By Steven Nelson
May 29, 2012

Well, one of Brazil’s best kept secrets seems to be out. After years of trying to encourage as many people as possible to try some kayaking in Brazil, and especially along the Costa Verde, it seems like National Geographic has done the job in one quick article. Brazil: Paddling the Green Coast in the latest issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine is their choice of one of the 10 Best Tours in Central and South America, part of the 50 Tours of a Lifetime 2012 series. The Green Coast is the literal translation for Costa Verde of course, but it sounds more prosaic. Much better to use the Portuguese, which sounds as exotic as the scenery.

The Costa Verde is the stunningly scenic coastal route between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Atlantic Rainforest covers the mountains, which drop directly into the sea on this rugged paradise. Coves and hidden beaches once provided shelter for pirates, and now make convenient breaks on kayak trips. The Bay of Angra dos Reis, including Paraty and Ilha Grande, is perhaps the finest kayaking spot in the whole of Brazil, especially because here you can organise all manner of kayaking trips, from morning paddles to week-long specialist ocean-kayak safaris around the whole coast of tropical island paradise Ilha Grande, or around the remote Laranjeiras Peninsula close to Paraty.

The day paddles around Paraty can take you to beaches that other tourists won’t see, and through the mangrove forests that separate different bays along the coastline. There are also offshore islands to explore as well. On Ilha Grande, the best hour or so is to take a kayak from Praia do Canto just along the beach from the main town, Vila do Abraao, and paddle around the headland to Praias Julia and Crena. The turquoise waters with overhanging Atlantic Rainforest and rocks clearly outlined beneath are enough of a pleasure on their own. The sight of a sea-turtle feeding around the rocks makes it even more special. They usually prefer the afternoon to visit the area, and always come up for air, every few minutes or so. Keeping an eye out for their heads breaking the surface briefly or listening for the ‘plock!’ sound of their intake of breath makes an essential part of the paddle.

Around both Paraty and Ilha Grande, there are longer paddles too, with overnight stays in simple fishing villages only reachable by sea, such as the trip to Saco da Mamangua from Paraty. This is Brazil’s only tropical fjord, with mountains towering down on either side. The hike up to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain (not that one!) gives the most breathtaking views of the Costa Verde, including Ilha Grande.

Specialist Kayak Expeditions include the Round The Island Paddle of Ilha Grande, which is very weather dependent as the Atlantic side can be rough. The remote beaches come with miles of tropical sand, crystal clear wter in sheltered coves with sea-turtles and tropical fish for a snorkelling break, with the backdrop of the rugged island interior completely covered in Atlantic Rainforest.

The Laranjeiras Pensinsula close to Paraty on the mainland is very similar to Ilha Grande, a rugged, remote area of pristine natural beauty. It is just as exotic and beautiful too. There are two main options for a longer kayak expedition here starting from Paraty through the Saco da Mamangua, with the Sugar Loaf climb too. The kayaking here is in a natural marine park with over 100 species of fish. The 5 day kayak only expedition finishes in Paraty-Mirim, a small fishing village hidden at the end of the inlet. The advantage that his paddle has over the Ilha Grande idea is that the calm waters of the bay are almost always suitable for paddling, sheltered by mountains from the Atlantic winds of the open ocean. The longer kayak and hike expedition takes you first on a trek all around the Laranjeiras Peninsula before the final kayak part from Saco da Mamangua to Paraty. If you make me recommend any of these Costa Verde Kayak Adventures, it would be this one!

These trips are so good, so scenic, not only taking you to sheltered coves and beaches and rocks galore, including sleeping in simple fishing villages only reachable by sea, but they can also be combined with hikes up mountain peaks to provide you with panoramic Costa Verde views that I think cannot be bettered in Brazil or anywhere else. This dizzying combination of kayaking and hiking amongst some of Brazil’s finest coastal scenery makes kayaking in the Costa Verde one of the most recommended activities in Brazil.

Activity Information: Different trips can be planned in Brazil for those with a little or a lot of kayak/canoe experience. Safety equipment and good quality craft are used on all guided tours, with experienced local guides who are familiar with weather conditions, currents and tides, as well as with the regional flora and fauna. Every single kayak and canoe trip in Brazil requires sunscreen, sun-hat, good quality insect repellent, some kind of footwear for rocky landings (dark rocks especially can become burning hot in the tropical Brazilian sun!) and perhaps long-sleeve outerwear. Longer kayak safaris mean this equipment is essential and best to bring from home if possible.

You can visit Steve’s blog at Great Things To Do In Brazil: Swimming with Amazon River Dolphins
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