Archive for February, 2008

Brazil in pictures: snake

Brazil in pictures: snake

Instituto Butantan

The Instituto Butantan in São Paulo is a biomedical research center with a worldwide reputation for its work on the development of snake antivenom. A small colection of live snakes can be seen at its Biological Museum.

February 29, 2008 | By More
Destination: Belém

Destination: Belém

[from our special guest Daniel]

ver-o-peso

Belém do Pará is the capital of the state of Pará, in the north of Brazil, near the mouth of the mighty Amazon. It is known as the “metropolis of the Amazon” and it has accumulated a rich history since its foundation 400 years ago. During the rubber fever it became the first Latin American city to have electricity, and its splendour was such that it was known as the “Paris of the tropics”. This rich historical heritage, combined with the native Indian and African influences, have resulted in a very interesting city surrounded by lush jungle.

WE LIKE THE MOST: Its food. The sunset seen over the river. The parts of the city that are being restored. The recovery of the riverfront.

WE LIKE THE LEAST:
Dirt and a certain state of neglect that resemble dangerously New Delhi. The Mangal das Garças, and its faded scarlet ibis and its fridge for butterflies. The lack of interest on tourism shown by the authorities. The chaotic traffic.

HOW TO GET THERE: We do not advice driving to Belém. It is connected by air to plenty of other Brazilian cities. The Amazon river can be used too, from Manaus or Santarém.

CAREFUL WITH: The chuva da tarde (afternoon rain); every day at three o’clock there is a heavy and brief dowpour. Do stay indoors while it lasts. As in any other major Brazilian city, pay special attention to your personal safety. In the area around the Ver-O-Peso market there are pickpockets operating.

FAVOURITE PLACES: The Bosque Rodrigues Alves and the Jardim Zoobotánico Emilio Goeldi. Complexo Feliz Lusitania. Ver-O-Peso Market. Estação das Docas. The Praça da República on a Sunday morning. Icoarací.

PIECE OF ADVICE:

  • the restaurants in the Ver-O-Peso market are an unforgettable and really cheap experience.
  • açai is the staple diet of Belém. Although it has become fashionable in the rest of the country, what you find in other regions of Brazil is a substitute. In Belém açai is eaten pure, usually really thick, with no other accompaniment than manioc flour. If you find it too bitter you can add sugar to it.
  • the worst time of the year to visit Belém goes from December to May, when it can rain non-stop all day long.
  • even though most of the Historic Centre is in a state of neglect, it is worth walking from rua Siqueira Mendes to Praça do Carmo, always paying attention to your own safety.
  • your gastronomic taste of Belém should include the jambú pizza from the Café Imaginario, any ice-cream from the Cairú ice-cream parlours and an Amazon fish at the Remanso do Peixe.
  • the best place to buy marajoara ceramics is Icoarací. If you are looking for something more sophisticated, a good place in terms of creativity and variety is the Polo Joalheiro Sâo José Liberto.
  • Icoarací also has a riverfront with lots of bars. It’s a good and traditional alternative to the interesting Estação das Docas in Belém itself.
  • Cotijuba and Mosqueiro are islands that can be easily reached from Belém and that will allow you a close contact with the Amazon jungle. You will also be able to enjoy a river beach with waves!

LINKS: Belém City Council, Paratur, Circuito Landi.

WEATHER FORECAST: The weather in Belém for the next 10 days

[Don’t forget to check out the list of other destinations already covered in this blog, here]

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February 28, 2008 | By More
Come rain or shine

Come rain or shine

Walking along the Avenida Paulista on Friday, under a persistent and annoying rain, I ran across the scene I captured with my pocket camera (the quality is not very good). I immediately thought of so many people about to start their holidays in Brazil, worried to death about the weather they are going to find when they land in sunny Brazil.

Should rain be on the menu, do as the locals: open your umbrella and carry on with your life. At least the people on the picture didn’t allow the rain to spoil their Friday evening beer with their workmates.

February 22, 2008 | By More
<em>Região dos Lagos</em>: a summary

Região dos Lagos: a summary

praia do Forno, Arraial do Cabo

This is a summary of the entries posted along the last couple of months on the Região dos Lagos, an area that includes the tourist destinations of Arraial do Cabo, Búzios and Cabo Frío, in the state of Rio de Janeiro.

I published two destination cards, Destination: Arraial do Cabo and Destination: Búzios. Along with the destination cards, two entries with photo albums: Brazil in pictures: Arraial do Cabo and Brazil in pictures: Búzios, as well as a third entry decidated to the praia do Forno, in Arraial do Cabo: The most beautiful beach in Brazil?.

We paid a quick visit to Cabo Frio and its Rua dos biquinis.

To understand the region better I prepared three Maps of the beaches of Arraial do Cabo, Búzios and Cabo Frio.

Some help on how to travel from one town to another in Transportation between Arraial do Cabo, Cabo Frio and Búzios.

Finally, an entry on Prices in Búzios.

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February 20, 2008 | By More
Brazilian coral reefs: a handbook for the environmentally conscious tourist

Brazilian coral reefs: a handbook for the environmentally conscious tourist

Photobucket

I don’t usually like to open an entry with a photograph, but in this case the placement of the image is deliberate and has the only aim of provoking an instant reaction from the reader. What you see above is tourism on a coral reef Brazilian-sytle.

2008 is the Internation Year of the Reef and the Brazil Travel Blog‘s contribution to the celebration is this handbook. I only want to raise awareness among tourists about the critical situation of coral reefs in Brazil (our blog post 80% of Brazil’s coral reefs wiped out in 50 years shows that critical it might be an understatement). What can the tourist do to avoid contributing to the degradation of the few surviving coral reefs in Brazil? The following handbook was written with a pinch of common sense and some excellent ideas extracted from the websites of the International Year of the Reef y and the Coral Reef Alliance.

CORAL REEFS IN BRAZIL: A HANDBOOK

1. Do find out about coral reefs.
Before you visit a coral reef, learn about corals, how they live, how they feed. Once you are aware of how fragile the environmental balance they depend on is, you will be much more careful with them when you visit them.

2. Do not buy souvenirs extracted from the bottom of the sea.
Before and after your trip you will see locals selling starfish, sea shells, seahorses. They have been extracted illegaly from the sea and in an unsustainable manner. Do not buy they, and do explain why you don’t do it. Do ask everyone around you not to buy the souvenirs either.

3. Make sure no rubbish is thrown to the sea from the boat that takes you to the reef.
If you see someone throwing away rubbish, tell them off and talk to the person in charge for the trip as well. The tourism industry has convinced Brazilians that coral reefs are the ideal place for a picnic. If the boat has a kitchen or a bar, pay particular attention to where the waste goes.

Maracajau, Rio Grande do Norte

4. Do not walk on the corals.
Corals are living beings, they are not rocks. In some places you will see that part of the visit to the coral reef includes walking on the corals. Do refuse to do so.

5. If you dive, do not touch the corals.
Be very careful with your flippers, do not hit the coral reef accidentally. On a shallow sea, do not stand on the bottom of the sea, you will stir particles that are damaging to corals. Dive horizontally, to avoid touching the corals with your feet. Do not move your arms abruptly. Move slowly, relax.

6. Do not feed the fish.
They are wild animals, they can feed themselves. Do not introduce environmental imbalances. In quite a few places in Brazil, the locals will offer you food for the fish. Refuse it, and explain why you do it.

7. Do not bring anything outside the water, dead or alive.
The only exception to this rule is garbage.

8. Do find out if the company running the trip makes it a policy to educate tourists about the protection and conservation of coral reefs.
You will be disheartened when you discover many Brazilian companies are running trips exclusively for the money. The more tourists they can carry per day, the better. There is absolutely no effort to educate the tourists. And education is something that, as the pictures that illustrate this entry make it very clear, the country is lacking.

9. Do prefer boats that use bouys rather than anchors.
Anchors are deadly to coral reefs.

10. Do spread the word.
Let all your friends and acquaintances know how to behave on a coral reef. When you return from Brazil, tell everybody what you thought of the experience of visiting a coral reef. Places that make an effort to protect the natural heritage should be praised; those that pay scant attention to the environment should be reported and boycotted.

Unfortunately, I realized that if you were to follow this handbook you couldn’t possibly visit in a sustainable way most of the Brazilian coral reefs. Something has to change.

Photobucket

In all the Brazilian coral reefs I know tourism is predatory and unsustainable. Long is the list of crimes against the environment committed in very popular places like the Recife de Fora in Porto Seguro, the Parrachos in Maracajaú near Natal, the natural pools in Porto de Galinhas in Pernambuco, and the Galés of Maragogi in Alagoas. Basically, wherever there are tourists and coral reefs, the destruction has been devastating – the exception being the island of Fernando de Noronha.

We all play an important part.

  1. The tourist, in the first place, in its role as consumer of a tourist service. No demand, no supply. If thousands of people weren’t willing to picnic, can of beer in hand, in the middle of a coral reef, there wouldn’t be a place for beer sellers and meat skewers providers. We have to stop consuming products that endanger the environment.
  2. Tourist sector workers. Whether by ignorance of sheer bad faith, they all want to keep the cash machine rolling. Those who act out of ignorance need to be educated. Those acting out of bad faith, need to be reported.
  3. The tourism industry and its publicity branch (travel magazines). By selling as paradise destinations places where the environment is endangered on a daily basis, they contribute to perpetuate in eternum the cycle of destruction.

For what it’s worth, being a part of the problem means we are also part of the solution.

The two pictures of Maragogi used on this entry belong to Juninho Insanoskater, who has kindly allowed me to reproduce them here.

February 18, 2008 | By More