By Darren Griffiths

Our Ibera Wetlands Argentina Wildlife Adventure

31st October 2023

Read about our incredible adventure and we guarantee you’ll start to plan to visit Ibera Wetlands in North East Argentina to get very close and personal to some of the world’s most unusual wildlife. We explain how to get to the Iberá estuaries, what to see, and where to stay.

An Unexpected Close Encounter

We were enjoying a walk through Colonia Carlos Pellegrini, the main township in the Ibera Wetlands, en-route to a patch of jungle we’d read was home to several Howler Monkeys.

While holding hands and discussing our post-Ibera Wetlands plans, out of nowhere Shelley screamed “Oh my god!!!” as she un-gripped my hand and ran to the other side of the road.

Anaconda at Argentina's Ibera Wetlands.
Anaconda at Argentina’s Ibera Wetlands

What?” I concernedly shouted back. “Snake!” she shrieked while pointing back to where we were happily walking just a few moments ago.

After a couple of heart-racing seconds, I could see why she was so panicked. Anyone is entitled to be scared of snakes, regardless of size or species. Especially Londoners like us.

Snakes aren’t commonly spotted slithering through the West End. But this didn’t look like just any snake. The sheer size of it made us immediately think of one species.

We’d seen enough travel documentaries to know that what we’d nearly stepped on was an Anaconda! An Argentina wildlife encounter we had not expected to experience.

It was only partially visible in the rough grass but you could still see it’s extra wide girth. Even it’s partially visible length was impressive. I was almost certain our species hunch was correct.

Shelley was keen to run away from the beast as fast as possible but I wanted to take a quick photo.

Hopefully, someone at the visitor centre could confirm that what we saw was, in fact, an Ibera Wetlands Anaconda.

The Iberá Wetlands (Esteros del Ibera)

We were in the remote region of the Ibera Wetlands in Argentina, South America. Once an area popular for hunting, these marshy wetlands, streams, lagoons and floating islands is now thankfully protected as a nature reserve.

Now Argentina wildlife such as caiman, otters and giant otters, swamp deer, capybaras, wolves, howler monkeys and over 400 species of bird thrive there and wildlife enthusiasts come from around South America to see the impressive roll call of bird and animal species.

Darren posing with resident caiman at Argentina's Ibera Wetlands.
Darren posing with resident caiman at Argentina’s Ibera Wetlands

We approached an official in uniform once we’d reached the visitor centre. I frantically turned on our camera to display the photo and he immediately raised his eyebrows.

Anaconda!” he said while pointing at the screen. We knew it! We couldn’t believe we came so close to something so dangerous while strolling through Colonia Carlos Pellegrini.

After all the excitement, we realised how this story could have gone another way. As you probably know, if you’re attacked by an Anaconda, you’re most likely a dead man.

Shelley posing with three resident caimans at Argentina's Ibera Wetlands.
Shelley posing with three resident caimans at Argentina’s Ibera Wetlands

They’re expert killers by wrapping their bodies around their prey. Squeezing tighter and tighter until they can no longer breath.

Crushing bones at the same time so they can swallow their catch whole. Images of newspaper headlines British Backpackers killed by Anaconda came to mind.

Anacondas Aside, We Were Very Excited to be at the Iberá Wetlands

This region, which has restricted tourism in the past, is now opening up to visitors in a low-key way.

The low-key feel of the Ibera wetlands is what appealed to us. On our travels, through other parts of South America, we came across only one other person who had visited the Ibera wetlands.

Resident caiman at Argentina's Ibera Wetlands.
Resident caiman at Argentina’s Ibera Wetlands

She was glowing with positive reviews of the rural town of Colonia Carlos Pellegrini and it’s potential Argentina wildlife spotting opportunities.

We’re always keen to explore areas heavily populated with wildlife. They’re getting harder to find these days but we’ll go well out of our way to experience the sight of wildlife in their natural habitat.

Other wildlife highlights from our travels include Borneo’s Kinabatangan River and Sri Lanka’s Kaudulla National Park. Both adventures that we’ll never forget.

Getting Into the Iberá Wetlands

The Ibera Wetlands are a National Park and Reserve 800 km due north of Buenos Aires, but we were in Salta, and so headed southeast by public transport.

Getting in and out of the Ibera wetlands of North East Argentina wasn’t easy. This remote pocket of the country has no properly laid roads for access into Colonia Carlos Pellegrini.

Our trip consisted of an overnight bus from Salta in the North West of the country to Corrientes in the North East. In Corrientes we had to wait for several hours for another bus to a town called Mercedes.

By the time we reached Mercedes, 18 hours after leaving Salta, we had missed the last of two daily buses into the Ibera wetlands.

So we spent a night at a local guesthouse in Mercedes before catching the next bus to Colonia Carlos Pellegrini in the morning.

The Mercedes to Colonia Carlos Pellegrini Bus

Without your own wheels the only way to get to Colonia Carlos Pellegrini in Corrientes province is by two daily local buses from Mercedes. Both of which take about 3 hours.

The first bus was at 10 am so we got there early to make sure we got a ticket. We needn’t have worried as we seemed to be the only tourists in town so shared the bus with only four other locals.

A resident capybaras at Argentina's Ibera Wetlands.
A resident capybaras at Argentina’s Ibera Wetlands

The bus was a battered old vehicle with a dusty floor and hard wooden seats. The seats did not in any way cushion the impact of our sore bums bouncing up and down on the very bumpy gravel track.

The bus was rattling and clanging so loudly for those three hours that me and Shelley could hardly have a conversation. We could only point out the Argentina wildlife we spotted through the window.

A resident caiman surfacing close to our boat at Argentina's Ibera Wetlands.
A resident caiman surfacing close to our boat at Argentina’s Ibera Wetlands

For the last hour of the journey the Ibera wetlands landscape got wetter and wetter. As it did so we started to see our first sights of Argentina wildlife right outside the window.

One of many birds sighted at Argentina's Ibera Wetlands
One of many birds sighted at Argentina’s Ibera Wetlands

Heaps of birdlife were zipping around the sky and wading through the water.

Families of capybaras, or Moomins as Shelley likes to call them, were confidently roaming the nearby swamps.

We were then dropped off at the edge of simple Colonia Carlos Pellegrini. After loading our heavy backpacks on ourselves we walked the quiet streets in search for our accommodation.

Colonia Carlos Pellegrini and it’s Argentina Wildlife

The town consists of just 20 streets laid in a grid. It has a real outback feel with hardly a soul in sight. Again we felt like the only tourists in town. We almost were.

After checking out a places to stay we decided on a guesthouse owned by a lady who spoke no english.

Our Colonia Carlos Pellegrini guesthouse garden
Our Colonia Carlos Pellegrini guesthouse garden

She wasn’t the friendliest of proprietors but we liked how she’d dressed the clean, cozy bedrooms and there was a huge garden with an outside kitchen we could use.

We spent 3 days in Colonia Carlos Pellegrini enjoying the Argentina wildlife.

Typical road in Colonia Carlos Pellegrini.
Typical road in Colonia Carlos Pellegrini

We’d previously not been particularly keen on bird watching but when you visit a region like the Ibera Wetlands, it’s hard to not develop a new appreciation for birdlife (espceically if you’re here from September through to April which is when bird migration happens).

The vast amount of bird species and high population was a wonder to see.

Boat Trips in the Ibera Wetlands

We took several boat trips from the Ibera wetlands campsite, spotting numerous caiman of various sizes. Some lone caiman basking in the sun and some groups of up to five!

We also spotted plenty of Shelley’s favourites, capybaras, in the shallow water lagoons and on their banks. The tame giant rodents were so at ease with us being there we could almost reach out and touch them.

The remote and peaceful atmosphere of the wetlands is what springs to mind when we think back to those boat trips. Aside from the musical birdcall or the splash of a giant otter you could hear a pin drop.

The sun sparkled off the flat blue waters, only broken by lush bright greenery and welcome wildlife. We also enjoyed uninterrupted sunsets with the wetland waters mirroring the changing colours of the sky.

Oh and we did get to see those Howler Monkeys we were en-route to see before our Anaconda encounter. Overall it was a very successful trip for Argentina wildlife spotting!

Getting Out of the Ibera Wetlands

Getting out of Colonia Carlos Pellegrini was even more difficult than getting in. We were heading to the Iguazu Falls on the border with Brazil.

It made sense to leave the wetlands in that north east direction rather than going back on ourselves to Mercedes.

We’d read about a deep sand track, only accessible by 4×4 vehicle, which eventually ends up on the main road to Posadas. Posadas is where you can catch a bus to the border and Iguazu Falls.

Resident howler monkey at Ibera Wetlands, Argentina.
Resident howler monkey at Ibera Wetlands, Argentina

There didn’t seem to be a tourist or local transport option in place that offered external transfers towards Iguazu Falls.

We tried to speak to several locals regarding someone with a 4×4 to drive us but we didn’t have much luck. But on our last evening, we were approached by a large local man who must have heard of our plight.

He offered to drive us to Posadas. At about $50 each it was quite expensive but this was expected after our own guidebook research.

So the next morning we jumped into his 4×4 equipped with TVs on the headrests and Disney DVDs.

Then while watching Finding Nemo we drove to dry land and ended our memorable Ibera wetlands Argentina wildlife adventure.