Paddling through any delta is a unique journey. By definition, they are always changing and so there is always something new to see. The islands within a delta constantly fluctuate in shape and size. Rivers can appear and diminish without anyone knowing, and the entire delta can expand or contract over time and even disappear. Located one hour north of Buenos Aires, the cosmopolitan Capitol city of Argentina sits a rather different habitat that could become the next kayaking hotspot in South America - Tigre and its delta.
The town of Tigre has no tigers, though settlers thought the jaguars they saw resembled those large feline predators when they first arrived in this region in the late 1700s. Today what makes this area wild, exotic, and worthy of its name are its endless rivers that form hundreds of islands. The Delta itself is one of the only deltas still growing today and it covers around 5,400 square miles.
Kayaking in the Tigre Delta is a unique and essential addition to any Buenos Aires itinerary for all paddling enthusiasts. This off-the-beaten-path Argentinian destination offers a unique glimpse into a remarkable way of life and provides great bird watching and wildlife viewing. It is a family-friendly activity that is a one-hour journey from the big city, but a wonderful way to feel the peace and tranquility of life on the water.
Tigre is a tourism-driven town where many people embark on journeys into the Paraná Delta. The islands are separated by rivers, streams, and canals that are woven through them like roads and alleyways. Various tour boats leave from town, but you need to get in a smaller boat to explore deep into this region, and a kayak journey is the perfect vessel to make this happen.
What And Where Exactly Is The Tigre Delta
The source of this water that both creates and reshapes islands in the Paraná Delta (often referred to as Tigre Delta) is the great Paraná River. This river is a fabled and mighty body of water that travels through Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. At more than 3,000 miles long, this South American river is second only to the Amazon River in its length.
Like a wild sub-tropical Venice, in Tigre, the canals and rivers are the streets. Outside the main town of Tigre, you won’t see traffic lights. On the hundreds of inhabited islands, there are no cars - only docks, ferries, taxi boats, and paddlers.
This is, perhaps, why this region is so perfectly suited for paddling lovers. Paddling is part of the lifeblood of this place. What is even more rewarding for the enthusiastic paddler is that the deeper you go into these rivers and canals, the further back in time you appear to go, and closer to raw uninhibited nature you find yourself.
Some ferries run for hours and hours deep into the delta where tourist boats. As you continue to travel on the river the riverside beach resorts vanish behind you and are replaced by all sorts of sustainable homes.
This off-the-grid lifestyle becomes more and more appealing as you paddle this stretch of the Paraná and its offshooting rivers and streams on a long tranquil kayaking session. This is where the true magic of the Tigre Delta lives, and this is where any kayak lover visiting the region must venture.
How To Paddle Through Tigre’s Delta
Unlike many waterfront towns, it is not advisable to rent a kayak from the main port of Tigre and paddle your way out into the unknown. There are a few reasons for this. For one, the Delta is vast, and if you start from the town you are unlikely to reach anywhere outside the grasp of a typical tour boat. This would make a kayak journey of this sort rather anti-climactic and fruitless. Further, the water near the town of Tigre is rather polluted, and there are far fewer flora and fauna species to view.
Still, if you like, you can rent kayaks from Tigre town. But this is only advisable if your time is extremely limited. Instead, the best way to explore the Paraná Delta from Tigre is to go with a guide, or on a guided tour. These tours will pick you up from Tigre town, and shuttle you many miles up the river until it feels much more remote, and the water looks much clearer.
I took an hour ferry boat to meet Martin Crovetto the co-owner of El Dorado Kayak, a kayak and canoe company based in Tigre. Once we met on a non-descript dock that the ferry captain somehow knew by name, we ventured into Crovetto’s boat for another twenty minutes, weaving in and out of different rivers and streams until we reached our launch point.
“Once you get away from the area close to the port, it's delightful to paddle around here,” explained Crovetto. And he was correct. Once you are miles away from the town of Tigre the water is clean and clear, and you hear nothing but the sound of birds, and the breeze through tall grass, bamboo, and hanging willow trees that line the coasts of Tigre’s many small islands. These peaceful sounds contribute to the essence of what makes kayaking here special.
Qualities That Make Paddling Through Tigre Delta Unique
An Idyllic Place For Bird Watching
For those bird-loving kayakers visiting the Buenos Aires area, then a trip to The Delta is a must. There are well over a hundred bird species you can spot here, “from the tiny hummingbirds to the wide and elegant egrets and herons,” said Crovetto. He is a knowledgeable birdwatcher himself, and frequently pointed out rare, and not-so-rare species from the kayak.
Tigre Is Family Friendly
The town of Tigre is very family-friendly, with many restaurants, an amusement park, and family-oriented day activities. While some of the long paddles might be challenging for young kids, many of the paddling journeys are very family-friendly thanks to the calm waters and peaceful atmosphere of The Delta. El Dorado Kayak, for example, has large canoes that can fit up to seven people, which means kids can take breaks and paddle at their leisure while adults pick up the slack.
Interesting Wildlife Close To The Big City
When you are many miles into the Paraná Delta, it’s crazy to fathom that the bustling city of Buenos Aires is so close. While just one hour by train from the city, in this vast series of waterways you can spot all sorts of thriving wildlife species including turtles, capibaras, and even a few rare snake and frog sightings. While jaguars may have helped give Tigre its name, they are no longer present in the region.
Tigre Is Filled With History Along Its Paddling Routes
The Delta has a storied history. This history is well preserved in museums, and even in some of its crumbling ruins and rusted ships along the shores. There are several note-worthy museums in Tigre, including the stunning remodeled classic Casino that is now the Museo de Arte de Tigre, and the Sarmiento House, a preserved and replicated structure paying homage to the 7th president of Argentina who lived there until his death.
More than just museums, there is history in the soil, and in the trees. The Delta tells a story of all its inhabitants. The first to arrive in the Delta were the native Guaraní and Chaná people, and then this all changed after the Spanish conquest.
There was a period where The Delta was a major fruit producer, and then a tree plantation. You can see evidence of this in many willow trees along the shores. Over time, the Tigre Delta area has been a refuge for everyone from artists looking for inspiration to smugglers looking for somewhere to hide, and you can feel this eclectic spirit as you paddle among many different houses that showcase vastly different ways of life.
The Journey To And From Tigre Is Half The Fun
While the kayaking is certainly the highlight of a trip to Tigre, getting there is also a blast. From Buenos Aires, you can take the Tren Del Costa, which stops at many lovely towns. Many of these stops feature lovely restaurants that are right on the platform. Other stops feature antique markets, and others are a short walk to beaches.
The boat ride through this delta to the kayak launch point is also a fun journey. As you bob and weave around paddlers, taxi boats, and large tourist vessels, you get a sense of what it’s like to commute along this waterway daily.
How Long To Spend Paddling In Tigre
If you are pressed for time you can explore the town of Tigre and then do a half-day paddling tour before returning to Buenos Aires in time to have an evening dinner. This is the beauty of Tigre’s proximity to Buenos Aires and easy access to convenient train transportation. While a half-day is enough time to get a taste of this unique paddling paradise, you might want to consider an overnight stay.
Spending at least one night in Tigre allows you to get the full experience of this area. After all, the daytime in Tigre is only half the story. The night provides solitude, mystery, and wild sounds that will stick with you for some time, all while staying on an island with no roads. It is a perfect place to unplug and reset. Spending a night in Tigre also allows you to take a longer paddling journey, and even use a kayak at dawn when the river is often quiet but wildlife is most active.
When Is The Best Time To Kayak In Tigre, Argentina?
The most popular time to visit Tigre and to paddle its delta is the late spring and summer between mid-October and March. This is when swimming is most popular and refreshing. It is a great way to beat the summer heat in the city, and the town of Tigre is also in full swing.
Early Spring is when I paddled in Tigre, which was beautiful and filled with purple Wysteria blossoms and many aquatic flowers shooting out along the edges of the river. If you find a pleasant and sunny day, kayaking Tigre in the spring can be magical. There are far fewer people in this season, making the trip even quieter and more authentic than normal.
The Autumn provides some stunning fall foliage to gaze at while you paddle, and the crowds have mostly diminished at this time of year. You can even paddle in the winter here, as it does not get brutally cold, and on a warmer winter day, kayaking in Tigre is a nice activity.
Kayaking Tigre Is ‘A Way To Enjoy The Beauty Of Life By The Water’
A kayaking journey deep into the Paraná Delta is an essential excursion for any serious paddler planning to visit Buenos Aires. A paddling trip can take just half a day, but you will feel completely immersed in nature. You will also get a glimpse into a way of life unlike any other you have likely seen before. The best way to get a genuine sense of life in the Tigre Delta is to paddle with a guide or join a kayaking tour that starts several miles away from the town of Tigre. This ensures authenticity and clean water conditions.
My guide, Corvetto, moved permanently many years ago to live permanently in the Delta. He planted roots as many locals do - by slowly building a sustainable home on one of the Delta’s many islands. He came to the Delta as a child, as Tigre is a common holiday escape for Argentinian locals living throughout the Buenos Aires region.
But as he grew older he continued to fall in love with this incredible Argentinian paddling destination, and eventually made it a place to raise his family. For him, it provides “a peaceful escape from the busy city life, a job in tourism, and a way to enjoy the beauty of life by the water.” Witnessing life by this water is an experience hat should not be missed.