Located 106 miles south of Rio, the bay of Angra dos Reis groups together a total of 365 islands! A magical place strewn with jungle-covered mountains, it is perfect for splendid hikes and scuba diving, providing a great opportunity to admire the wrecks of sunken galleons and pirate ships, as well as a chance to swim with sea turtles. The many pink granite rocks in the area make this part of Brazil reminiscent of the Seychelles. Ilha Grande, a treasure island fit for any adventure novel, is the star attraction of the bay. There are neither roads nor cars in this pristine paradise, which is home to just a few pousadas. The island is covered with a tropical rainforest inhabited by monkeys, humming birds, and other exotic animals, with its highest point rising to nearly 1,000m! The majority of restaurants and pousadas are found in Vila do Abraao, the island's only 'village', where schooners from Angra dos Reis and Mangaratiba drop anchor. You are sure to feel a million miles from home as you stroll through the sandy streets! Other hotels can be found in more secluded spots on the island, where they can only be reached by water, either by boat or canoe! The beaches of Lopes Mendes and Cachadaço are considered among the most beautiful in Brazil.
There is no lack of activities on the island: scuba diving, swimming with sea turtles, boat trips around the archipelago, hiking trips into the tropical forest, bathing in the crystal-clear water of the waterfalls and natural swimming pools, shopping, or just pure and utter relaxation.
Thanks to the helpful signposts and well-marked paths (a rare occurrence in Brazil), you won't need a guide to help you find your way around the jungle. If you make it to the highest point of the island, 980m above sea level, you will be rewarded with an amazing view of the bay of Angra dos Reis. Allow around 3 hours for the climb and 2 hours to get back down.
Sunscreen and anti-mosquito products are real necessities. In summer, from December to March, temperatures can exceed 40°C! As there are no cars on Ilha Grande, be prepared to walk on the sandy village tracks or along paths through the tropical forest! Be aware though, that there are some steep climbs: the island's highest point is almost 1,000m above sea level! Furthermore, bear in mind that there is no post office or cash machine on the island.
Be aware that the boat leaving for Ilha Grande from Mangaratiba (30 miles north of Angra dos Reis) only leaves when it's full. This means that during quieter times of the year, you could end up stuck in the harbour for a whole day! On top of that, the crossing takes an hour and a half. You would be better off taking a motor schooner from Conceiçao de Jacarei, in the direction of the town of Angra dos Reis. The journey from here takes just 40 minutes and these boats have a fixed timetable (departures at 11:30am, 2:00pm, and 5:00pm).
We recommend tasting two Brazilian dishes in particular, namely 'cozido' and 'feijoada', cooked with beans, rice, manioc flour, and meat. In this region, the latter is prepared with black beans, oranges, and dried meat. If you fancy something different, we also strongly recommend the Italian restaurants in the region, often offering good quality... You will also, of course, find the inevitable 'pao de queijo', which are cheese-stuffed buns served hot. Originally a speciality of the Minas Gerais region, these can now be found all over Brazil! Finish everything off with 'quindim', a delicacy made from eggs and coconut: a real delight! The array of fruit and fruit juices available during your stay in Brazil range from the most common, like banana, mango, watermelon, pineapple, orange, papaya, passion fruit, and guava, to the more exotic, such as cashew, star fruit, and Brazilian cherry. Alcohol made from sugar cane, cachaça or pinga is enjoyed neat or with a mixer. With sugar, lime, crushed ice, and some skilful mixing, you have a caipirinha. Mix it with fruit juice and you get a 'batida'. Finally, Brazilians often wash their meals down with a can of guarana, a popular fizzy drink derived from a plant found in the Amazon, which provides a good alternative to Coca Cola.
Numerous clothing shops, with more or less affordable prices, rub shoulders with vendors of hammocks, jewellery, pareos, and other souvenirs on the beaches. The 'Havaianas' flip-flops worn by all Brazilians, regardless of their social class, have recently increased in value... Often sold for as much as £13 in Europe, you can find them here for just £7. You may even fancy bringing back a wooden samba whistle, if you manage to find one!