Every person can transform the world from one of monotony and drabness to one of excitement and adventure.Irving Wallace
Dec 5-12 2016
A tropical paradise with an interesting past. Ilha Grande (The Big Island) sits just off the coast of mainland Brazil a couple hours south of Rio de Janeiro.
Full of virgin Atlantic rainforest as it didn’t open to tourism until the mid-90’s; prior to that it housed a prison and before that it was a leper colony and first site for immigrants arriving from Europe. To this day no cars are allowed on the island, hiking and taxi boat are the only ways to get around.
To get to the island we took an Uber from Rio de Janerio to Conceicao de Jacari, a nice ride that definitely was our longest ride in an Uber ever, lasting a little over 2.5 hours. At the port we took a quick 20 minute boat ride to the island, we spent our first day was spent settling into our AirBnb. It sat on the side of a hill above Vila de Abraao and had a great view out to the bay and ocean.
The next day we set out for one of the many beaches circling Ilha Grande. Lopes Mendes was the first destination, one of the top 10 rated beaches in the world. You could take a taxi boat to get close to the beach, but instead we opted to hike the full trail there. After about 2 hours and a few stops to take in the views and watch some Capuchin monkeys, we arrived. The beach must have been a couple km long and was lined with palm trees in fine white sand. I mostly played around in the oceans huge waves that day, while Maggie relaxed on shore. On the way back we decided to just do a short hike to another beautiful, but calmer beach nearby, and catch a taxi boat.
Our third day on the island we rented a small boat with driver for the day. Our first stop was Lagoa Azul about half-way around the 140 sq mile island to do some snorkeling in refreshing, crystal clear water. After swimming with the fishes,we slowly worked our way back to town stopping at many different beaches on the way, some that we had entirely to ourselves to relax and enjoy.
The following few days we took it just a little bit easier. One day doing a 2 hour round trip hike to one of the islands waterfalls. The water was much different then the warm and salty ocean, instead providing a nice cold and a refreshing place to cool off. The other days we did brief walks to the beaches nearest the town (along Circuito Abraao and to Praia Preta) and on one of the nights did our own impromptu bar hop through town.
For our last full day, and after several hikes to prepare us, we did a 7 hour round-trip (14+ miles) hike to Dois Rios beach. Named for the two rivers on either ends of the 2km long beach that flow into the ocean. While the beach was amazing with cool river water flowing into the warm ocean, the highlight of the day was definitely seeing a group of 7 or 8 Brown Holler monkeys while cutting through a bamboo forest during the hike. Maggie also enjoyed the natural fresh water (called Soldiers Pool), found about half-way through the hike and either direction, being a great place to take a break and cool off in the cold water.
Dois Rios is also the site of the mostly abandoned town of Dois Rios that housed the workers of the now crumbling Candido Mendes prison, last in operation in 1994 as a place for Brazil’s most infamous criminals and also providing the founding place of the infamous Red Command.
The final day we packed up, headed to the dock, and took the 20 minute boat ride back to the mainland. We then caught a very comfortable local bus back into Rio de Janeiro where we would spend a few more days.