From Paraty, we caught the local bus for only $BR14 each (£3.50) two hours along the coast to Angra dos Reis. This is the port town where you can catch either a ferry, catamaran, tourist boat or private boat to Ilha Grande (big island). Ilha Grande has world famous beaches, jungle hiking trails and an abundance of wildlife. We got the tourist boat that leaves at 2.30pm from Caxa do Prau, for $BR25 (£6pp). If we hadn’t known the name of where to catch it, we would have been clueless as there are no signs, we just had to ask around. The tourist boat looked like a pirate ship and it mainly carried supplies to the island. Ilha Grande has only one main area of civilisation, Abraao, with the port, restaurants & accommodations. The entire island doesn’t have any motorised vehicles either so you see lots of people pushing carts on wheels with the cargo from the boats.
It was raining on our first day (again we seemed to be chasing bad weather) but we still wanted to make the most of it so we did a trail heading West of the town. It was very slippery and quite a steep incline so though it was only about a 12km walk, we probably spent about 3 and a half hours walking. Oh and even though it was cloudy and occasionally raining, we were both still dripping in sweat because walking through the jungle parts were so humid! On our trail, we first saw the Lazaretto Ruins, basically an abandoned farm house that was used to quarantine people with leprecy. Next on the walk was the aqueduct; apparently built with stones and whale’s oil in 1893 with the dam above it still supplying water to Abraao today. The main attraction for the walk is the waterfall, Cachoeira da Feiticeira. Though pleasant, and a nice place to stop to eat biscuits, it was nothing spectacular. On the way back, we met two Spanish girls who were struggling and asked what the waterfall was like. We showed them a photo and one of them instantly said, “right, we’re turning back” haha. We decided to carry on a bit further for our final stop Praia da Feiticeira, a very small beach with one vendor on it (bringing supplies by boat everyday). We bought a delicious pot of acai with granola; sort of like a berry ice cream though acai is meant to be a super food with less sugar than other fruits. It’s really common in Brazil, especially on the island, making it the perfect boost to get you to walk all the way back to the Abraao town.
The next day, we set off fairly early again for another jungle hike headed East of Abraao to one of the world’s top beaches; Lopes Mendez. It’s about 8km up and down through the jungle. Unfortunately, we never even made it to the beach because I fell over and smacked my knee on a rock which swelled instantly and thus I couldn’t walk properly. It took us a whole hour to walk 1km with my limping which got us to the middle beach, about half way to Lopes Mendez. From there we were able to get a taxi boat back to the main town for $BR25 each. The highlight of the jungle walk however was finally catching sight of 2 Howler monkeys! We’d heard them the day before but still not seen them. The sound they make is absolutely insane, it sounds like an army of beating drums. This brief encounter was our only proper wildlife sighting on Ilha Grande which we were a little sad about. However it is rainy season and we don’t think we ventured far enough off the common jungle hikes to give ourselves the best chance of sightings. Apparently you can sometimes spot an armadillo on the island. We said perhaps one day we will return to Ilha Grande with a tent and camp as we walk round the entire island. It’s unfortunate that the hikes on Ilha Grande aren’t loops but rather you have to walk back on yourself to get back to the town where all the accommodation is, a tent however, would be a different experience.
Our final day on Ilha Grande took us only to the town’s closest beach, given my knee from the day before, Praia Preta. We had a nice day reading books in the sunshine though we had to constantly edge backwards given the tide was trying to devour the beach whole! In the evening, we went for dinner for a second time to Las Sorrentinas. A really reasonably priced, fresh pasta place which was up there with literally our best meals of all time!
We got an all inclusive transfer from Ilha Grande to Rio, our next destination for BR$95pp (£22). The company we booked with was right next to the pier and a boat picked us up from the port and then a van met us at Mangaratiba and we drove to Rio where they dropped us off at the door of the hotel in Rio!
Join us next time for our time in the capital!
Sophie & Dave