After setting foot on Ilha Grande, I immediately wanted to leave. The tiny harbor smelled faintly of rotting fish, and the only indication of civilization was a paltry batch of low-rise buildings. Two nights later, sitting at night on a beach, under a mesmerizing constellation of stars, my friends and I felt we could stay there forever.Brazil is a country of deep contrasts, and Ilha Grande, an island 100 miles south of Rio de Janeiro, is no exception. It's just as easy to see barefoot kids peddling their catch of the day as to see sleek yachts floating outside mansions surrounded by fortresses of exuberant trees. What struck me as unique about this place, though, is that everyone, regardless of social standing, seemed truly joyous and carefree. Perhaps it's the effect of the turquoise sea and powdery white sand, the dramatic peaks covered in lush jungle, the abundance of colorful fish, the lack of cars and roads, and the unspoiled quality of it all. Many visitors spend their days on Ilha Grande (which means Big Island) perfecting the art of doing nothing, idling on a sailboat or sunbathing on one of 106 nearly deserted beaches. But this retreat, reachable by ferry boats that leave daily from the town of Angra dos Reis, is also known among active travelers for its world-class trekking and diving. Surprisingly, in spite of its proximity to Rio and bountiful offerings, it remains free of hotel chains and tourist masses.
|At Ilha Grande|