A relative newcomer to the tourism industry, this pristine island was once a penal colony – until recently in 2004. Now, travellers can enjoy the pristine waters, blue lagoons, 106 squeaky clean beaches and jungle-covered hills. Given its size (hence the name Big Island) you should stay at a strategic place like Vila do Abraao, where there are plenty of affordable pousadas, restaurants and relaxed nightlife. Don’t expect big parties, but live music shows and luaus. The cristal clear waters on this side of the island attract divers from all over Brazil and abroad. Ou resort rents diving equipment and organises dive-trips.
There are 16 beaten trails cutting across the island. Many trails start at Vila do Abraao and combine stretches of beach and forest. For each guest, we always show a map with the different activities on the island. All the tips received are systematically distributed among all the employees. The morning after meeting up with the tour, we immediately left for the island portion of the trip. Ilha Grande, Brazil was a laid back small beach town.
I walked to Lopez Mendez beach, on the Atlantic side of the island, with Geiza who entertained me with tales of pirate ghosts and listened for howler monkeys and the cheerful call of the red-headed tangara bird. En route, we cooled off in fresh-water pools and stopped at a juice bar for crab and shrimp pasteis (fried pastries) and a cocktail of freshly squeezed orange and passion fruit juice. One house is just for the manager of the island and the men responsible for taking care of the macaws and monkeys. The other two staff houses are to support and serve the main house and the second house. Not much else occured on the island other than some drinking, card games and movie watching as the weather was a little prohibitive.
The island is covered in tropical forests with beautiful sandy beaches all around. We hiked for three hours to a lovely beach called Lopez Mendes. We were greeted by friendly staff, and shown our room, the view was abosolutley breath-taking, and definately the best view on the whole island. The room was clean. Tourism on Ilha Grande is to an overwhelming extent nature-based and the attractiveness of the island as a tourist destination is neatly linked to its extensive forest coverage. At about 150 km from Rio de Janeiro and 400 km from Sao Paulo, Ilha Grande is close to two of the most populous cities in the southern hemisphere.
At the time, it was less like an island and more like a flooded forest that we had gained access to. We knew there was solid ground somewhere below the water because we were surrounded by trees but we could not see it because the water was as black as night due to the rotting vegetation in them, hence the name Rio Negro. Day time adventurers include sea kayaking around over 360 islands, hiking tropical forests, lounging around secluded beaches, or diving countless dive sites and wrecks. Known as the area of greatest shipwreck concentration in the world and even a helicopter wreck, Ilha Grande is awaiting adventurous scuba divers.
Want to see more pictures of the beaches of Brazil, check it out here.