chair to keep dry. He had been rescued from a farm and has befriended the rangers.
We also saw a cat following a ranger around and to our surprise it was a Geoffroys Cat, these are usually wild animals.
The weather cleared in the afternoon so we headed out in the boat across the lagoon to the Mirinay Stream. There was an abundance of wildlife. There were caiman everywhere you looked, we came across a family of capybara right on the waterfront and saw 3 marsh deer.
The fourth day was our last day at the wetlands. In the morning we returned to the rangers station and took a walk in the forest. This part of the forest was renowned for Howler Monkeys and Grey Brocket Deer. We were so lucky, we saw a family of 8 Howler Monkeys. They were quite high up in a tree but amazing to watch. We spent ages watching them.
While we were watching them a deer strolled past. I walked up the path a bit and it walked almost right in front of me.
Here is some of the other flora and fauna we saw during our stay.
The Giant Woodrail
The Golden Breasted Woodpecker
Some of the water plants
This is the Monarch Caterpillar, it will turn in to a Monarch Butterfly.
Once again this was a highlight of the trip. Not only was it relaxing but the wildlife was abundant and the Posada Aguape was terrific. So on the afternoon of the 19th February we were picked up from the posada and we headed 115km to Mercedes. The first part of the drive was fantastic, we drove through flocks of herons that took flight in front of us, as we had missed seeing lots of these birds during our stay at the posada we felt that we made up for it. However the road became really bad. I am not sure how to describe this part of the trip, interesting, scary, exhilarating and muddy. At times our car was sideways on the slippery mud. But we made it to Mercedes where we will catch an overnight bus back to Buenos Aires.