Iberá Wetlands, Argentina

Photo: Estancias y Hosterías SRL
Photo: Estancias y Hosterías SRL

It was still dark when you woke up this morning. You didn’t really want to get out of your warm, comfy bed or leave your cute little cottage. But daybreak, not later with the sun high overhead, is when the animals come out to play. You boarded a four-wheel-drive jeep, grabbed a pair of binoculars, and headed toward an overflowing lake. Greater rheas, ostrich-like birds, ran alongside the vehicle. Endangered pampas deer ate forbs in the wetlands. Capybaras, the largest rodents in the world, played along the edge of the water. While a dinosaur-like caimán, who’s related to the alligator, carefully watched your movements from the lagoon.

This may sound like your last African safari, when you stayed in a tented camp, explored the savanna, and saw the big five game animals. But you aren’t in Botswana, Zambia, or South Africa at the moment. In fact, you’re far from the continent. Instead, you’re in northeastern Argentina, near the borders of Paraguay, Brazil, and Uruguay. The Iberá Wetlands are the second-largest wetlands in the world. The nature reserve is full of bogs and swamps, lagoons and lakes; more than 40 percent of it is flooded year round. Besides the fascinating animals, the wetlands are also home to a beautiful estancia.

Photo: Estancias y Hosterías SRL
Photo: Estancias y Hosterías SRL

That estancia is Rincón del Socorro. The former cattle ranch, accessed by a flight from Posadas, now focuses on restoration and reintroducing species into the protected area. The main house, built by the ranch’s founder in 1896, looks like a traditional Spanish building. Separate, classic cottages have beamed ceilings, wooden furniture, and historical maps and wildlife paintings on the walls. Terraces overlook gardens, orchards, and flowering trees. Meat is cooked in a quincho, an outdoor space with a massive wood grill. Plus activities focus on the beautiful and remote surroundings.

When you return from your early morning tour, eat breakfast and relax outside on the terrace as the temperature quickly rises. Go for a swim in the pool and try not to nap as you stretch out on a wooden sun lounger. Don’t get nervous when you hear a screeching sound; it’s just a southern screamer moving through the high grass. Ride a bike down the red dusty roads and across small bridges. Go horseback riding, stopping to watch a scattering of graceful herons. Attempt to fly fish, but fail to catch the 15-pound golden dorado you were promised. Ride a boat up streams that are hidden from the roads while staying alert for caimáns.

Return to the estancia for loose-leaf tea and homemade biscuits during tea time. Then eat organic salads and home-reared beef—plus a few glasses of Malbec—for dinner. The evening is capped off with a bonfire under the star-filled sky with an owl whoo-hooing in the background. Your safari trips might have just been replaced.

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