Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Greatest Waterfall on Earth: Iguaçu vs. Victoria

Here are the two waterfalls vying for the title of "Greatest Waterfall on Earth"

Victoria Falls in Zambia/ Zimbabwe:

And Iguaçu Falls in Brasil/ Argentina:

First, lets get a few things straight.

I'm not talking about the tallest waterfall. That indisputable title goes to Angel Falls in Venezuela at an astonishing 979 meters high.

I'm talking about the greatest--the grandest, most spectacular, most magnificent, most awe-inspiring-- falls in the world.  

In other words, which waterfall is the overall winner in ALL of these characteristics: big, wide, tall, powerful and beautiful?

Niagara, I'm sorry, you're not even in the running.  Though you do have the highest average annual flow rate of 2407 cubic meters per second (Victoria: 1088 and Iguaçu1746), you don't even come close to being the length or height of Victoria or Iguaçu.

And one more thing...no, I'm not biased because I'm Brasilian.  I have been to Niagara, Iguaçu and Victoria and all of them are beautiful in their own right.  I'm a very honest person, and I will try to give you my most objective view from taking several different criteria into consideration.

The criteria for my judgment are:

1) The statistics:  which is the tallest, longest, etc.
2) The views.
3) The environment/ landscape surrounding the falls.
4) The nature encountered near each fall.

First, the statistics:

HEIGHT: Victoria Falls has the highest single waterfall drop of 108 meters.  But Iguaçu has two layers of falls on the Argentinian side, and each of these drops can be from 64-82 meters high.  

LENGTH: Victoria Falls is the longest single curtain of falling water at 1,708 meters long.  Thats really long. BUT, Iguaçu has a total length of 2,700 meters!  That's close to a kilometer longer than Victoria.

WATER FLOW: I've already mentioned the mean annual flow, so let me tell about the largest recorded water flow:  Vic Falls: 12,800 cubic meters/ second  Iguaçu: 12,600.

So... In conclusionIguaçu is shorter than Victoria if you consider each individual drop, but if you count both of Iguaçu's drops together, it could be considered at least 20 meters higher than Victoria. Iguaçu is much longer than Victoria and has a comparable record of highest water flow.

Second, lets look at the views:

Iguaçu covers both walls of a wide, U-shaped canyon so views are expansive, but Victoria tumbles off one side of a canyon into a deep ravine so the best views are only from the air. At Victoria, if you don't want to fork over $150 for a 15 minute microlight flight or pay even more for a helicopter ride, then you will be limited to the sparse views on foot.

I'll let the photos speak for themselves.  First, my photo (singular) of Victoria:

If you want to go visit any waterfall, you want to go in the wet season when that fall is at its fullest.  I visited both Iguaçu and Victoria during the rainy season.  But at Victoria, the volume of water causes a problem:  the amount of spray is so great that you practically have no view at all in the wet season.  The photo above is the ONLY decent photo I got of Victoria from the ground.

And in the dry season, Victoria looks like this:

Rather pitiful, since only one third of the canyon has water falling over it.

On the other hand, these are the various "on-foot" views of Iguaçu during the high water season. First, from Brasil's side:

And then, EVERYTHING gets even better on the Argentinian side!  The views, the lower prices, the intimacy with the falls--everything.   See! I told you I was an honest person.  :)  Here are the views from Argentina:

Do you see that boat at the bottom of the falls?  That is a Brasilian boat.  The Brasilian boats also get close to the Garganta do Diabo (The Devil's Throat) as seen in the top photo of above three photos. The Garganta do Diabo is the most powerful section of Iguaçu Falls.  BUT the Brasilian boats cannot get close in the high water season because the power of the falls and the swirling current of the river are too great.  

On the other hand, the Argentinian boats can always do this:

The closest you can come to drowning without seriously getting hurt is riding this motor boat under the spray of this waterfall!  It is one of the most exhilarating and terrifying experiences I've ever enjoyed.  To feel the pounding of the spray (not even the actual falls) and to hear the thunder of the water so close is indescribable!

Third, the environment:

Victoria Falls is in a dry savannah-like area with sparse trees except along the Zambezi River. The only verdant scenery near the falls is a little valley closest to the ever-present mists:

And a gorgeous valley it is!  But it is such a small part of the environment near Victoria Falls. All one needs to do is look up to the left and see the parched, leaf-less trees on the other side of the canyon--the trees that weren't close enough to benefit from the mists of Victoria:

On the other hand, Iguaçu is always verdant.

Finally, the nature is our last criteria:

Here are the animals I saw at Victoria:

Vervet Monkey
Chacma Baboon

And at Iguaçu:



Plush-crested Jay

I'll let you judge which animals you like best.

In my mind, when comparing all the above criteria, Iguaçu is the clearly "The Greatest Waterfall on Earth"!  

...OH!  and did I mention that Iguaçu Falls is one of the New 7 Natural Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage site?   

1. Click HERE to see some UNESCO videos about Iguaçu.

2. Click New 7 Wonders of Nature

2. BBC documentary about Iguaçu:  Click HERE

3. A wonderful BBC documentary about a fisherman's life at Victoria Falls: Click HERE

Thanks for visiting Kolin's Travels! 

Next week we'll be swimming in crystalline waters with the fishes of Bonito, Brasil!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Brazil's Little Gem- Parque Nacional do Itatiaia

Brazil is a verdant, thriving, massive country with so many exciting cities and gorgeous natural wonders to visit that it is hard to decide where to start.

Let me give you a tip about a little-visited gem called Parque Nacional do Itatiaia in the state of Rio de Janeiro.

This is a park you should not miss.  Though small, it is a perfect slice of mata Atlantica--the dense, dripping Atlantic rainforest that blesses the eastern coast of Brazil from the state of Rio Grande do Norte to Rio Grande do Sul.  

Driving up into the jungle-covered mountains from the highway is like re-discovering a forgotten world pulsing with life.  You leave the roar of cars and trucks behind and immerse yourself in the sounds of waterfalls and the wind in the trees. Just look at the stupendous scenery as you drive deep into the jungle:  

To add to the magical environment, you can stay in quaint Swiss style chalets, like this:

From my balcony I enjoyed this gorgeous view of the Atlantic rainforest and the foothills beyond:

The Atlantic Rainforest has been designated as a World Biosphere Reserve which holds various endangered and endemic species like the woolly spider monkey and lion tamarins.  In Parque Nacional do Itatiaia, you, too will be close to nature.  You will undoubtedly see colorful birds and other forest creatures like these:

Itatiaia means "many-pointed rock" in the Tupi language.  And for good reason.  The Agulhas Negras or Black Needles (2787 meters at the highest peak) are a challenge for any hiker.  

Other activities in the park can include a visit to Lago Azul, the Blue Lake; Veu da Noiva, Bridal Veil Falls; Itaporani Falls and a guided walk through the jungle to learn about local plants and animals.

If you are looking for a quiet retreat into a lush and lively jungle in Brazil, then Parque Nacional do Itatiaia is the place for you!  

For even more stunning natural attractions, the nearby town of Maringa has loads more rivers and waterfalls like these:

Do you want to watch a video of these gorgeous places?  Just click below:

Or visit my youtube channel by clicking here: "Kolin's Youtube Channel" 

For more photos of Itatiaia and Maringa, click here:  "Kolin's Travels Facebook" 

Below are some helpful links to get you to Brazil and Parque Nacional do Itatiaia:

Getting there:

1. Visit Brasil  Practical tips for travel from Brazil's Official Tourism Site
    If purchased outside of Brazil, you can get domestic flights at a discount.

Parque Nacional do Itatiaia:

1.  Official Site  The park's official page in Portuguese.  
2. Lonely Planet's Info Things to do and see aswell as how to get to the park on public transport.
3. Hotel do Ype   The hotel I stayed in with the beautiful views and animals all around.