Rio’s Tijuca National Park: Explore the World’s Largest Urban Forest
Sep24

Rio’s Tijuca National Park: Explore the World’s Largest Urban Forest

Established in 1961, the sprawling Tijuca National Park is – arguably – the world’s largest urban forest. Some might argue that Johannesburg in South Africa is home to the world’s largest man-made wooded area, but it’s actually Rio de Janeiro that takes the title. Granted, Johannesburg is one of the largest forests, but we’re handing the baton to Brazil. The Tijuca Forest carpets 3,953 hectares of reclaimed land that was previously cleared for coal and coffee production. Tijuca is now home to a mosaic of trails, cascading waterfalls, wildlife, viewpoints and famous landmarks (most notably the art deco Christ the Redeemer statue). History of the Tijuca National Park The initial reforestation project on the outskirts of the city actually started in 1861, when water sources became scarce. It was quickly realised that the production of coal and coffee was depleting the city’s water supply. Industry cleared and wiped out the natural rainforest, and the city suffered to consequences. And so the reforestation process began with the replanting of over 100, 000 trees after the arduous task of expropriating land in the interest of the public. The task was long and drawn-out, but much needed. In 1961 the urban rainforest was declared a national park, and has since become a much-visited destination in Rio de Janeiro. General tourist info about Tijuca National Park This urban rainforest inside city limits is an absolute gem to explore, and there are plenty of activities and monuments to visit within the park. The Tijuca Peak and Corcovado mountain where  Christ Redeemer statue is located are two major attractions which should not be missed. Visitors would need, on average, 2 days to explore the park. The park is open from 8am to 18:00, so we recommend you set aside a couple of days for exploration purposes – just bear in mind that summer is the rainy season, so you’ll need to check the weather prior to planning your activities. During the peak season and carnival time it’s recommended that you get an early start to your sightseeing. Things to do in Tijuca National Park There are many different ways to explore the Tijuca National Park, with varying routes. Its many roads allow visiting on foot, bicycle, car and even busses. The fitness fanatics should hike up to the Tijuca Peak. You can either drive right up to the start of the trail, or walk from the park entrance. From the entrance it’s about 5.5 km to the top, with a 2km uphill from the start of the actual trail where the carpark is located. It’s a safe and rewarding trail, offering up exquisite panoramic views...

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The “Marvellous City” of Rio de Janeiro
Sep15

The “Marvellous City” of Rio de Janeiro

Riveting Rio de Janeiro is fondly referred to as Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvellous City) because of its vibrant city life, colourful atmosphere, shimmering beaches and verdant urban rainforests. Rio is more than just a destination famed for the carnival, it’s a city that offers a mix of beachside, jungle-style, inner city living. This chic yet sometimes gritty city is one of the most sought after destinations to visit. Rio is a fantastic year-round holiday destination, offering moderate to hot temperatures. Picture the beats of Bossa Nova, dancing the night away Samba style, hiking the mosaic of paths in the rainforest and sunny days sipping caipirinhas on sugar-white beaches.  This marvellous city has plenty to offer its visitors in terms of activities. It is also home to iconic landmarks and historical places of interest. Possibly one of the most fascinating areas in Rio de Janeiro is the Tijuca Forest National Park, a rainforest home to a wealth of trails and paths ideal for hiking and biking. This was the world’s first reforestation project that started way back in 1861, and 100 years later it was declared a national park. The park is actually home to the looming and all encompassing Christ the Redeemer statue that hovers over the city below. Do head to the park for rainforest adventures and sightseeing of world-renown landmarks.  The two main beaches in Rio that outline the city are the world-renown Copacabana and Ipanema beaches; framed by the spectacular Sugarloaf Mountain. Copacabana is one of Rio’s liveliest neighbourhoods, and the 4 km beach curves around the bay. There’s a hive of activity on the beach and the promenade comes alive with festive behaviour right into the night. Soccer, dancing and drinks kiosks dotted across the lively beach area make Copacabana a sought-after area in Rio.  Guarding over the Copacabana beach is the grand old lady of Copacabana, the Copacabana hotel – a place frequented by celebrities from years gone by. It’s classic and proud, and the perfect place for an evening sundowner.  A sun seeker’s paradise and adventure lover’s dream is the island of Ilha Grande, covered by Atlantic forest and signature tropical island palm-lined stretches of beaches. This is the place for snorkelling and discovering an exceptional underwater world with clear visibility. It’s considered to be one of the most picturesque islands in Brazil, but not that many tourists know about this little haven of beauty. There are walks and hikes on the island, and it’s quite possible to actually walk all the way around the island. Lopes Mendes is a popular beach for surfing and swimming, and the perfect place to kick back and relax....

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Tropical Island Paradise : Ilha Grande in Rio de Janeiro
Sep13

Tropical Island Paradise : Ilha Grande in Rio de Janeiro

Ilha Grande in Rio de Janeiro is one of the most spectacular tropical island destinations in the world – in our opinion. Sitting comfortably off the bustling coast of Rio, this emerald eden is the definition of jungle and beach paradise. Ilha Grande is a sun seeker’s utopia and adventure lover’s dream, and offers a wealth of water-based activities from snorkelling to kayaking, surfing and diving. The lush Atlantic forest criss-crossing over the island is home to a network of trails and paths, each worthy of exploring. A mere 45 minute sea crossing from the mainland, Ilha, makes it a perfectly accessible destination for a day trip from riveting Rio.  Because this rugged and picturesque island is largely uninhabited, accommodation is scarce. As a matter of fact, there aren’t even cars or banks on the island – it really is untouched and remote. The main village on paradise is called Vila do Abraão; situated just above a cove. This is the main centre where you will find plenty of visitor information to book your tours. The island’s wild terrain and remoteness, means that it’s not a destination overrun with 5 star resorts. Here you’ll find rather humble accommodation options in the form of guest houses and “pousadas”, which are intimate boutique hotels. We suggest you head to Aratinga Inn, a jungle hideaway offering incredible accommodation and expert first-hand travel advice. The team will even advise their guests on restaurant selections (a firm favourite are two restaurants, Dom Mario and Lua e Mar) in the area. It is certainly worth staying at least one night on this Robinson Crusoe style island for an idyllic ecotourism escape, just so that you have enough time to get involved in the below activities. Explore the beaches and rugged trails of Ilha Grande Abraão beach stretches on for miles and offers breathtaking views of the endless turquoise ocean. This beach is ideal for casual strolls and beach relaxation. When you’re done with easy beach walks, spend the afternoon sampling traditional cocktails at the ever-famous Cafe do Mar. Avid hikers are encouraged to tackle the easy-to-walk Abraão circuit which meanders past ancient ruins and natural pools. The Witches’ Waterfall is a mesmerising curtain of water cascading into blue pools, and can easily be added onto the Abraão circuit for fitness fanatics seeking a more challenging route. For extreme hikers there’s always the Pico do Papagaio, the second highest peak on the island. It’s a hard and challenging walk, but the panoramic views at the top are completely worth the straining slog. Another easy-ish hike is to the Two Rivers, which offers exquisite natural views...

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Finding Your Pace in Brazil’s Pantanal
Sep08

Finding Your Pace in Brazil’s Pantanal

The Pantanal is one of the world’s most fascinating wildlife-rich, waterlogged regions. Located in Brazil and parts of Paraguay and Bolivia, the unspoiled Pantanal is a major drawcard for wildlife enthusiasts from across the globe. An extensive mosaic of swamps, rivers and marshlands sprawl across an enormous alluvial floodplain. Brazil’s Pantanal is the world’s largest tropical wetland system. It’s home to the highest population of jaguar in the world.  Jaguar  aren’t the only species to spot while in the Pantanal. The Pantanal ecosystem is also thought to be home to 1000 bird species, 400 fish species, 300 mammalian species and 480 reptile species. Included in this count are the iconic Pantanal species to spot, which include : the giant river otter, hyacinth macaw, marsh deer, yellow anaconda and green iguanas. There are ample activities on offer in the Pantanal, each offering a unique way of exploring the scenic wildlife-rich landscape. Finding your pace in Brazil’s Pantanal is easy – choose to indulge in an array of adventure-packed guided tours, kick-back at your eco-lodge while looking out for rare hyacinth macaws, or simply enjoy a relaxing boat trip down one of the tributaries in the network of rivers. We’ve scoured the area for the best activities in the pristine Pantanal, so that you can find a pace of life that suits your holiday style. Bird watching trails in the Pantanal There is normally a criss-cross of trails surrounding the lodges in the area, offering guests the opportunity to explore a variety of eco-systems. Savannah, wetlands and woodlands provide the perfect habitat for a wealth of birdlife. The carefully and clearly marked hiking/walking trails are often in loops. Guests can arrange tailor-made birding tours, which tend to produce the most rewarding sightings from November – March. The swampy plains in the area lead to sightings of Maguari stork, southern screamer and heron – to name but a few. Find a lodge with birdwatching trails and set walking tours, you’ll find there are plenty available. Horse riding in the Pantanal Horse riding in the Pantanal is a fantastic way to see the region. The terrain is quite tricky to navigate on foot, so being up high on horseback offers a good vantage point where hidden, marshy corners of the Pantanal can easily be explored. This is the largest continuous wetland in the world, best explored on horseback during the intermediate season, which is from April-June. This is the period of time when water settles into the lakes and the surrounds become quite dry. Because access to water is concentrated in certain areas, it draws in a plethora of animals seeking out available...

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