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Ihla Grande, Brazil

Area Code ?, US$1 = 1.8 Brazilian Dollars, Dec 13 99

The Island
For an island situated right in between that of Rio de Janeiro (population 10 million) and Sao Paulo (population 18 million) it is hard to believe that Ihla Grande meaning " Big Island " is so untouched. It composes of three towns but Abraao is the biggest, meaning it actually has places to stay and eat.
The beauty of Ihla Grande is in its diversity. Its tropical jungle swarming with monkeys, makes it hard to believe that you are on an Island but rather somewhere in the Amazon. And the crystal clear warm waters are home to such an abundance of colourful fish that catching them is as easy as dangling a line between your legs.
This Island is the perfect stop if either waiting for a plane from Rio or just arriving from there.

Although there is very nice accommodation on the beachfront this is often three times more expensive than equally nice Pousadas, just one street from the water.

The friendly Pousada Pepe is a very comfortable option with bathroom and television, free laundry service and a huge breakfast. It costs $11 US a night for a single and $17 US for a double. It can be found behind the church as soon as you get off the ferry.

Next door is the more basic Pousada Piratas which has two rooms for $5 US per person with bath. However mosquitoes were a big problem when I stayed there. In the backyard is a small but well grassed camping site where you can camp for $3 US per person if you have your own tent, or $6 if you need to hire one.

The further you head from the water the cheaper it will be and sometimes the price can be lowered.

Eating Out:-
Along the beachfront are many restraints however these can be quite pricey. If you are on a very tight budget you can go to the bakery (also on the beachfront) and buy five rolls for 50 US cents. Then go to one of the stores and buy either hamburger meat for $2 US a kilo or hot dogs $1.50 a kilogram.

However if you want to eat out (and the food is very good mind you) try the Restaurante Festa de Sol just across the creek on the beachfront. This buffet restaurant charges by the weight of the plate, so you can fill it up for around $3 US. The buffet includes fish, chicken, spaghetti and rice and beans.

The Caneo Bar on the beachfront is a very relaxing alternative with very friendly English speaking staff. They have two menus. A white one, which I call the tourist menu because every item on it is over $8 US, and a black menu, which I call the local menu, that has burgers and snack for around $3 US.

Night Time-
The best and only place to go and party is the Casarao Da Ilha, just before the church. It is a restaurant/bar that has many tables outside towards the beach. It opens daily except Monday until 2.00 am. On weekends it has live music and when it closes the party usually moves down to the beach. It costs $1 US for a large bottle of Brahma beer. If you feel up to it a huge 5 liter tub of wine can be purchased for $3 US. It seems to be very popular with the locals.

Things to Do:-
Ilha Grande has sixteen jungle trails that criss-cross around and over the island. One of the most scenic trails is number 4, which takes you to Lopes Mendes, an excellent and relatively isolated beach. It takes 3 hours, but you can camp over on the beach for $4 US. Most travellers take a small bag and cycle the whole island making three or four stops camping on the 109 beaches.

Fishing boats can be hired for $55 US between four people for seven hours. You are guaranteed to catch some fish and for a small price the Caneo Bar will clean and cook the fish you caught.

Where is it?
Ihla Grande is 150 km down the coast from Rio. It can be reached only by ferry from either Mangaratiba or the much preferred Angra Dos Reis. It cost $7 US from Rio to Mangaratiba, but the ferry only leaves once a day. So if you miss it like I did you have to take a private boat which is very doggy. I bargained with a man for $5 US to take me to Ihla Grande. He drove out, stopped the boat and said $25. When I refused, he said get out, so I had to pay. To avoid this problem take the bus to Angra Dos Reis for $10 US, from where the ferry leaves at 12.30 pm and 5.00pm and takes just 11/2 hours and costs $1.50 US. A ticket from Sao Paulo to Angra Dos Reis costs $13 US.

Useful Information?
There is a small post office and international telephone exchange if you turn right off the ferry.
Next door to that is the heavily manned police station.
There is no bank or money changer on the island so take a lot of cash with you. If you run out, Angra Dos Reis can change money at a 5% commission and Banco de Brazil is the only place that cashes travellers checks but for a whopping $20 US Commission. There are ATMs throughout the town.

There is a twenty four hour medical centre one street adjacent to the beachfront, where a little English is spoken.

Weather(Dec. 99)
The weather is perfect, hovering around the high twenties. The occasional storm is not uncommon in the middle of the night but this does not really affect your travels.

Emergency numbers American Express: 000-814-550-3382