Our journey into Argentina’s flooded forest came about by accident. We intended to go to Paraguay but recent heavy rains had caused serious flooding of rivers and roads and we could not get access into the country.
Instead we headed west and explored the Formosa province in the north of Argentina.
We followed the river Pilcomayo, the boundary between Paraguay and Argentina. The Pilcomayo drains the vast and luxuriant eastern slopes of the Andes in Bolivia. It then flows thousands of miles south east before joining an even greater river, the Paraguay. In the 1920s, the Pilcomayo broke its banks and inundated hundreds of square miles, including a great forest. This is now Argentina’s flooded forest, called the Banado La Estrella.
The new wetland gradually killed most of the Quebracho and other native trees. To-day all that remains of this leafy kingdom are skeletons of bleached timbers thrusting into the sky, an eerie, but hauntingly beautiful forest.
The dead and dying trees have become festooned with climbing water plants making them the ideal hiding places for Yellow Anaconda snakes. The only trees still living are the Palms and even those are now starting to die.
We were able to drive along tortuous muddy tracks to one of the isolated indigenous villages that skirt the wetland and camp close to the village where the following morning a local man took us out in his canoe.
The shallow depth of the water and the profusion of aquatic plant life meant that the man used a long pole to punt us through the myriad of narrow channels.
All around, hungry looking eyes were upon us, long snouts occasionally piercing the surface, Caiman heaven.
Argentina’s flooded forest surrounded us. As the man pushed hard on the pole, the canoe moved through the open channels, the slow pulsing of the boat making it easier for Paula to film the wildlife that we saw.