By Ricky Skelton
It was definitely memorable. Places you visit are always much better if you have a story to tell about them. Barreirinhas is a small town which is the gateway to Parque Nacional Lenois Maranhenses. It sits on the wide Rio Preguia with weeping trees dipping their branches into the drifting water. It has a nice riverfront, which was being refurbished as we arrived, and a river beach in the form of a huge dune. We saw all this as we hung around by the river, four ‘gringoes’ (one Brasileira who was always getting confused for a gringo), all survivors of the adventure from Tutóia. First up we were approached by a pretty Brazilian woman with a bright smile who told us about her jewellery in the main square. She was one of those people who you instantly warm to, sweet, friendly and the thought of her makes me smile. Of course we would see her later on. She should give classes in sales techniques to every single seller in Salvador.

As she left, a dune buggy with ‘Policia Militar’ stencilled on the side and three big policemen squashed into it came bouncing down the track from the main road. They looked like they were driving a kiddies pedal car, but they didn’t act like it. They stepped down, looked at us and pointed to our American friend who was sitting on the steps. They walked over as menacingly as they could. Now, our friend was in the habit of smoking roll-up cigarettes. Large ones. I can only speculate as to what was in them, but they didn’t look too subtle, especially to the woman in the tourist office. As we’d alighted from our four hour, 30km marathon, he’d rolled a cigarette and gone to ask questions. She became suspicious and called in the squad pedal-car. They meant business. He knew it. He was trembling and looking totally guilty. (I don’t know whether he was, but wouldn’t we all look like that when confronted by moody armed policemen?). Our Basque friend also smoked roll-ups and between her showing her papers and tobacco, and Blondie pacifying the mean dude who wanted to perform a search on our friend (I would have, given his guilty expression!) by telling him that it was no surprise that his target was scared, the Policia Militar calmed down slightly and eventually pedalled away down the beira rio.

I guess our friend had the next 6-8 years to thank the girls for, but was too scared to realise just how much. He disappeared to Cabur, the disappearing dune village down river, as soon as he could find a boat out of town, but not before checking out what our girl and her crazy husband had to sell: 10m rolls of anaconda skins, jaguar and ocelot pelts, and baby jaguar pelts! All kinds of crazy skins and furs of endangered creatures. He bought them from the Amazon Indians, who hunt them and eat them, then sell the skins. Which is fair enough as they’ve been doing it for thousands of years, and those animals only became endangered after the arrival of Europeans. I think our American friend, feeling magnanimous because he wasn’t going to stay in Barreirinhas for 6-8 years, agreed to buy the lot.

If anyone asks why I like travelling, that was one of the days I can use as an explanation.

You can visit Ricky’s blog at http://redmist-redmist.blogspot.com/

Previous articles by Ricky:

Around Brazil: Jericoacoara to Barreirinhas
Understanding Brazil: Shopping Centres
Around Brazil: Jericoacoara
Around Brazil: Chapada da Diamantina/Lenois
Brazil vs. Argentina: Statues of Christ
Around Brazil: Salvador
Brazil vs. Argentina: The Buses
Around Brazil: Morro de São Paulo (& Itabuna)
Understanding Brazil: The Workmen
Around Brazil: Praa Pateo do Colegio
Around Brazil: Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Rio de Janeiro to Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Cristo Redentor
Understanding Brazil: The Sellers
Around Brazil: Ilha de Gigoia
Brazil Journeys: São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro
Understanding Brazil: Dogs Part 2
Brazil: A Lie-In in Downtown São Paulo?
The Best Job in Brazil: Ankle Specialist?
Understanding Brazil: Dogs
Brazilian Places: Ilha do Santa Catarina (Floripa)
Classic Brazilian Journeys: South to Florianopolis
Understanding Brazil – The Shower
Brazil: Boats on the Amazon
Brazil: Understanding Novelas
Brazil: Bus fires in São Paulo – always a bad thing?

By Marilyn Diggs
Here is part 2 of Marilyn’s article about the Pantanal and Bonito. To read part 1 click the relevant link at the end of the article.

Bonito offers adventure, nature and leisure
After a day of hiking, climbing to the top of the highest waterfall in the state (465 ft. or 156 m.) and a savory buffet lunch with typical hearty dishes, we pulled into Bonito, a city of 15,000 that receives tourists from all over the world. Happy with my choice of Zagaia Eco-Resort Hotel, I relaxed in the sauna, jacuzzi and heated pool before relishing a mouth-watering dinner buffet with regional and international cuisine. The hotel’s open-air architecture gives a light, unobtrusive-to-nature presence. Dining is in glass-sided pavilions with a view of the immaculate grounds – home of toucans, Angolan chickens and other birds whose fancy plumage look like they are playing dress-up.

Ambiental Expedies, my touring agency, was efficient, informative and punctual. I was sure that my 3 days would be as well spent as in the Pantanal. The affirmation came with a feast for the eyes: a visit to the Blue Lake Grotto (pictured left, by Ricardo Rodrigues) whose interior is gothic cathedrals formed by stalagmites and stalactites that ends in an aqua blue pool. Later, I hiked around a 328ft/100m deep sinkhole, alive with its own emerald vegetation, where red and green Macaw parrots returning at day’s end, swoop and glide in the open abyss.

As for adventure, the rubber boat ride over waterfalls on the Mimosa River interrupts an otherwise peaceful cruise with roller-coaster excitement. I was glad to know that the enormous anaconda sunning itself in the overhead tree prefers smaller prey to tourists. My favorite outing was the snorkeling and flotation down the Prata River. Dressed in neoprene suits, the current takes the swimmer along its shallow trail of clear turquoise water with curious, shiny tropical fish. A small caiman that shared the lagoon ignored us completely; there was definitely enough fish for all. I was relieved he didn’t know I ate alligator steak for lunch.

I didn’t have the energy to enjoy the tennis court, beach volley courts, soccer field, bike lane, jogging lanes, ecological trails, sport fishing, horseback riding nor the quad biking at the Zagaia Eco-Resort Hotel (pictured right, by Ricardo Rodrigues), during this stay. But then again, one has to save something for a return visit.

Bonito and the Pantanal make a perfect travel combination with their ecological tourism activities and exuberant local landscape. I left the state of Mato Grosso do Sul with a new appreciation for Brazil’s biodiversity and natural wealth. The scenery, sounds, smells, taste and emotions of the Pantanal and Bonito regions all come together in a not-soon-to-be-forgotten sensorial experience that is more than impressive; it is mind-boggling.

Tips for the Pantanal and Bonito

Basic Information
Ambiental Expedies: Information and reservations office: (11) 3819-4600; www.ambiental.tur.br and email: ambiental@ambiental.tur.br

Where to stay
Caiman Ecological Refuge (Refgio Ecológico Caiman): Information and reservations office: Rua Campos Bicudo 98, cj. 112, Itaim, São Paulo; (11) 3079-6622, fax (11) 3079-6037; www.caiman.com.br and caiman@caiman.com.br

Zagaia Eco-Resort Hotel: Rodovia Bonito/ Trs Morros, Km. 0; Toll Free: 0800-99-4400, (67) 255-1280, fax (67) 255-1710; www.zagaia.com.br and reservas@zagaia.com.br

Where to eat
Churrascaria Pantanal: Rua Cel. Pilad Rebu 1808, Centro, Bonito; (67) 255-2763, (67) 9953-6373. Alligator steaks, regional fish, steak house, salad, garnishes and dessert buffets. An excellent option for lunch.

Churrascaria e Costelaria do Gacho Gastão: Rua 14 de Julho 775, Centro, Campo Grande; (67) 384-4326, fax (67) 382-2942. You have to fly into Campo Grande, so either on your way to or back home, stop at this steakhouse for their specialty, ribs. Picanha (rump roast) is also divine. Buffet of salads, garnishes and desserts. A favorite of tourists and locals, alike.

Marilyn Diggs is an American living in Brazil for over twenty years. She is a freelance writer, artist, lecturer and author of nine books – two about Brazilian art history. As an art reporter and travel writer she has two monthly columns in Sunday News, Brazil’s English language newspaper that circulates in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia. She has written for the Miami Herald and Museum International , a UNESCO publication. Marilyn has a degree in Latin American Studies and is often contracted by intercultural training services to give talks on expat challenges. www.mdiggs.com

Previous articles by Marilyn:

Around Brazil: Adventure in the Pantanal and Bonito Part 1
Spending the Night in the Lost City of the Incas – Machu Picchu
Brazil: Happy Moonlit Trails To You
Brazil: Paradise Found – Fernando de Noronha

By Marilyn Diggs
A Visit to the Heart of South America – the Pantanal
For the twenty years that I have lived in Brazil, I’ve always heard the word impressive” used to describe the Pantanal, the Brazilian wetlands. Recently I decided to see it for myself, only to discover that “impressive” doesn’t come close.

The Pantanal-bound traveler’s first decision must be whether to go in the dry season when the mammals are prevalent, or rainy when the area floods and the flora and bird life flourish. I opted for the former. Bonito, a favorite spot for ecotourism since the 1990s, was another spot I’d always wanted to visit. So, on a clear August day I boarded the comfortable Gol plane in São Paulo and headed west to Campo Grande, in Mato Grosso do Sul state.

After a short 90-minute flight, it takes another four hours by van or car to reach the Brazilian side of the Pantanal. The enormous depression covered in savanna and scattered groves of tall trees, extends over 77,000 sq. mi (200,000 sq. km.) at the extreme north of the Plata River basin in Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay. It is the home of 650 different species of birds, 40 species of mammals, and 15 species of reptiles.

My choice of accommodations was the Caiman Ecological Refuge near Miranda (pictured below), a 131,000-acre working ranch and an 18,850-acre nature reserve – the perfect location to learn about the wildlife, topography and regional cooking.

Caiman Ecological Refuge
As we rolled along the rough dirt road up to the ranch’s headquarters past emas (type of ostrich), white Brahman cattle and a pond surrounded by caimans (regional alligators), I knew I’d come to the right place for ecological tourism. Passing though the rustic stone faade of the main lodge, it seemed like I’d walked onto a split-level movie set divided into two lounging areas – a patio with sofas is under a white canopy in front of an over-sized stone fireplace and on the next level, rooms surround a swimming pool where hammocks under a thatched-roof cabana invite you to relax between programmed activities. There are four lodges on the grounds, each cozy, comfortable and surrounded by a unique environment. It is no wonder that Caiman lodging is listed in the prestigious, Roteiros de Charme (Guidebook to Charming Locations in Brazil).

I wondered just how much I would see during my 3-day stay in the area. The answer was a lot since the day outings begin early, at 7 a.m., and continue into the night. The experienced staff conducts safaris in open-ended trucks and horseback rides into the grasslands to spy on wild boars, deer, birds, jaguars and other critters. I lost count of the storks, ibis, cranes, parrots and herons. By far the most impressive flight is of the tuiuiui (Jabiru stork) whose wingspan can reach almost three meters. I had especially come to see this black-headed, red-necked, white-bodied bird, symbol of the Pantanal, but what really won my heart was the silky, meter-high anteater whose young latches onto the mother’s back for quick get-aways.

Blue Macaw parrots are abundant due to a preservation project on the premises, and they fly overhead competing with toucans and Blue Silk butterflies for visitors’ attention.

One can also explore the Aquidauana River in a chalana (local watercraft). At a certain point, our group climbed into canoes and rowed down narrow rivers that reminded me of Disneyland’s Adventure Land jungle ride, minus elephants and gorillas. Think alligators and monkeys. Caimans lounge, open-mouthed, warming themselves. The guide reminded us to keep fingers inside the boat, so as not to become piranha bait. I wondered if he was kidding, but decided not to test it. The Pantanal is famous for its magnificent red sunsets, better yet when seen as a climax to a canoe ride though water lilies and undergrowth where colorful birds share fish with snow-white egrets. Night walks and night safaris, spurred by hopes of seeing spotted jaguars, are enlivened by nocturnal anteaters, wild foxes and fireflies camouflaged by sparkling stars on clear nights.

Too soon my stay was over and I was back in the air-conditioned van rumbling down the road, stopping occasionally for straw-hatted gauchos herding white cattle, lumbering anteaters or scurrying cabybara(dog-sized rodent relatives). To break up the drive to Bonito, the next night’s destination, we stopped at Boca da Ona (Jaguar’s Mouth) Ranch with over 8 waterfalls along hiking trails. Smiling, I shook my head in disbelief as nature guides told about trees whose fruit monkeys (and locals) use for eye drops, and a tree bark whose pulp makes tasty desserts and can be stuck back onto the trunk with clay to regenerate.

Part 2 next week…

Marilyn Diggs is an American living in Brazil for over twenty years. She is a freelance writer, artist, lecturer and author of nine books – two about Brazilian art history. As an art reporter and travel writer she has two monthly columns in Sunday News, Brazil’s English language newspaper that circulates in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia. She has written for the Miami Herald and Museum International , a UNESCO publication. Marilyn has a degree in Latin American Studies and is often contracted by intercultural training services to give talks on expat challenges. www.mdiggs.com

Previous articles by Marilyn:

Spending the Night in the Lost City of the Incas – Machu Picchu
Brazil: Happy Moonlit Trails To You
Brazil: Paradise Found – Fernando de Noronha

By Mark Taylor
Here is the second part of Mark’s guide to Fernando de Noronha. To read previous parts click the relevant link at the end of the article.

History
The history of the island is quite mixed. Discovered back in the early 16th century by the Portuguese, it was then invaded in 1534 by the English, who were in turn displaced by the French in 1556. In 1628 the Dutch took the island, but weren’t there for long as they were forced out by a joint Spanish-Portuguese force. The Dutch managed to return and beat off their attackers in 1635, turning the island into a hospital for their armies occupying Brazil’s northeast. A few years later it was again taken by Portugal.

By 1736 the island was abandoned and the French East Indies company decided to occupy it, only for them to be beaten off again a year later by the Portuguese who finally decided to make a military base on the island, and to that end ten forts were built. Around this time Vila dos Remdios was founded as the first settlement on the island, and it has remained the commercial centre of until today. In 1942 the island was made into a prison, and then later in 1988 70% was declared a national park. The island had previously been a federal territory, and this was dissolved also in 1988 and the governing was handed to Pernambuco state, with the exception of one atoll which was given to the state of Rio Grande do Norte.

Those visiting the island must pay a tax for every day stayed there, which goes to the state of Pernambuco. The tax can either be paid via the Internet (and a receipt printed), or on arrival. The idea of the tax is to maintain the national park. Although both visitors and islanders alike query where this substantial amount of tax is being invested on the island.

There’s a waiting list for those who want to live on the island, and there are around 3000 official islanders. This is bypassed by the more luxurious pousadas which build accommodation for the staff and treat them as visitors as well. There’s a constant pressure by those who make their living from the island’s tourism to increase the quota for those who can live on the island, and it’s easy to see that the island’s population and accommodation is still growing. Presumably to the detriment of the natural elements of the island.

Arriving
Flights to the island are from Recife and Natal, and it seems that everyone is treated to a fairly grand arrival as the planes will circle the island twice, allowing those on both sides to get a good view. Cameras at the ready for this!

Pousadas and hotels are spread across the main island, and can be anywhere from an isolated area through to the island’s capital” Vila dos Remdios, generally known as Vila.

Part 3 next week…

If you have a comment on Mark’s article or would simply like to contact him then email mark@www.gringoes.com.

Previous articles by Mark:

Brazil: An Interview with Marcia Loebick
Brazil: 14 Bis Centenary Part 2
Brazil: Google Maps Gets an Upgrade
Brazil: A Guide to Fernando de Noronha Part 1
Brazil: 14 Bis Centenary Part 1
Brazil: Daylight Savings Time
Brazil: Carjacking and Theft
Brazil: Airport Delays Grow Among Crash Speculation
Brazil: São Paulo’s International Film Festival (and The Fountain)
Brazil: Single Gringo Beware!
Brazil: The House of Coffee Comes Home
Brazil: Film Review
Brazil: The Portuguese Language Museum
Brazil: Election Time! Part 2
Brazil: Election Time! Part 1
Brazil: Torrent TV
Brazil: Book Review
Brazil: Whistle-stop Salvador Part 2
Brazil: Whistle-stop Salvador Part 1
The PCC Shows a New Level of Organisation
Brazil: Metr-ettiquette
Brazil: Trading Places
Brazil: São Paulo’s Pinacoteca
Brazil: Don’t Forget, You’re in Another Country!
Brazil: PCC Violence Returns to São Paulo
Brazil: A Recycled City Part 5
Brazil’s World Cup Defeat Party
Brazil: A Recycled City Part 4
Brazil: Japanese Standard Chosen for Digital TV
Brazil: NET Petition Feedback
Brazil: A Recycled City Part 3
Brazil: Football Love
Brazil: A Recycled City Part 2
Brazil: A Recycled City Part 1
Brazil: 100 Things To Do in São Paulo Part 3
Brazil: 100 Things To Do in São Paulo Part 2
Brazil: 100 Things To Do in São Paulo Part 1
GPS in Brazil
Brazil: PCC Attacks in São Paulo
Brazil: Tips on Buying or Renting an Apartment or House
Brazil: A Critical Sensitivity
Cleanliness is next to Brazilianiness
Brazil: Manners
Brazil: No Change, No Sale
Brazilian TV
Brazil: Ubatuba
Brazil: Professional Children
Brazil: We deliver… everything!
Brazil: Terrao Itlia
Brazil: A Layman’s Carnival Guide
Brazil: Portunglish or Engluguese?
Brazil: Feira Food
Brazil: Bilhete Unico flexibility increases
Brazil: Finding Work
Brazil: U2 Ticket Chaos
Brazil: Finding Work
Brazil: Termites
Brazil: Queues, Queues, Queues
Brazil: Let’s Go Fly a Kite!
Brazil… the Film That Is
Brazil: The Bus to Nowhere
Brazil: Piracy
Brazil: Gestures
Brazil: Proclamation of the Republic
Brazilian Film Review
Brazilian Film Review
Brazil: Finados (Day of the Dead)
Interjections, exclamations and onomatopoeia in Brazilian Portuguese
Brazil: Halloween
Brazil says “No” to banning firearms
Brazil Humour: Phone Etiquette
Brazil’s Gun Referendum
Brazil: Scams
Brazil: Moby Review
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 5
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 4
Brazil: Avril Lavigne at Pacaembu
Moby in Brazil
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 3
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 2
Brazilian Film Review
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 1
Brazil: First season of Lost repeated on AXN

By Simon Steele
A cross between former Eastern Europe and the United States” is how a friend of mine described Curitiba after his first visit. Rather apt I thought!

The ecological capital of Latin America, the city prides itself on offering one of the best standards of living in Brazil. With a population of approximately 1.7 million and growing rapidly, the city tends to be forgotten on the tourist trail, as it lays ‘somewhere’ between Rio de Janeiro and Florianopolis. Admittedly there is not a great deal for tourists to do here, but I feel it does warrant at least a couple of days stay. Let me tell you a little about the city.

The Curitibanos are mainly of European descent, German, Polish, Ukrainian, Italian and very proud of the fact they are too. Ask any Curitibano if they are Brazilian, they say “yes” swiftly followed by “but my grand-parents/great grandparents were from xxxxxxxxx” The Curitibanos have a reputation of being cold, and after having lived here for just over four years, I have to agree. From my Brazilian friends, none of them are from here, all mainly from São Paulo, Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul or other parts of Paran.

The city itself is comparatively well organised, the public transport system is very efficient, and I am pleased to say that drivers do tend to obey the traffic lights! At night, people are a little more wary of stopping, but do take care when jumping the red signal. Crime is comparatively low, and people do walk on the streets at night time. The city offers an abundance of “shopping centers” (maybe the American part of the city that my friend referred to!) although along one of the main arteries “15th November Street” there are shops for all tastes. Curitiba is a very green city, offering several large and very enjoyable parks. The locals take great advantage of these both during the week, for their pre or post-work jogging sessions, and at weekends, when family and friends congregate for a leisurely stroll or to enjoy the Brazilian ritual of Barbecue! On ascending the Brasil Telecom tower, in the Merces neighbourhood, one can fully appreciate how green the city is.

Alas Curitiba lacks the enjoyment of a beach. The nearest beaches are about 1.5 hours drive from the city, and do not represent the best of the Brazilian coastline. If you are happy to drive another 1.5 hours then you will arrive in Florianopolis, which offers beaches for every taste.

There is a magnificent train journey that departs from the Rodoferroviaria (Bus Station) descending through the Mata Atlantica, and offers some spectacular views of the lush vegetation. Passengers can either disembark at Morretes, a small colonial type town nestled in between the mountains, and sample the local dish “Bareada” (a type of meat stew) served with bananas, or continue the journey to Paranagu, the main port of Parana. (I recommend the first stop, as have never found Paranagu particularly interesting.) The journey takes 3 hours each way, and gives you just enough time to have a lunch and wander a little before returning to the city.

Gastronomically speaking, Curitiba is very well equipped, with restaurants for every taste. From the very up-market French restaurants, such as Table de France (Avenida Iguassu) to the more humble environs of Casa da Belle (Dom Pedro II). Museums are also available for those more culturally minded, including the Parana Museum displaying local culture, to the Oscar Niemeyer Museum that has exhibitions from around the world. Theatre-goers are also well provided for, although mostly in small venues, there are some very enjoyable shows to be seen both during the week and at weekend.

The climate does leave a lot to be desired, and it is generally accepted that Curitiba can offer four seasons in one day. If you decide to come here (even in Summer) make sure you pack a brolly and at least one warmer article of clothing. Generally speaking, the temperature rarely rises above 30C and has been known to fall to -5C in the winter.

So, I hope that this will give you a small insight into the city that I chose to be my home in this wonderful, wonderful country.

Simon describes himself as a Brit that fell in love with Brazil, and is now battling to survive… and not doing too badly he’s happy to say!!

By Rodrigo Matos
Just 105 miles from Rio de Janeiro, a pleasant 2-hour trip takes you to the peninsula of Bzios, with more than 20 magnificent beaches and crystal-clear water.

Elected one of the 10 most beautiful areas in the world it’s famous for the unique combination of rustic charm, architectural harmony, incredible beauty and sophisticated boutiques and restaurants.

This is a video of one of the most famous streets in Buzios, called Rua Das Pedras, plus there’s a song by Chico Buarque playing along the video.

Nightlife
Buzios is a great place to go for nightlife. There are tons of bars, clubs, and restaurants that stay open well into the early morning hours. Another great thing about the city is that there are tons of visitors all the time, so there is always something going on. Some of the bars and clubs face the ocean, and they give a beautiful view.

There is also tons of live entertainment. Of course, there are far too many bars and clubs to list, but they are all pretty good, even though some are better than others. On any given night, however, some bars will just be more packed than others. It could depend on drink specials, live entertainment, or who is in that bar.

Now back to my favourite topic, beaches. Ill list here four of the most famous beaches in Buzios:

Azeda Beach
A small beach with calm and crystal clear water. You get there either on foot by a small trail that begins in “Ossos Beach” or by boat.

João Fernandinho Beach
Again a small beach with calm and crystal clear water. Near the popular João Fernandes Beach with many bars where you can enjoy lobster and other great seafood. You can’t miss it.

Ferradura Beach
A beautiful horseshoe-shaped bay, with calm, crystal clear water, served by numerous picturesque bars serving typical “Buzios Style” meals and drinks

Gerib Beach
Wonderful open beach, frequented by many beautiful and famous people. Perfect for practicing sports like surf, moreyboogie and windsurf.

At this site, youll find a list of hotels in Buzios: http://www.buziosturismo.com/reservas/index_eng.html

You can visit Rodrigo’s blog at Brazil: Her Name Was Lola, She Was a Showgirl
Brazil: Morro de São Paulo

By Mark Taylor
When you tell someone that you’re going to Fernando de Noronha, at least to someone who knows roughly what and where it is, it’s often greeted with a wow” or some similar exclamation. The reason being that Fernando de Noronha, for right or wrong, is widely believed to be one of the most wonderful places to visit in Brazil. It was thanks to air miles and a cheap pousada (essentially a bed and breakfast) I finally got a chance to visit!

Background
Fernando de Noronha is technically an archipelago of 21 islands, situated about 350km (220 miles) from Brazil’s coast, near Recife and Natal (perhaps someone ought to remind the Brazilian F1 race car driver Rubens Barachello of this, as he recently commented “if you’re talking about a proper extended stay, then I’d catch a plane to Rio and spend a few days on an island called Fernando de Noronha”).

The word “archipelago” tends to conjure up an image of islands of similar size, but in this case there is one very large island which the archipelago gets its name from, and where you can actually stay. The rest range from significantly smaller secondary islands all the way down to what are essentially large rocks that protrude from the sea. The main island is about 10km (6 miles) long, by 4km (2 miles) wide. The archipelago itself is actually a volcanic formation, which rises up from around 750m (2480 feet) below the sea. Although there’s some evidence of this from the rocks around the island, the volcanic activity is long gone so the beaches for example are still powdery white sand.

Morro do PicoThe highest point on the main island is Morro do Pico (Hill of the Peak), which is 321m above sea level, with an additional 2m for the rotating searchlight fixed to the top. Morro do Pico is famous for having the profile of a face from certain angles.

The islands have two distinct seasons: rainy from January to August, and dry from September to December. It tends to be busiest from December through to Carnival (February/March), what with it being Summer. There are also holidays such as Christmas and New Year, surf competitions, and Carnival itself being celebrated during this time. All are popular times for Brazilians to travel. So expect prices for pousadas to be at their peak during this time, even though the weather isn’t necessarily. Supposedly the best month to visit weather-wise is September, when the sun isn’t too hot and the wind isn’t too strong.

Part 2 next week…

If you have a comment on Mark’s article or would simply like to contact him then email mark@www.gringoes.com.

Previous articles by Mark:

Brazil: 14 Bis Centenary Part 1
Brazil: Daylight Savings Time
Brazil: Carjacking and Theft
Brazil: Airport Delays Grow Among Crash Speculation
Brazil: São Paulo’s International Film Festival (and The Fountain)
Brazil: Single Gringo Beware!
Brazil: The House of Coffee Comes Home
Brazil: Film Review
Brazil: The Portuguese Language Museum
Brazil: Election Time! Part 2
Brazil: Election Time! Part 1
Brazil: Torrent TV
Brazil: Book Review
Brazil: Whistle-stop Salvador Part 2
Brazil: Whistle-stop Salvador Part 1
The PCC Shows a New Level of Organisation
Brazil: Metr-ettiquette
Brazil: Trading Places
Brazil: São Paulo’s Pinacoteca
Brazil: Don’t Forget, You’re in Another Country!
Brazil: PCC Violence Returns to São Paulo
Brazil: A Recycled City Part 5
Brazil’s World Cup Defeat Party
Brazil: A Recycled City Part 4
Brazil: Japanese Standard Chosen for Digital TV
Brazil: NET Petition Feedback
Brazil: A Recycled City Part 3
Brazil: Football Love
Brazil: A Recycled City Part 2
Brazil: A Recycled City Part 1
Brazil: 100 Things To Do in São Paulo Part 3
Brazil: 100 Things To Do in São Paulo Part 2
Brazil: 100 Things To Do in São Paulo Part 1
GPS in Brazil
Brazil: PCC Attacks in São Paulo
Brazil: Tips on Buying or Renting an Apartment or House
Brazil: A Critical Sensitivity
Cleanliness is next to Brazilianiness
Brazil: Manners
Brazil: No Change, No Sale
Brazilian TV
Brazil: Ubatuba
Brazil: Professional Children
Brazil: We deliver… everything!
Brazil: Terrao Itlia
Brazil: A Layman’s Carnival Guide
Brazil: Portunglish or Engluguese?
Brazil: Feira Food
Brazil: Bilhete Unico flexibility increases
Brazil: Finding Work
Brazil: U2 Ticket Chaos
Brazil: Finding Work
Brazil: Termites
Brazil: Queues, Queues, Queues
Brazil: Let’s Go Fly a Kite!
Brazil… the Film That Is
Brazil: The Bus to Nowhere
Brazil: Piracy
Brazil: Gestures
Brazil: Proclamation of the Republic
Brazilian Film Review
Brazilian Film Review
Brazil: Finados (Day of the Dead)
Interjections, exclamations and onomatopoeia in Brazilian Portuguese
Brazil: Halloween
Brazil says “No” to banning firearms
Brazil Humour: Phone Etiquette
Brazil’s Gun Referendum
Brazil: Scams
Brazil: Moby Review
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 5
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 4
Brazil: Avril Lavigne at Pacaembu
Moby in Brazil
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 3
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 2
Brazilian Film Review
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 1
Brazil: First season of Lost repeated on AXN