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  • Writer's pictureMarion Marquardt

The Iberá National Park - an exemplary nature conservation project in Argentina's north

Updated: Nov 29, 2022


Patience is required when crossing the border from Brazil
New country, new experiences... about police checks and cappuccino in Argentina
Sustainable tourism away from the crowds - we enjoy the tranquility of the Iberá National Park
Success in preservation of nature and renaturation of species as well as natural disasters can be experienced up close

We are back in Argentina. We landed in Buenos Aires more than 6 weeks ago but soon left the country to pick up our car in Montevideo, Uruguay (>>> see our blog). After a long detour to Brazil, to the Pantanal, we are back and crossing the border at Puerto Iguazú. We are there early in the morning, there is not much going on on the Brazilian side. But that doesn't mean that border processing is fast. The girl at Migración rather looks at Instagram than at our passports. And then we still have to close the customs document for our car, with which we committed ourselves to re-exporting the vehicle within 3 months upon entry. Unfortunately we didn't get any paper there 4 weeks ago, however it is registered in the system. Somehow we need to clarify that with the officers, who only speak Portuguese. They keep repeating that we should just keep going. However, we would then be obliged to pay import duty after 3 months. We are persistent. The colleague finally makes an inquiry in the system and confirms the export - with printout and stamp. Now we German bureaucrats are satisfied too. On the Argentinian side there is a long queue lining up, but after two hours of waiting, when it's finally our turn, everything is quite well organized. Instead of a stamp in our passport, we get a certificate by email, and the TIP for our car is automatically issued by customs without any discussion. Great! Off we go.


The Spanish overwhelms us. We've been hearing Portuguese for the last four weeks... For the first days we don't understand more than we did there - although we studied Spanish diligently before our trip. Well... Todo va a estar bien 😊


In any case, we were positively surprised by the good road conditions compared to Brazil. Often it is two lanes and the tar is neat. Only the speed bumps are the same. And it's teeming with police checks. So far, however, we have only had good experiences. If we're not waved through, it's to ask where we are from, how we like Argentina, etc. Nothing to complain. And by the way, we can improve our Spanish.


Finally there is good coffee again. Unfortunately, we were only used to sugared filter coffee from Brazil. At a gas station, as I discover a portafilter machine and explicitly order a "Cappuccino Italiano", the barista asks me curiously what's the difference between a Cappuccino Italiano and his one. And I have to admit, none! I enjoy 😊


Our first destination in Argentina is the Iberá National Park. Founded only in 2018, it is still an insider tip and we hope that the nature reserve is not overcrowded. The 1,381.4 km² area was originally purchased by Doug Tompkins, the founder of The Northface and his foundation Conservation Land Trust - Argentina, and donated to Argentina in 2015 under the condition to establish a national park. The park rangers are not only dedicated to the preservation of nature, but also to the renaturation of various animal species (under the leadership of the Rewilding Argentina project). Among others, the giant anteater and the pampas deer were reintroduced. Probably the biggest project is the renaturation of jaguars. They have been extinct there for many decades, as have many other animal species. In 2021 a female jaguar with her three cubs was settled in a protected area on the island of San Alonso, one year later a male. Successfully! The first jaguar babies were recently born in the wild. Unfortunately, the island is not accessible to tourists. It is said that the male swam across the river a few days ago and is now somewhere in the national park. Will we see it...? In any case, it is far more unlikely than seeing a jaguar in the Pantanal (>>> see our blog).


Portal San Nicolas Ibera Nationalpark, Argentinien Highlights Norden Natur Tiere Jaguare schönste Camping Plätze Marion Michael Marquardt mmq Photography Südamerika
The entrance to the park is via a sandy track

The park area is huge, only small parts can be reached by car. There are four so-called portals, one in each direction. We opt for the San Nicolas portal, one of the less frequented entrances. There is almost no tourist infrastructure here, just a 30 km long sandy track that leads to a campsite. Just right for us. And Hugo is also happy about the terrain... even if it's not really demanding. We expected to deflate the tires etc. (Note: when driving on sand you should reduce the tire pressure up to 1 bar). But we don't even need to switch on the four-wheel drive. Well, it's still fun and the landscape is beautiful.


Portal San Nicolas Ibera Nationalpark, Argentinien Highlights Norden Natur Tiere Jaguare schönste Camping Plätze Marion Michael Marquardt mmq Photography Südamerika
Here we are passing the offical national park entrance

There is not much evidence of the devastating forest fires in January and February of this year. You can see the traces on some of the trees, but they are still alive. And the vast grasslands seem fully recovered - at least in this part of the park. The fires, which were partly caused by runaway farmer's fires, burnt about 60% of the national park. A devastating accident. Of course, a drought in the region during the last 2.5 years made its contribution. The Iberá National Park actually is a wetland surrounded by savannah, grasslands and forests. Although agriculture has been greatly reduced with the activities of the Conservation Land Trust, there is still some cattle breeding. In order to produce fodder, grass areas are deliberately burned. Unfortunately, the drought and fires have cost the lives of many animals. Luckily, most of the reintroduced animals were brought to safety in time by the park rangers.


We discover some of the native wildlife. Around Portal San Nicolas there are three hiking trails where you can go on stalking. However, the best option, from what we experienced, is to simply keep your eyes open at the campsite in the mornings and evenings. We spotted armadillos, foxes, pampas deers and a large iguana. Of course, there are also plenty of capybaras, the South American water pigs, here called carpinchos. And since they have no natural predators until the jaguar population has increased, they are not jumpy at all. On the contrary, they chill alongside the road and hardly move their butt...


Carpinchos Portal San Nicolas Ibera Nationalpark, Argentinien Highlights Norden Natur Tiere Jaguare schönste Camping Plätze Marion Michael Marquardt mmq Photography Südamerika
Carpinchos live in peace and quiet here


Leguan Portal San Nicolas Ibera Nationalpark, Argentinien Highlights Norden Natur Tiere Jaguare schönste Camping Plätze Marion Michael Marquardt mmq Photography Südamerika
An iguana sneaks through the flat grass

A special project for Micha is the hummingbird photography. The birds are hardly bigger than butterflies and incredibly agile, which is a big challenge for the photographer. So he spends a few hours and hundreds of photos for the perfect snapshot.

Kolibri Portal San Nicolas Ibera Nationalpark, Argentinien Highlights Norden Natur Tiere Jaguare schönste Camping Plätze Marion Michael Marquardt mmq Photography Südamerika
"The Snapshot" - A hummingbird attracted to the fruit blossoms

Kolibri Portal San Nicolas Ibera Nationalpark, Argentinien Highlights Norden Natur Tiere Jaguare schönste Camping Plätze Marion Michael Marquardt mmq Photography Südamerika
Even a hummingbird needs to chill sometimes

7 km from the campsite, in Puerto Carambola, there is a river access where you can kayak. Of course we take the opportunity. Unfortunately the water level is so low that the radius is very limited. Nevertheless a very nice experience. We paddle between caimans, piranhas and countless carpinchos.


Even tough we are not overwhelmed by the wildlife after our unique experience in the Pantanal (>>> see our blog), we really love being in the Iberá National Park. The landscape is very special and beautiful. And we enjoy the quiet. Despite the weekend, it is wonderfully calm on the campsite. No excessive family parties. Yeah! We bake bread, recharge our batteries and enjoy cozy afternoons with nice travel acquaintances. Ute and Holger from Germany have been traveling in South America for the fourth summer and have a lot of recommendations for travelling and sightseeing to share with us. And with Tania and Stuart from South Africa we can share our experiences in Brazil, as they were just there for 5 months.


Sonnenuntergang Portal San Nicolas Ibera Nationalpark, Argentinien Highlights Norden Natur Tiere Jaguare schönste Camping Plätze Marion Michael Marquardt mmq Photography Südamerika
Magic sunset in Iberá national park...

Milchstrasse Sternenhimmel Portal San Nicolas Ibera Nationalpark, Argentinien Highlights Norden Natur Tiere Jaguare schönste Camping Plätze Marion Michael Marquardt mmq Photography Südamerika
...and even more magic views of the milky way

Our next destination is the peninsula Valdés, mainly for whale watching. Unfortunately, it is more than 2,000 km to get there. A few days of boring driving, only interrupted by everyday's tasks, such as shopping, refueling, withdrawing money, etc. But that is also part of travelling... and there is always something unexpected.


The journey wasn't that dull after all. And we had the opportunity to stop in one or the other special place :-)


Flamingos Argentinien Highlights Norden Natur Tiere schönste Camping Plätze Marion Michael Marquardt mmq Photography Südamerika
We wouldn't have expected flamingos here

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