Veteran readers of the blog might recall the fight for the title of most beautiful beach in Brazil between two oceanic giants: the praia do Forno, in Arraial do Cabo, and the praia do Sancho, in Fernando de Noronha. Well, a new contender is on the line: the Campeche island (in Portuguese, Ilha do Campeche), in Florianópolis.
The Ilha do Campeche is on the southern half of Florianópolis, on its east coast, just across the Campeche beach. As you can see on the satellite image, the beach is on the western side of the island, sheltered from the ocean winds. The east side of the island is rocky and has no beaches.
There are three different ways of getting to the island:
- by boat from Armação do Sul. It takes about 40 minutes and the price during the low season was R$25 in 2008. There are several sailings during the morning. During the high season, there are afternoon boats to the island as well.
- by boat from Barra da Lagoa. A few boats reach the island from the north, the trip takes one hour and fifteen minutes aproximately.
- on rubber dinghy from the Campeche beach. The trip takes little over 5 minutes, and during the low season the return trip cost R$30. There is no fixed timetable, the service depends on the demand. The same dinghy that takes you to the island will take you back from it.
From the three options, the last one is our favourite one. As well as being much faster, there is little time left for those prone to sea-sickness..
The island is a unique place, as it is part of the natural and cultural heritage of Brazil. There are 10 archeological sites on the island, and for that reason there is a limit to the number of visitors allowed every day. It should also be noted that the island is not opened to visitation during winter. IPHAN, the Brazilian government’s body responsible for the national heritage, has a number of monitors on the island, who are always eager to help tourists with their explanations.
As soon as you land on the island it is hard not to marvel at two of the main features of the beach: whiter than white sand and turquoise waters. On the approximately four hours you are allowed to stay on the island (this time limit is enforced and your boat will leave back to the main island after those four hours) you have basically three options:
– stay at the beach. The right-hand side of the beach is wider. The places where you can swim are clearly marked by buoys separating the beach-goers from the constant traffic of boats coming and going. On the left-hand side of the beach there is a tiny beach you can reach walking across the giant rocks at that end. Bring good footwear. This is the best part of the island for snorkelling.
– do some of the treks on the island. As you will be visiting archeological sites, you can’t go on your own, you have to follow a monitor. There are two monitored treks, one lasts for an hour and costs R$5, and the other one lasts three hours and it costs R$10.
– do a snorkelling trip. You can pay R$35 to go on a shortish (one hour) snorkelling trip to a part of the island where visitors can’t get on foot. The price includes a wet suit.
With crystal-clear waters as the ones enjoyed at the island, snorkel is the most attractive option. If you have a mask and a tube (flippers are not essential), take them with you. The best part of the beach to snorkel on is on the left-hand side, right next to the big rocks.
To be honest, the transparency of the water is more impressive than the variety of fish seen there. For those new to snorkelling it will be an exciting experience; veterans might be slightly dissappointed. You can’t snorkel beyond the rocks.
There are two bars at the beach where you can order a beer or even a meal. Prices at the end of February 2008 were: mineral water, R$2; beer, R$5; caipirinha, R$5; fish with rice, fries and a salad, R$15; fried squid, R$25.
Before I forget. Once again, Sancho reigns supreme as the number one of all the Brazilian beaches. The massive presence of tourists at the island of Campeche at certain times of the day, and the presence of bars and quite a lot of litter (in spite of the efforts by the monitors to keep it clean) detracts quite a lot of points from the “unspoiled” factor. But Campeche came close. It’s time for some changes at the Brazil Travel Blog‘s Top 10: beaches ranking.
For those wanting to see more photos: PHOTO ALBUM OF CAMPECHE AND THE ISLAND OF CAMPECHE
General information on Florianópolis on the following blog entry: Destination: Florianópolis.
Category: Destination: Santa Catarina