Island of Adventure

Discussion in 'Brazil' started by NileGuide, Feb 20, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. Formerly home to leper colonies and some of Brazil’s most dangerous criminals, it’s not surprising that it took the Brazilian tourist board a while to appreciate the potential of Ilha Grande. Its isolated location meant that the Portuguese saw it as the ideal location for a leper colony in the early 19th Century, and it later became the Dois Rios prison, harbouring some truly terrifying characters until it was finally closed down in 1994.
    However, this vast island just off Rio de Janeiro State’s beautiful Costa Verde (Green Coast) is now making the most of its considerable assets, which include some of the most stunning beaches to be found anywhere in the region. Add to this looming mountains and dense jungle teeming with wildlife, and you have the perfect opportunity to lure everybody from beach bunnies to adventure tourists.
    Happily for the wildlife of the island, however, the island is classed as a nature reserve and protected by rigid environmental protection laws. Building and development on the island are limited, so beaches such as the stunning, white sand Lopes Mendes remain untroubled by development. There is only one real town on the island, no cars, and no cashpoints.
    However, while Ilha Grande is currently more popular with backpackers, ramblers and surfers than with the luxury travel brigade, the face and character of the island are changing. When I first visited, in 2006, there were a handful of hostels and campsites here, along with some cosy pousadas (guest houses) and plenty of hole in the wall local bars.
    When I returned in 2008, several large ‘party hostels’ had sprung up, the town center was beginning to look like town centers in tourist destinations across the world, and those hole in the wall bars had largely been replaced by slick bar-restaurants.
    Fast forward one more year, and I didn’t even need to step off the boat to see how the island had changed – a vast cruise liner was looming over the coastline. There were designer stores and upscale restaurants, and the beaches were busier than on previous visits. That’s not to say that Ilha Grande has lost its charm, however. It is still perfectly possible to get off the beaten track and explore the beaches and the jungle, and even to visit the ruins of the notorious prison.
    There are plenty of campsites here for those who want to get back to nature, and the family-run guest houses have not yet been entirely replaced by boutique hotels and chain hostels. Head here off-season, and you will still have plenty of elbow room on the beaches – although, with the island increasingly appearing on the itineraries of luxury package deals, that situation could soon change.

    Continue reading...

Share This Page