The Iguaçu National Park in Brazil became a home for a large variety of animal species. One of its inhabitant is the South Ameriacan coati – a typcial forest-dewelling animal in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil. Most people who visit the National Park are naturally interested in the impressive Iguaçu Falls. But did you know that the Iguaçu National Park is also a great spot to observe South American coatis in the wild? In this article you will learn not only more about these wonderful and curious animals, but also what you have to keep in mind when you encounter a South American coati.
Foz do Iguaçu
If you want to visit the Iguaçu Falls on the Brazilian side, the best starting point is Foz do Iguaçu. The town is located in the Southwest of the state Paraná and close to the borders to Paraguay and Argentina. In comparison to other Brazilian cities, Foz do Iguaçu is a rather small town with about 250.000 inhabitants. The capital of Paraná, Curitiba, is more than 600 km far away. Foz do Iguaçu is close to the river mouth of the Rio Paraná and Rio Iguaçu, and thus, close to the Iguaçu Falls.
Foz do Iguaçu is a very attractive town for many travelers as the Iguaçu National Park with its waterfalls is close-by and easy to reach with public transport. If you have some time to spent in Foz do Iguaçu after visiting the Iguaçu Falls you can visit the bird park Parque das Aves or go to the Triple Border (Brazil – Argentina – Paraguay) or the Itaipú dam at the Rio Paraná – the largest hyrdoelectric power plant in terms of energy production.
We spent three full days in Foz do Iguaçu. On our first day we went to the Iguaçu Falls on the Brazilian side. On our second day we visited the bird park Parque das Aves. And on our third day we wanted to see the Iguaçu Falls again, but this time on the Argentinian side. It is possible to visit both the Brazilian and Argentinian side of the Iguaçu Falls in one day. However, I would not recommend it, especially if you depend on public transport. And to be honest, it is worth to take some time at both sides of the waterfalls and explore the area and its wildlife including South American coatis, monkeys, birds, butterflies and so on.
Tipp: If you want to use public transport to get to the Iguaçu Falls, take bus line number 120 “Aeroporto/Parque Nacional” which operates between the Terminal de Transporte Urbano (TTU) and the Iguaçu National Park. There are several bus stops along the Avenida Juscelino Kubitschek, Avenida Jorge Schimmelpfeng and Avenida das Cataratas.
The Iguaçu National Park
The Iguaçu National Park (Portuguese: Parque Nacional do Iguaçu) is probably one of the best known attractions in Brazil. This is not surprising as in this national park you can visit one of the world’s largest and most impressive waterfalls: the Iguaçu Falls or Cataratas do Iguaçu in Portuguese. With almost 3 kilometers in length, 275 cascading waterfalls and a height of about 80 meters, the Iguaçu Falls belong to the largest waterfalls of the world. The waterfalls will take your breath away. They will leave you in awe. And after your visit you wish to come back one day to see this natural beauty again.
The Iguaçu Falls are waterfalls of the river Rio Iguaçu which flows into the Rio Paraná just about 25 km downstream from the waterfalls. While the Rio Paraná leads further South up to the estuary Río de la Plata, the Rio Iguaçu ends spectacular at the world famous Iguaçu Falls. The last few kilometers of the Rio Iguaçu make up the border between Brazil and Argentina.
The name Iguaçu comes from the language of the Tupi-Guaraní meaning “great water”. If you visit the Iguaçu Falls you will feel the meaning of Iguaçu. You will be impressed by the world’s largest waterfalls and by the surrounding unique landscape of the Atlantic Forest. You will dive into a natural wonder, gaze at exuberant, lush forest and be deeply affected by one of the most beautiful waterfalls on this planet. The exciting display of the Iguaçu Falls will be an indescribable and very special experience for everyone.
With almost 170.000 hectares in size, the Iguaçu National Park and its Atlantic Forest is a home for a great variety of fauna and flora. The national park became even a a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. The adjacent Iguazú National Park in Argentina became UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 and together both national parks represent a protected area of about 240.000 hectares.
The Atlantic Forest in the Iguaçu National Park in Brazil and the Iguazú National Park in Argentina is a semi-deciduous subtropical rainforest (Portuguese: Mata Atlântica). In these forests you can observe a great variety of different animal and plant species. Some of them are even endangered like for example the jaguar (Panthera onca). And some of them are very elusive and difficult to spot like the puma (Puma concolor) or the broad-snouted caiman (Caiman latirostris). But also among birds you can find some endangered species in the Iguaçu National Park like e.g. the vinaceous-breasted amazon (Amazona vinacea) or the harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja). I did not see any of these rare or elusive animal species. However, as I had heard that it is possible to encounter South American coatis (Nasua nasua) at the Iguaçu Falls I was especially looking for these animals on my visit in the Iguaçu National Park.
On the day of our visit it was very crowded in the morning in the entrance area. Although we arrived early we had to wait at least half an hour to buy our tickets and wait for the next bus to leave. It is not possible to enter the national park with a car. You have to leave your car at the entrance area and take a bus.
There are several bus stops along the bus ride. We got off at the bus stop The Path of the Falls. But if you want to participate in a tour you have to leave earlier. You can get off at the bus stop Poço Preto Trail if you want to participate in a guided tour to explore the Atlantic Forest on foot, by bike or electric vehicle (Trilha Poço Preto). The next bus stops are the Macuco Safari Tour and the Bananeiras Trail Tour stop. Macacu Safari offers different tours. With this company you can even get closer to the waterfalls by boat. If you prefer to hike than you can book a tour on the Bananeira Trail (Trilha das Bananeiras).
I would have loved to walk through some forest at the Poço Preto or Bananeiras Trail. However, it is not possible to explore the Atlantic Forest on these trails on your own. Furthermore, you have to book one of these tours at the entrance area.
The last bus stop ist the Porto Canoas Square Station. There is a nice path between the last bus stop and the second last one (The Path of the Falls or Trilha das Cataratas). You will find most people on this path. At the end of the path close to the last bus stop is a restaurant, but also some shops and many South American coatis roaming around.
South American coatis at the Iguaçu Falls
If you wish to see South American coatis at the Iguaçu falls, I can tell you that your chances are good to see some of them. However, I also have to tell you that it didn’t feel like a real wildlife encounter at the Iguaçu Falls. The reason is, as I have mentioned already, the Iguaçu Falls is an attracive destination for many travelers or visitors. Correspondingly, South American coatis at the Iguaçu National Park are very well habituated to people. They are neither shy nor reclusive animals. If you get off the bus in the Iguaçu National Park some South American coatis might already wait for you. That means, they do not really wait for you. They rather wait for the food you might bring.
The first thing I want to say here: Don’t feed the South American coatis or any other wild animals you might see! Read the signs and don’t give them any food. The South American coatis in the Iguaçu National Park are actually wild animals and they are not (maybe now they are…) used to our industrialized food like chips or chocolate. You can decide for yourself to eat this, but the coatis will take whatever they will get. Be it nutritious or not. Furthermore, you should not feed them for your own safety. Just as we got off the bus we saw some coatis attacking a bag of one visitor. They were successful and a bag of chips spread all over the place. Just remember, we are guests and we have to respect the rules of the national park. If you bring food with you, try to hide it.
Before we headed off to the waterfalls we spent some time at the area where we got off the bus as from there we had already some nice views onto the waterfalls (but you will get better ones closer to the waterfalls). Furthermore, for me as a wildlife lover I had a great time being surrounded by so many South American coatis. Most of them were on the street begging for food or sniffing around to find something to eat.
When I take photographs of animals I always try to get most of them in their natural environment. However, due to our presence the South American coatis rather stayed closer to us people (because of the food) than in the grass or on a tree. Luckily, I got at least some photographs of South American coatis in the grass at the bus stop.
As mentioned, we got off the bus at the bus stop The Path of The Falls. The bus stop is – as the name suggests – the beginning of the same-named walkway. This path has a length of about 1.200 meters and leads you through the Iguaçu National Park up to the Devil’s Throat (Garganta do Diabo) of the Iguaçu Falls. If you don’t want to walk this path and wish to get directly to the waterfalls you can leave the bus at the last bus station Porto Canoas Square Station. It really doesn’t matter where you get off. You can walk in either direction. But anyway, I really recommend you to walk this path as you will get some spectacular views onto the Iguaçu Falls.
It is a really nice and comfortable path. Easy to walk and protected from the sun by the Atlantic Forest. You can stroll comfortably in the shadow of the trees.
At some points you will get the chance to have a different view onto the Iguaçu Falls on several viewing platforms. Take your time and enjoy it! At some viewing platforms you have to be patient and wait as it could be quite crowded.
Always watch out for the South American coatis. They might appear all of a sudden on the street and walk into your direction.
Some of them were even playing, and thus and as it should be, not very interested in us.
As we came closer to the Devil’s Throat, we noticed and felt more and more the thundering sound of the waterfalls. From above you will get an idea of what will await you at the Iguaçu Falls. You will have the chance to get quite close to the waterfalls and feel the force of the them.
For me it was a very impressive day. The waterfalls will make you feel so small. At the Devil’s Throat I was asking myself how it might be in October when the waterfall reaches its highest flow of about 2,5 m3/s. We visited the Iguaçu Falls in April. The water flow of the Iguaçu Falls is lowest in April. It will reach only about 1,3 m3/s. On average the water flow of the Iguaçu Falls reaches 1,4 m3/s.
Close to the Devil’s Throat you will find some shops, snack bars and a restaurant. And of course, you will meet quite many South American coatis again. Be it on the handrail of the restaurant or in a corner close to a trash bin. You will meet them almost everywhere looking for food.
I have not seen people feeding the South American coatis close to the Devil’s Throat. But according to the behavior of the animals, I’m sure that this happens quite often. I just had to look at a group of South American coatis how they were begging for food when a woman just had opened a bag of chips.
They were begging in vain as the woman did not feed them. Some of the South American coatis were searching on the ground through a grid to find something to eat. Or they were trying to beg for food with their eyes…
The South American coatis were just everywhere trying their best to get anything from us visitors. Sometimes they were successful.
As much as I wanted to see South American coatis, for me it was not a real wildlife encounter. The South American coatis are so habituated to the visitors of the Iguaçu Falls and they did not show anything about their natural behavior. How do they socially interact? What do they eat? What about their natural habitat? Where do they naturally stay?
When we returned, we met again some South American coatis. As it was already later in the day, fewer people walked along the path and we could get at least a small insight into their natural life and behavior (read more about this in the next paragraph). However, we also observed some other unpleasant behavior of some visitors. You can read everywhere: Don’t feed or touch wildlife. But some people will always ignore this rule. We observed how one South American coati was followed by a visitor who touched the animal. Even if you tell them that they are not allowed to do that, they will not understand why…
Important: Please don’t feed or touch the animals. You can read everywhere that it not allowed to provide food to South American coatis or any other animal. It is not only for the health of the animals but also for your own safety. If you bring food into the national park, try to hide it as much as possible. Otherwise the South American coatis will try their best to attack you and your bag in order to get more food.
Animal facts: South American coatis
South American coatis (Nasua nasua) are carnivores and belong to the racoon family (Procyonidae). That means to the same family like Common racoons. The distribution of coatis is restricted to South and Central America and the Southwest of North America. There are probably four species of coatis in two genera. The South American coati is a member of the genus Nasua which includes only one more coati, and that is the white-nosed coati (Nasua narica).
Like all coatis, the South American coati is a dirunal animal, and thus, active during the day. They typically live in forests or shrubland both on the ground and in tress. Indeed, we saw some South American coatis not only digging in the ground or sniffing at some dead wood, but also climbing up trees.
However, when we observed this South American coati climbing up the tree, it was all in a sudden as some toucans further afar started to make some noise. All South American coatis widely opened their eyes and fled quickly into the trees although toucans are actually not their natural predators. Typical natural predators of coatis are foxes, jaguars or jaguarundis, but also large raptors like e.g. harpy eagles which also live in the Atlantic Forest at the Iguaçu Falls.
A few moments later the South American coatis relaxed again. Some came down the trees once more, some were just sniffing around, and others were feeding on some leaves.
South American coatis are like all coatis omnivorous. That means, they feed on both plants and animals. They feed on leaves, but they also search for fruits or invertebrates like spiders, ants, termites or centipedes. Their diet includes even other small mammals (e.g. rodents), lizards, eggs and carrion. This shows that South American coatis have a quite diverse diet.
South American coatis have a wide distribution. They occur in every South American country, except in Chile. According to the IUCN, South American coatis are not endangered. They are listed in the category “Least Concern”.
We stayed with the South American coatis for some time to get at least a brief insight into their life and some of their typical natural behavior. For example, South American coatis are very good climbers. We saw them climbing down trees head-first.
Apparently, South American coatis usually descend from trees and disperse on the ground when they sense a threat. However, we observed the opposite (as described above). But I think as we stayed with the South American coatis just for a short length of time, we could not observe everything. Maybe they fled onto the trees only on that day? Or maybe due to the number of visitors at the Iguaçu Falls the South American coatis have changed their typical natural behavior?
Females of South American coatis and their offspring usually live in large groups (or bands) with up to 30 animals. Males are typically solitary and philopatric, while females disperse. Of course, I could not observe this on one day at the Iguaçu Falls. However, the group of South American coatis we observed were probably females. I cannot be sure. I just can guess. But due to their typical behavior of forming large female bands I assume to have seen a group of females on the trees.
At the beginning when we met them they were quite active. But after some time they became lazier and lazier.
The South American coatis also gave me some time to watch closely at their physical appearance. One of their most characteristic feature is probably their long and yellow-ringed tail. Because of their tail South American coatis are also known under the name ring-tailed coati. However, South American coatis use their tail for balance and it is not a prehensile tail like the one of the muriquis.
Most coatis at the Iguaçu Falls had a rather rust colored fur. But fur color can also be dark brown or greyish.
All coatis have a slender head and an elongated nose in common. As they have a very flexible nose, they can use it to search for food under leaf litter or debris on the ground.
Finally we headed off back to the bus stop The Path of the Falls. Before we entered the bus we saw one more coati crossing the street just in front of us.
I can tell you, if you want to see South American coatis in the wild you will find some of them at the Iguaçu Falls.
More wildlife in the Iguaçu National Park
Butterflies at the Iguaçu Falls
If you walk through the Atlantic Forest in the Iguaçu National Park you will definitely notice the great variety of butterflies. I can give you here just a very, very small “insight” into the world of butterflies at the Iguaçu Falls. But when you walk through the national park you will be impressed by the sheer number of butterflies. You will find them on handrails, in the grass, on your leg or hand but also on your bag or backpack.
Julia butterfly (Dryas iulia)
Red cracker (Hamadryas amphinome)
I didn’t get a response so far for some butterfly species. Thus, I couldn’t absolutely identify the two butterflies in the following photographs. I identified the following butterfly species by looking at photographs of butterflies on iNaturalist. I compared my photographs only with butterfly species that had already been seen at the Iguaçu Falls. However, as I’m not one-hundred per cent sure, please leave a comment with the species name if you know them.
Epinome Cracker (Hamadryas epinome)
Hydaspes Eighty-Eight (Callicore hydaspes)
Some of the butterflies I couldn’t identify at all like, e.g., the following two species. Again, if you are a spezialist in Brazilian butterflies and if you know their names, please let me know.
Birds at the Iguaçu Falls
In comparison to places like the Itatiaia National Park or Ubatuba we couldn’t see so many different bird species at the Iguaçu Falls. However, I also have to admit that we spent most time at highly frequented places like The Path of the Falls or close to the Devil’s Throat. Furthermore, best time to observe birds is early in the morning and not during the day. The national park opens only at 9 a.m.
Nevertheless, we saw at least some birds species in the Iguaçu National Park like for example the chestnut-eared Araçari (Pteroglossus castanotis).
The chestnut-eared aracari is a bird of the toucan and aracari family Ramphastidae. Although the bird has a wide distribution, its population number is decreasing.
Another bird which I saw in the Iguaçu National Park for the first time was the plush-crested jay (Cyanocorax chrysops). The plush-crested jay is in the same situation like the chestnut-eared aracari. The bird is relatively wide distributed, but the population tends to be decreasing.
I’m always happy to encounter birds I had already seen before like, for example, the green-headed tanager (Tangara seledon). I observed several green-headed tanagers already in the Itatiaia National park.
Practical information for Foz do Iguaçu
How to get to Foz do Iguaçu
We used Foz do Iguaçu as our starting point to visit the Iguaçu National Park. You can reach Foz do Iguaçu easy by bus. We took a bus of the bus company Pluma from São Paulo – Barra Funda to Foz do Iguaçu. There are two bus companies which run between São Paulo and Foz do Iguaçu: Pluma as mentioned and Catarinense. We paid 215,00 R$ for each ticket at the ticket desk in São Paulo. You can buy the bus ticket also online on Clickbus or Brasil by bus. We bought our tickets a few days in advance at the ticket desk, just before we left for São Miguel Arcanjo to visit the muriquis in the Carlos Botelho State Park. We left São Paulo in the evening and arrived in Foz do Iguaçu on the next morning. The journey took about 18 hours. The international bus terminal Rodoviária International de Foz do Iguaçu is located at the Avenida Costa e Silva, 1601 – Parque Pres. 1, Foz do Iguaçu – PR, 85863-000. From the bus station you need about four to five kilometers to the center of Foz do Iguaçu. We took a taxi to our accommodation. But if you prefer Uber you will find many drivers as well. There are also several buses (bus line 105 and 115) which run between the international bus terminal and the central bus station Terminal de Transporte Urbano (TTU) in the street Pedro Antonio de Nadai, Vila Portes, Av. Juscelino Kubitscheck, 1385 – Vila Portes.
If you prefer to travel by plane Foz do Iguaçu has also an airport (Foz do Iguaçu/Cataratas International Airport) which is located close to the Iguaçu National Park in the Rod. BR 469, Km 16,5, s/n – Aeroporto, PR, 85863-900. Bus line 120 “Aeroporto/Parque National” runs regularly between the Iguaçu National Park and the airport, respectively, and the central bus station TTU.
Accomodation in Foz do Iguaçu
We booked our accomodation via Airbnb. Our accommodation was located in the Rua das Samambaias in the neighborhood Loteamento Bourbon which is about 30 minutes by bus to the national park entrance. We paid 49,66 Euro for 4 nights and 2 persons. Although it was a very cheap accommodation, we had a very comfortable room in the backyard. The room was small, but very clean. Our host was an elderly woman and new to Airbnb. Her daughter was organizing Airbnb for here. Our host was very attentive and always happy to share information with us. It was one of my best Airbnb experiences. Furthermore, as our accommodation was close to the Avenida das Cataratas we did not have to walk a long distance to the next bus stop where bus line 120 left for the Iguaçu National Park.
Tipp: There are several hotels along the Avenida das Cataratas. Try to check them if you want to be close to the national park. If you want to stay inside the national park and if you can afford it you can book a room in the Hotel das Cataratas.
How to get to the Iguaçu National Park
The Iguaçu National Park opens daily between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. You can check their prices on the official website. Depending on your nationality you might get a discount. If you are Brazilian you have to pay 41 R$ as an adult (12 years and older). Argentinians, Uruguayans, Paraguayans, and Venezuelans pay 55 R$. All other nationalities have to pay 70 R$ at the moment (March 2019). You can buy tickets on their website or at the ticket desk.
If you do not have your own car and if you do not want to use a taxi or Uber, there is a bus (number 120) running between the central bus station TTU and the Iguaçu National Park. This bus will also stop at the airport, at the bird park Parque das Aves and at several bus stops along the Avenida Juscelino Kubitschek, Avenida Jorge Schimmelpfeng and Avenidas das Cataratas. You will recognize the right direction at the label “Aeroporto/P Nacional”.
If you want to know more about what you can do in Foz do Iguaçu visit VisiteFoz (mostly in Portuguese).
More information about South American coatis
Did you like this article? If yes, please share it on Social Media. Or have you already been at the Iguaçu Falls? Let me know about your experiences with the South American coatis in the comments.