Carefully the morning sun rises above the canopy and sets the dense vegetation on fire. As the sun rises higher, the strip of brightly coloured greens slowly but surely wins over its darkly coloured counterpart. In this setting various species of toucans and parakeets play their game. I'm in the Mata Atlantica rainforest visiting Awasi ‘s new lodge: Awasi Iguazú.
A unique ecosystem
The Mata Atlantica rainforest, in which Awasi Iguazú is located, is a unique ecosystem with a totally different flora and fauna than the more famous Amazon rainforest. The area originally stretches from northeast Brazil to the south over a length of about 2,500 kilometres. Unfortunately, more than 85 % of the original Mata Atlantica rainforest has disappeared. One of the largest pieces of Mata Atlantica, still intact, is in the Argentine state of Misiones, particularly known for the Iguazú Falls on the border with Brazil. The natural spectacle is considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
The pride of the Mata Atlantica rainforest
Because the airport of Puerto Iguazú on the Argentine side of the waterfalls is closed, I arrive at the airport of Foz do Iguaçu on the Brazilian side. Here my driver Pica and guide Carlos are waiting for me enthusiastically. Carlos is Brazilian, grew up in the surroundings of Foz do Iguaçu and Pica comes from one of the farming communities in Puerto Iguazú on the Argentine side. Both men, who grew up in the region and are proud of their roots, have decided to introduce me to the special environment in the best possible way. As soon as we are in the car on our way to the lodge, I tell them that I have visited the waterfalls several times already. I even slept twice in the beautiful Belmond hotel. This is the only hotel that is located in the national park of the waterfalls so her guests can visit the waterfalls outside the opening hours of the national park. So I do know the waterfalls and, although this spectacular natural spectacle never becomes too much for me, I would like to see what else this region has to offer.
After crossing the Argentinian border, we follow the main road for a few minutes, after which we take the exit to enter a reserve. The Awasi lodge is located in this reserve. Upon arrival I am welcomed by the manager and I get a delicious cold local beer pressed in my hand. I walk through the beautiful main building and fall into a lecture about the jaguar at the sitting area. This feline, which is found in the Mata Atlantica rainforest, suffers greatly from deforestation, which drastically reduces its habitat. I've only been in Awasi for a good hour, and with everyone I meet here, I can sense the deep love for the Mata Atlantica rainforest and the need to protect this ecosystem.
Stylish accommodation in the Atlantic rainforest
Awasi Iguazú consists of 14 very spacious guesthouses, each with its own plunge pool and veranda, surrounded by dense subtropical vegetation. The main building with restaurant and guesthouses are built entirely out of wood. The furnishing is a tasteful, modern design combined with classic elements. There are historical maps in the accommodations, where I quickly dream away to the time of the first explorers from the end of the nineteenth, beginning of the twentieth century. Up to the smallest detail has been thought of to make my stay as pleasant as possible. Among other things, I have a wireless speaker set at my disposal, which is easy to connect to my Iphone, allowing me to listen to my favourite music whenever I want during my stay. A wonderful place.
With Carlos I walk to a table with books about nature and some maps. He tells me extensively about nature in this region, about the history of the state of Misiones, which is named after the mission posts of the Jesuits, who came here in the seventeenth and eighteenth century to help the Guarani Indians to the Catholic religion. We agree to leave early the next morning, before dawn, to follow a route to a protected nature reserve, where we can mountain bike along the way.
An unknown world behind the famous waterfalls
On my bike, riding along a green wall of dense subtropical rainforest, I feel a serene calm coming over me. Together with guides Carlos and Pica, I set off early this morning to discover the unknown world of the Mata Atlantica rainforest. The sun quietly climbing to the sky and the birds are singing. Carlos and Pica, share the tranquillity. They don't belong to the guide genre that has to run a "program". Carlos and I cycle and make regular stops to admire the birds. For example, I manage to capture a White-Eye aratinga, a parakeet type that occurs in both the Western Amazon basin and the Mata Atlantica rainforest, as it spreads its wings, making the bright red colour on the underside of its wings clearly visible. We cycle on for a while, while Pica appears at the right time with a snack or a refreshing drink.
After a few hours, when the sun is high in the sky , we load the mountain bikes into the pick-up and drive to another nature reserve. We continue on an unpaved path and drive past small farms with fields. At one point we go back into the dense forest. Pica stops the car and the men walk to a place where some kayaks are waiting for us. With Carlos I go up a small river. We each kayak in our own kayak and enjoy the surroundings. We see a swarm of birds fly over. On tree trunks disappearing into the water are brightly coloured butterflies and turtles and we see a family of monkeys crossing the river by swinging from one tree to the other.
On the road in Awasi style
After we have solid ground under our feet again, we move on. Carlos and Pica take me to a very nice spot at the edge of a river, near a small rapids. Here I recognize the Awasi style again, when here a real barbecue has been prepared for me. While I take a refreshing dip, lunch is prepared. It turns out to be a sublime lunch with fresh salads and delicious tender pieces of meat. In the afternoon we go to another nature reserve where among other things ant-eaters can be found. We make a walk through the forest.
As night falls we return to the lodge. I take a nice shower and rosy from a beautiful day I sit down for dinner, where I am once again served the most delicious dishes. In the evening I listen to some music on my terrace before I crawl into my bed where I soon fall into a deep sleep and dream away at all the beautiful things I saw that day. The next day we go out early again. We leave for the Paraná river, which separates Paraguay from Argentina. On the bank there is another boat ready, with which we go up the river. After about 10 minutes of sailing, we take a side branch of the river and soon we arrive at a small waterfall. Again a lovely place for a refreshing dive or just to enjoy in silence.
Unfortunately I can't stay here any longer, because I have to go back to Iguazú to catch my flight. During this short but sweet stay I have learned that this region really is not only made up of the famous waterfalls of Iguazú. I'd definitely advise you to look further and explore the Mata Atlantica rainforest. And if you really want to do it in style, then Awasi Iguazú is definitely recommended!
Are you curious about the area around the famous waterfalls? Would you like to know more about a trip through Argentina and are you curious about the possibilities? Then take a look at our page about Argentina. Here you will also find travel itineraries that we have put together for inspiration. You can book these trips directly, but we are also happy to create a personal programme based on your wishes and ideas.
Do you have a question or would you like to receive a tailor-made travel proposal? Feel free to contact us. We will be happy to work out a suitable travel proposal for you. Call us on +31 73 610 62 04 or send an e-mail to email@example.com.