Esteros del Iberá, a wetland area in northeast Argentina, is pure pristine adventure located off the beaten path. The Esteros cover more than a third of the surface area of the province of Corrientes and are one of the biggest fresh water reserves in the Americas. Iberá retains a relatively pristine condition due to its natural isolation. Flying over the area is an incredible view of marshes, swamps and shallow lagoons, 60% of which are permanently flooded. The marshes are an over a million hectare nature reserve, (approximately 250 kms long and 150 wide), largest
protected area in Argentina, extending from the west of Ituzaingó up to Itatì Rincòn. This is a complex eco system including 700.000
hectares of swamplands, formed by accumulation of rainwater during the heavy rains season; over 30.000 hectares of lagoons covering a fourth part of the surface of the Ibera and over 500.000 hectares of marshy lands, big deposits of stagnated water ( depths between one and three meters), beautifully covered by acquatic floating plants the "camalotes".
The reserve shelters four animal species called natural monuments by the Province: the river-wolf, the "Aguará guazu", the pampas deer and the marsh deer (Blastocerus
dichotomus, one of South America´s largest land mammals and officially listed as vulnerable species by the IUCN). Also the two alligator species existing in Argentina: the black one and the golden, colored one.
There is an immensely rich flora in this network of streams and floating islands and the beautiful irupé (food for the carpincho) is the symbol of the marshlands. Among the great variety there are camalotes, irisses, water hyachints and small ferns on the surface, and in the sloughs achiras, different sorts of weeds and trees (laurels, sarandies and big totoras). On the islands there are ombues (Phytolacca dioica) and on the coasts jacarandaes (Jacaranda mimosifolia), lapachos (Tabebuia ipe), ceibos
(- Argentine national tree - (Erythrina crista galli), willows, curupies (Anadenanthera macrocarpa), timboes (Cathormion polyanthum), guayabies (Patagonula americana) and urundays (Astronium balansae) The most common palms are the yatay, pidno (Arecastrum raomanzoffianum) and carandy.
Rainfall is in the range of an annual 1.200/1.500 mm. Ibera (brilliant waters in Guarani language) is part of Argentine Mesopotamia and is located in the heart of the province of Corrientes. Argentines mainly knew it from books as a flooded area. Lately it has been rediscovered as an adventure destination and is now in great demand by foreign visitors, searching for pristine nature.
This is a paradise for birdwatchers (350 different species. Search for a complete guide under http://www.iberaesteros.com.ar/aguapeing/index.htm. Hundreds of birds in the most varied colouring from big ñandu (similar to the ostrich but smaller in size) to different types of herons, the American stork, several kinds of eaglets, snipes, ducks, herons and flamingos.
Other activities include riding, photographic safaris and fishing (dorados).
There is an Ibera Visitors Center, located 120 kms from the reserve, in the city of Mercedes, Corrientes where you will be able to get the info needed and browse through literature on history, geography, fauna and flora, and other aspects of the region.
The best way to explore the reserve is staying at one of the estancias in the area and from there set out on foot, on horseback or in a boat guided by a local expert (almost essential) either park rangers (guardafaunas) or "baqueanos" (locals). Thus you will get to know the essence of the region. An advise : start very early in the morning.
One place to start your visit is from Colonia Carlos Pellegrini (within the reserve), a population of less than 1000 inhabitants with typical adobe, wood and straw construction.
Another is Yapeyú, the birthplace of General Jose de San Martin and a site of former Jesuit missions (XVII). This place was built on the ruins of ancient walls, many of which are still seen in newer houses.
The whole area of Ibera is a special, mysterius place for absolute relax and communion with nature. Do not rush, take your time and enjoy every minute.