Ecotourism: Hidden gems for you to discover
by Elida Rocha & Ingrid Coifman – Photos by Setur-CE (Jericoacoara, Lagoinha, Ceara)
Brazil has diverse, untouched ecosystems; large wilderness areas with magnificent waterfalls, natural beaches and undiscovered archaeological sites. These gems are usually unknown to first-time travelers to the country. So, instead of classic destinations, think about including some adventure and spectacular sights in the paradises listed below.
The word Jericoacoara means “house of turtles.” Located in Ceará State, ‘Jeri’ is full of wildlife and surrounded by huge dunes, coconut palm trees, crystalline lagoons and caves. The place is one of the world’s hot spots for windsurfing and kitesurfing, hosting many international competitions year round.
This old fishing village is located about 300 kilometers from the state capital, Fortaleza, in an environmentally protected area. Its beaches, located within national parks, are ranked in the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world according to the Washington Post.
Where: Ceara State, Northeastern Brazil
How to get there: The distance from Fortaleza’s Pinto Martins airport to Jericoacoara beach is approximately 6 hours by car or bus. The bus company, Redenção, sells tickets at the airport. You can check schedules and prices at www.redencaoonline.com.br
Adventures: Kitesurfing, windsurfing, sandboarding, and dune buggying (use of a recreational vehicle with large tires to ride on sand dunes). Average price: U$125, duration 5 hours.
More info: www.jeri-brazil.org
Bonito is located on Bodoquena Mountain, in the State of Mato Grosso do Sul. Due to an immense quantity of limestone in the ground, the river waters are among the clearest and most transparent in the world.
There are over 30 ecological tours around the Bonito area that explore the natural environment, and all require an accredited local guide. The ‘Natural Aquarium’ excursion, for instance, starts with a 25-minute walk through the jungle where you can check out a variety of the region’s native animals, followed by a 900 meter snorkel adventure.
Where: Central West region, Mato Grosso do Sul State.
How to get there: Many companies fly from the state capital, Campo Grande, to Bonito Airport, a 280 kilometer distance, and 35-minutes by direct flight. For information, go to http://www.voetrip.com.br. The buses company Viação Cruzeiro do Sul leaves daily at 6 a.m. and 3 p.m.. The 5-hour trip costs $15.
Adventures: Walks to caves, lakes of crystal clear water and adventure treks through the treetops on a suspended steel walkway installed in native trees of the Pantanal region.
More info: www.portalbonito.com.br
The eighth season of the reality show Survivor was filmed here. Situated about 250 kilometers from Tocantins’ capital, it’s the largest state park in the region. This ecoregion has increasingly received interest from adventure tourists and ecotourism fans. The vegetation is predominantly savanna, with waterfalls, rivers, large plateaus and golden sand dunes, up to 30 meters high.
The desert of Jalapão is anything but a ‘desert’. It’s actually a paradise of waters, flowers and exotic animals.
Where: North West region, Tocantins State.
How to get there: The starting point is the city of Palmas. Major Brazilian carriers fly daily to Palmas airport (www.emsampa.com.br/wardest_palmas.htm), and fares range from $199 to $344. From Palmas, drive 64 kilometers on Highway TO-050 to Porto Nacional, and then 116 kilometers on TO-255 to Ponte Alta do Tocantins.
Adventures: Sports such as rafting. To reach most of the attractions, it’s necessary to travel about 50 kilometers on dirt roads. The difficult access makes it a natural haven for flora and fauna. The region is still relatively untouched by man due to the limited number of visitors.
More info at: http://jalapao.to.gov.br/en/