Coral Reefs and Tropical Paradise

Trip Start Dec 29, 2012
Trip End Jun 29, 2013

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Flag of Brazil  , State of Bahia,
Tuesday, February 26, 2013

We left Itacare early on Monday morning heading for our penultimate destination in Brazil- Morro de São Paulo, an island reputed to have some incredibly beautiful beaches. We took a 3 hour bus ride which turned out more eventful than it should have been due to its short length. A teenage girl also on the bus was not feeling well and proceeded to be sick on the floor of the aisle in which we all had to walk to get off the bus. She was repeatedly sick for most of the journey yet failed to attempt to even go to the toilet at the back of the bus to be sick there. So, the rest of the passengers had to get used to the smell and a few people even cleaned up after her as she and her companions made no effort to do so themselves. We arrived in the city of Valenca on time and as we got off the bus the sick girl was being sick as we walked off in the aisle and between seats. How considerate of her.

Off the bus we shared a taxi with 2 Americans to the ferry port where we bought our tickets for the boat to the island. It was supposed to be an hour and a half but ran to just over 2. The boat was one of the slower boats taken by locals and also how lots of things on the island are transported there. We climbed into the boat which was packed with people; luggage and strawberries. We settled in for the ride which was slow but not very choppy as it was mainly through a river delta. Both of us were lulled into a sleepy mood with the gentle rocking.

We arrived in Morro around 2pm and had to walk up a very steep hill from the "port" (which is really just one pier) and then back down a little way to our hostel which is thankfully quite close to the main square and the port. There are no cars on Morro and it takes a while to get used to the quiet that that brings and the more relaxed way of life (though, this island is now very touristy so it is a little pricey but it is still a very nice place). We checked in to our hostel but had to go into separate rooms, I was on the ground floor next to the bar and Megan on the top floor which at night proved to be leaky. We arrived in Morro when it was trying to rain so it was quite overcast and humid. We took a walk through the main street down to the beaches to take in the view and also made a trip to the supermarket to buy some food for dinner.

We spent the evening at the hostel. We made a beef curry from coconut milk and curry powder (this probably wouldn't work at home but it tasted good) and got chatting to a few of the guys at the hostel who were curious about our curry and enjoyed tasting it. We also finally spent some time uploading some photos to Facebook as the hostel has a working computer (though the wifi is rather dodgy and not very constant!). I sat in a hammock for a while outside my room chatting to the Canadian guy we had met earlier until the rain arrived and poured it down; and got everyone at the bar very wet. Shortly after I decided to call it a night and went to sleep to the sound of the rainfall.

Morning arrived and it was a drizzly one. We were very disappointed that yet again we had arrived in a beach resort filled with rain. We decided to explore the town a little and skip the beach for the morning as we couldn't sunbathe whilst it was trying to rain. We walked to the port and then around the sea path to the old Fort that has now fallen into disrepair but had nice views out to sea. From here you can climb down the walls to a rocky area that acts as a natural swimming pool. When finished scouting around here we walked back to town and then up hill to the island's lighthouse which unfortunately you cant go into. At the top of the hill there are some good vantage points with views across the beaches and out to sea. Having had a look around here for a while we headed back to the hostel just as the weather started brightening up so we took our chance and headed to the beach.

The beaches in Morro are numbered 1-4 and don't have names like most beaches do. We walked through the Main Street (admiring the many souvenirs available to buy and sorely wishing we had room in our backpacks) down to the beaches. We decided not to stop at beach 1 as it is very small and instead walked further along to beach 2 which is lovely. The beach is nice and large so there are plenty of umbrellas, deckchairs and food stalls. At one end it is quite rocky and at the other where the bay curves out and splits the beach from beach 3 there is an area with some trees which almost get cut off when the tide comes in. We headed over to the palm tree end of the beach and settled here for the afternoon. Eventually the tide came in and we had to move away from our little spot back to the busier section of the beach where we stayed until about 4.30 when it became cloudy and a little cooler. The sun sets much earlier than it does further South as we are closer to the equator so sunset is about 6pm meaning most people leave the beach between 4 and 5. We had another relaxed evening as the hostel was very quiet and there didnt seem to be much going on.

Wednesday morning saw us up early and ready for our round the island boat trip that we had booked the day before. At 9am we reported to the company office and were taken down to the port where the group of people going were split into different boats. We were on a small speed boat with 8 other passengers. We quickly realised that the guide didnt speak any English so we relied on Megan's Spanish and its small similarity to Portuguese and the help of two people from São Paulo who could speak English and told us they never get to practice it so it was a good opportunity for them!

The speed boat headed away from the main town and round the island to our first stop which was a coral reef where we could snorkel. I've never snorkelled on a coral reef before so it was very exciting. The water was very shallow so you didn't really need to swim too far; the water was nice and clear and there were plenty of fish to have a look at. The coral was mainly varying shades of brown so in itself it wasn't too impressive as you imagine a reef to exciting colours. After some time at this reef we got back into the boat and headed further round the island to another natural reef pool. This one was bigger and much busier with lots of other boats and visitors. Our guide managed to get in to a pool where there was no one else so it was more peaceful. This reef was supposed to be more beautiful than the previous one. The water was even clearer and there was a bigger range of fish to see. If you stayed still the fish wouldn't get nervous and would stay quite close to you. I was very grateful for my underwater camera and hopefully have some good shots of the fish underwater!

We left this reef and headed over to the island of Boipeba which is a small islet next to Tinhare which is the island that Morro de São Paulo occupies. On this island the boat was met by a guide, who of course didnt speak any English, and were guided across the island to a beach with a number of restaurants. The tour guide was talking a lot in Portuguese so I am sure he was saying something interesting but the walk was fairly boring for us as we had no idea what he was saying. We arrived at the beach with the restaurants had had lunch here; we went to a sandwich shop as the restaurants were far too expensive for us. After our lunch we were able to sunbathe for a while before the boat returned to pick us up.

In the afternoon we travelled up the opposite side of the island; this is split from the mainland by a large river. First stop up the river was the "city" of Cairu which similar to Porto Seguro was one of the first Portuguese settlements. It was described as a city but was much more like a small town. There was an optional tour to the church here which we decided not to do. We instead took a walk along the river front and when we came back to the boat we found out that the tour didnt even take you into the church anyway so wasn't that interesting. On the river the locals farm oysters and there are a number of floating oyster bars so we stopped at one of these as our last stop of the day. No-one on our boat ate any oysters as it was so soon after lunch and we were very full. The boat ride back to Morro de São Paulo took about 20 minutes and was a nice, relaxing affair. We spent the evening chatting with our new roommates; an English girl; an Israeli guy and his friends aswell as two Danish guys also staying at the hostel.

On our final day in Morro we had another beach day. This time we visited beach number 4 which was by far the biggest and also the quietest. We arrived early in the morning when the tide was out and revealed some more coral reef and lots of rock pools. I spent about an hour wandering around the rockpools and enjoying seeing all the different fish. After sunbathing and reading for a while I got too hot to stay still and went swimming in a much larger pool where there were lots of people. I quickly discovered that there was a lot of people here as there were schools of fish that would come right up to you and follow you around. It's a little disconcerting when you're used to fish swimming away from you!

Later in the afternoon we decided to move and visit beach 3. This was a very strange beach as it was so thin that when the tide was in you could barely call it a beach. We instead returned to beach 2 which was on the way back to the hostel and tried our best not to fall asleep here! When the beach got shady we left to change and decided to go to the lighthouse hill to watch sunset from up here. When we arrived the clouds were covering the sun so the sunset was not as spectacular as we would have liked. It was still very pretty though. We returned to town where we went out for dinner at one of the many "Italian" restaurants on the Main Street. After dinner we returned to the hostel to pack ready to leave in the morning.

On our final morning in Morro we decided to get up early to visit the "grand fountain" we saw on the map. We got up and walked the 2 minutes down the road from the hostel to find a not so very grand fountain! This visit done with we sat in the hammocks for a couple of hours before checking out (sadly) and heading to the port at 11 for the boat to Salvador!
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