Rio Islands 311.
(photo credit: Ruth Eglash)
Ever wondered where you might be able to pick up a tropical island for a good
price? Well, apparently, there are 365 – one for every day of the year – just
off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and many of them can be privately owned
by individuals (apparently wealthy ones) who seek the seclusion and tranquility
of this breathtakingly beautiful spot.
Several of these islands are open
to us mere mortals who can only dream of being the kings (or queens) of their
own land one day. Ilha Grande (pronounced Gran-jeh) is the biggest of this
cluster and it boasts pure sandy beaches set in bays of lush tropical greenery,
with waves from the clear blue Atlantic Ocean gently lapping against its
My journey to this stunning landscape started in Rio, one block
from the famous Copacabana beach. Visiting the bustling city for just
week, I was fortunate enough to be able to set one day aside for a trek
its limits to explore the exotic foliage.
Although it seemed like a long
journey, organizing this outing was extremely straightforward.
for oneday excursions to Ilha Grande and its neighboring islands appear
almost every hotel, both big and small, or they can be arranged
smaller tour companies either via the Internet or through travel agents
I chose to book my trip with the reception desk in the hotel, the
main reason being that I wanted someone else to take the responsibility
provide a translation) for making sure that the tour operator was
would show up at the allocated time.
Tours to the island leave the
Copacabana strip almost every day, although when the weather is bad, the
do not sail and all trips are cancelled. It’s worthwhile to book the
trip for a
day when the skies are clear.
A clean and modern air-conditioned bus
showed up at my hotel right on time at 7:30 a.m. and the cheery tour
Tanya, proved adept at not only giving out the joyful and warm Rio
also sharing a detailed narrative of both the urban and rural sites in
(She also spoke in Portuguese and Spanish.) From the minute the
band of travelers boarded, Tanya’s happy chatter into the microphone
bus’ speakers and she spilled insights into the city’s famous sites and
various landmarks, including the specially-built Carnival stadium
city’s center. And despite the early hour, Tanya also made sure that we
fall asleep by entertaining us with impromptu samba dancing and
The three-hour drive to the port of Angra dos Reis
passed by quickly and after a short break to stretch our legs, we
large yacht that would take us on a tour around the islands, including a
stop at one of Ilha Grande’s shady bays.
According to the Lonely Planet
Rio de Janeiro guidebook, Ilha Grande was originally home to the
Indians, before the Portuguese colonized the area.
Once the Europeans
reached Brazil, the island became a shelter for pirates and smugglers
16th to the 18th centuries.
Later, a prison was built there and it was
only demolished in 1994. Since then tourists have been free to discover
delights of the island and others in the vicinity.
As well as half-a-day
boat rides, the islands also have several secluded resorts, most with
private beaches. It can be a very romantic getaway, if that is what you
For those who don’t have time to stay over, the boat ride
take you around the islands, stopping at several locations and allowing
to jump into the icy blue waters, paddle over to the white sandy beach
stroll around the beauty spot for half an hour or so, while the boat
nearby, waiting while you enjoy the tranquility.
The price of the trip to
Ilha Grande includes the bus ride, the boat and lunch – either fish or
as well as entertainment from a three-piece samba band that, during my
expertly courted the crowd to dance and sing along.
Tanya the tour guide,
whose language skills included Spanish, French, Italian and Japanese
shalom), was also happy to share her knowledge of the area, pointing out
owns which private island and even offering a deeper explanation as to
visiting Ilha Grande is good for your health.
“It’s just the best way to
relax, eh?” she laughed. “You just have to let go of the Middle East
Indeed, as our group made its way back to the bustling
Copacabana, a feeling of total relaxation (or perhaps exhaustion) washed
me. The crisp colors of the Amazon, the fresh coastal air and a fine
sand that had exfoliated my skin only added to the contentedness of the
One day tours to Ilha Grande from Rio De Janeiro’s tourist areas
costs between $40 (90 riels) and $75 (150 riels) per person.
the time of year you make it out there, it’s recommended to take along a
sweater (the boat ride gets chilly later in the day) and a towel for
For more information, go to www.ilhagrande.com.br.