Perils of Polly: Boardwalk snakes to the top of Devil’s Throat at Iauazu Falls

Polly hangs out with the coatimundis at Iguazu Falls National Park, Argentina.

Editor’s note: Polly Crawford was a reporter and associate editor of The Peninsula Clarion from 1985-1988, when she wrote “Perils of Polly.” She also has written a series of “Peril” columns about Australia, Asia, and Central America. Her perils continue in Argentina and Chile.


Iguazu Fall is the main tourist attraction of South America. It’s also listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site. It’s taller than Niagara — 269 feet — and way bigger, consisting actually of 275 waterfalls. Because of its extreme popularity, I knew I wanted to go, but thought it might seem overrated in my eyes. I was wrong.

As we walked the boardwalk toward the top of Devil’s Throat, the roar soon made it hard to talk. Then we were there, on the viewing platform, getting soaked and looking down into Devil’s Throat. We sneaked out our cameras for quick photos, then stuffed them quickly under our shirts to keep them dry. To really take good photos, a waterproof camera was needed.

That was just the biggest falls. We had 274 left to see! The boardwalk snaked everywhere there was water, and what amazed me most was the sheer amount of water that seemed to come from nowhere and drop out of sight off the basalt cliff. 

OK, so there’s a lot of water. What else? This was the part that really amazed me. We had come to see the falls. We didn’t know the park was so full of animals. We saw cayman, turtles, beautiful birds, iguanas, but best of all we saw coatimundis. I’d been wanting to see the cute little coatis since I went to Costa Rica. So when a mother with three babies scurried out from the woods toward the trail, I was quick to grab my camera. 

I soon discovered that was unnecessary. We walked into an outdoor snack center which was loaded with coatis. Turns out these little buggers/beggars have learned to equate people with food, despite the sign telling everyone not to feed the coatis. 

I sat on a bench petting the four of them that surrounded me. A woman sat next to me to finish the last of her sandwich. She never got a chance. The coati that was sitting between us lunged across her lap and grabbed it right out of her hand. 

Then I watched as another tourist set her red handbag on the sidewalk so she could adjust her backpack. Like lightning, a coati leapt from 10 feet away, pounced on the handbag, and sent white stuff flying from its interior. The woman grabbed her bag and laughed. I could see how they would be a menace, but to the tourists they were cute and entertaining. 

We’d walked nearly every boardwalk, stairway, and trail in the park except one: the one to take us to the boats. The boats to the island were closed because of high water level, but there was another boat—the one that took brave and/or crazy tourists under the falls. We looked at each other. We’re crazy. Let’s go. 

It was a long wait. There were quite a few crazy tourists. But it was definitely worth it. The boat took us where the water was churning below and we were pelted from above, totally drenching us. The adrenaline rush was as good as any carnival ride. We went under two different parts of the falls. I could have done it over and over, kind of like a roller coaster, but alas, the ride was over. To anyone who goes to the falls: Take the boat ride!

By 3 p.m., we were waterfalled out. We dragged ourselves to our vehicle and headed south. We were at San Ignacia when the sun started to go down, and began, once again, following people’s directions to campgrounds. We followed one set of directions down a narrow gravel road for several miles until it reached the Parana River. There we were told a campground used to exist, but no longer. No amount of begging would let us stay. We followed a second set of directions to another one, but it turned out to be an expensive resort; no way were they going to let us just park and camp. So we ended up in the worst spot of the entire trip: a wooded lot behind a gas station full of trash and leaf cutter ants. 

By early in the morning, we were up and out of there, glad to be gone. We were headed to our next and final major adventure: the Ibera wetlands.