Friday, 12 December 2008

New Update on Santa Catarina Situation

The Santa Catarina Tourist Board (SANTUR) has created a site to give updates on the situation of the State's infraestructure region by region, following last month's floodings.

All the areas that are most visited by tourists in their summer holidays, including Florianopolis region, the Emerald Coast ( Bombinhas, Porto Belo, Governador Celso ramos) and the southern coast (Garopaba, Praia do Rosa) and Balneário Camboriú are back to normal.

For detailed information on the current situation check :

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Update on Santa Catarina Situation

We keep receiving calls and emails about the situation in Santa Catarina, following last month's floods.

It has been more than 2 weeks since the flooding and, contrary to the images on TV and newspapers, most of the State, with exception of the Itajai Valley region, is back to normal. For example, there is only one secondary road in the north of the State that is still closed for traffic.

Along the Central and Southern Coast of Santa Catarina all the infrastructure is working. Roads are open, there is no shortage of water, electricity or food. If you are travelling here and have still doubts about the situation please contact us or your hotel directly.

We have had a week of beautiful sunshine and warm temperatures in Florianopolis. Summer is here and Santa Catarina waits for your visit!

Monday, 1 December 2008

Floods in Santa Catarina

The national and internal media has given a lot of coverage to what seems to have been the worst flooding in history in the State of Santa Catarina.

As a result we have received a lot of anxious emails and phone calls from clients and partners from all over the world, specially asking if is still safe to travel here. So, I thought it was a good idea to give you an insider's account of the problem to put minds at ease.

Our Spring has been, without any doubt, the wettest on record, and the situation was made worse by 4 days of non-stop rain. In some places it rained three times the montlhy average in only 2 days. This happened due to a combination of meteorological phenomena that are very rare. All this rain led to localized floodings, landslides, disruption to roads, and, tragically, to loss of lives around Santa Catarina.

Similarly, there was heavy rain in some other parts of south Brazil, including the coast of Paraná, but there was not much damage to the region.

However, the situation is back to normal in most of the State. The flooded areas that are repeatedly been shown on TV and newspapers around the world are in the Itajai Valley, in the north of Santa Catarina. This is a very low and flat region that has large rivers that burst their banks. The terrible landslides also happened in those areas. So, although it is a grave situation for those affected, the disruption now is restricted to those areas.

The areas of Santa Catarina most visited by tourists are the Central and Southern Coast, the inland mountains and Santa Catarina Island, in Florianopolis. On these areas there was no significant disruption to infrastructure and, as such, life goes on as normal. The sun has been shining for most of the last week in this part of the State and the forecast for December is of dryer weather, with the normal ocasional summer showers.

The livelihood of many Catarinenses is dependent on tourism and especially on the income generated by summer visitors, so we make a plea for visitors not to cancel their holidays, not only because their experience will not be affected, but also because Santa Catarina will desperately need these vital funds to reconstruct those towns and to help the affected people to get on with their lives.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Short trips from Curitiba – Ilha do Mel

I was just back from a few relaxing days on Ilha do Mel, the island off the coast of Paraná, in Paranaguá Bay.

I had wanted to go for many years, as the Island has always been THE destination in South Brazil for those in search of unspoiled hideaways. In the 80s, it was just for the very adventurous as the only option was wild camping. Then it became too popular with surfers and youngsters looking for a party place, so it had lost its appeal to me. But in recent years, the government of Parana decided to implement policies to effectively protect the island, which is an Estate Park, limiting, for example, the number of people that can visit it and banning predatory camping sites, so my interest returned.

The island lived up to expectations in terms of nature: there are many deserted beaches and most of its area is part of a nature reserve, closed to the public. You see quite a lot of birds and a lot of green everywhere. In other ways it exceeded my expectations, as it is really well organised in terms of trails, path signs and very clean.

The one image that still matched my imagination is that of a hippy-ish hang out place. Somehow it reminded me of beach resorts in Thailand that are in the “gringo trail”, with its simple restaurants, guesthouses and bars with reggae music. So it´s no surprise to find that is a favourite place for a lot of travelling foreigners. But don´t let that put you off- I came back VERY relaxed after a few days there.

Tips from Brazil Ecojourneys:

A very nice place to stay is Pousada das Meninas in Vila do Farol. Although the rooms are very rustic, they are comfortable and the garden is lush and has some cosy areas to read a book or just relax. The staff is extremely friendly and can also help you with day trips- a boat trip to the dolphin’s bay or the fortress is a nice option to see the Bay. The owner of the Pousada has his own boat and can take you there.Or they put you in touch with a local monitor to take you in one of the many trails – Marcelo is a very friendly guy but does not speak much English.

My favourite walk was along the beach to Encantadas- you can go walking, have lunch at Pousada Fim da Trilha, the best restaurant on the island, and come back by boat. It makes for a great day trip.

In Vila do Farol have dinner at Mar e Sol- it´s the best option there.

If you have only a short time in this part of Brazil, and would prefer an organised tour, we offer a combined trip 3days/2 nights of the train journey and Ilha do Mel, starting and finishing in Curitiba.

From there you are a short boat away to one of the most fantastic destinations in South Brazil: the Lagamar area, home to the World Biosphere Reserve of the Atlantic Rainforest. Check out our Rainforest Expedition program for more details.

Photo of Ilha do Mel by Priscila Forone.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Rainy days in Florianopolis

It has been raining for 3 days solid in Florianopolis and most people look truly miserable.

Florianopolis unfortunately lacks the museums and cultural centres of big cities, as we are so spoiled with fantastic nature (most people really come here for the 42 beaches) and good weather most of the year. BUT bad weather does happen and if you are here on holidays and don’t want to follow the crowds to the nearest cinema or shopping centre here goes a few suggestions.

Some outdoor activities do not get spoiled by rain- you can still take some surf lessons, for example. Once in you are in a wetsuit and swimming you will not notice the rain at all.

Rafting in the Cubatao River with class II-III rapids is ok for beginners most of the year, but when it rains a lot in a few days, it becomes an adrenaline-fuelled experience. If you really enjoy rafting, rainy days are the best days to go.The rafting base is about 40 min from Florianopolis. If you want even more excitement try kayaking down the rapids. It is fantastic!

If you just don’t like the idea of the outdoors on a rainy day, head for the Spa town of Santo Amaro. The thermal baths there are wonderful; the local mineral water is considered one of the best in the world.

Tips from Brazil Ecojourneys team:

  • If you are on a budget you can get a bus from downtown Florianopolis to Caldas da Imperatriz that stops just outside the public baths. Next door you can have a café colonial in the old hotel that once welcomed the last Brazilian Empress (hence the name). Your day out should cost you less than R$ 30,00.

  • If you like a bit more pampering, we can arrange for a day use of the facilities of the local 4 stars Spa resort. The Jacuzzis, sauna, mineral baths and Spa treatments followed by an excellent lunch will soon lift your spirits! Contact us for details.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Short trips from Florianopolis II – Serra Geral Mountains

Santa Catarina is so well-known for its gorgeous coast that most people totally ignore the interior. Just a few hours away by road from the capital you can be in one of the most stunning mountain sceneries in Brazil: the Serra Geral Mountain Range.

The journey to get there is already very scenic- to reach Serra Geral, you need to drive through one of the 3 mountain roads that cut Santa Catarina East to West. Originally open as mule tracks, they are still the few connecting points between the highlands and the coast. The BR-282 is the busiest and the least dramatic, while the Serra do Rio Rastro (SC- 438) and the Serra do Corvo Branco (SC- 439) are not for faint hearts, but they are both stunning.

Once you get there, you are spoiled for choices of activities; you can go trekking, cycling, horse-riding, fly fishing or simply relax in a lodge or a resort.

Some of my favourite programs in this area are the hiking trips near Urubici. Staying in a cosy mountain lodge, you can choose between easy day treks or the more demanding 3-days crossing of the São Joaquim National Park.

We visited this area many times in the past and fell in love with its beauty. This weekend, however, we drove up the stunning Serra do Rio do Rastro mountain road, further south from Urubici to inspect another base to explore this region.

The Rio do Rastro is a small resort in a 900-acres farm in Bom Jardim da Serra. Although this hotel is larger, lacking the intimacy of Rio Canoas mountain lodge, it has excellent facilities and a wide range of activities. We took a trip to the canyons, a horse riding trip and did a short trek through Araucaria and ancient ferns forests.

For the cold or rainy days they have a heated pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and some romantic bungalows with lake views. The food was excellent as well.

The highlight for us, however, was horse riding through highland fields to the edge of the mountains. The views were absolutely incredible, helped by a gorgeous sunset over the highlands.

When visiting Santa Catarina next we really recommend you reserve a few days to explore this beautiful area.

For more information about the Serra Geral mountains click here or contact us.

Tips from Brazil Ecojourneys team:

  • You can only drive up the Serra do Corvo Branco in dry weather;
  • The best time to visit the area is autumn and winter as the weather is drier then and there is less fog, allowing for the best views;

  • Temperatures there are often below zero at night, with the occasional snow shower in winter so take enough warm clothes;

  • If you really enjoy riding, we offer a fantastic multi-day Horse riding trip, staying at mid-19th Century Farm houses, that offers a mix of culture and adventure;

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Tip of the Week: Money Matters

By Brazil Ecojourneys team.
After a month of huge variations in exchange rates throughout the world, we thought it was a good idea to give you some tips this week on which is the best way to bring holiday money to Brazil.
For many countries a mix of traveller's cheques, US$ dollars bills and a credit card is a good idea, but in Brazil traveller's cheques are useless. Most places will not accept them and banks will charge you a high fee for every cheque cashed.
We always recommend to bring one or two credit or debit cards and a little bit of cash (US dollar bills or Euros are readily exchangeable almost everywhere). Visa cards normally work better than Master cards for payments in shops and restaurants.
By changing at ATM machines (available in almost every city in Brazil), you get the day's commercial exchange rate for the dollar, avoiding the low rates or extortionate commissions of Casa de Câmbios. Some cards have charges for foreign transactions, so check back home for debit cards or savings accounts that do not. In the United Kingdom, for example, Nationwide Building Society has a debit card that has absolutely no fees for cashing money abroad.
Once in Brazil you might find out that some ATMs do not accept international cards. Look for HSBC branches or for Banco 24 horas machines, they will always accept VISA ( VISA PLUS in Brazil), Master, CIRRUS and MAESTRO cards . Use HSBC if you can find one, as Banco 24 Horas charges a small fee. In Florianopolis you will find a HSBC at the airport, in Lagoa da Conceição, near the Shopping Beira-Mar and downtown.

But don't forget: if you are goint into remote areas for a few days, cash money at the airport or the nearest big city as in small places you will only find Banco do Brasil branches and their ATM machines do not always accept international cards.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Short trips from Florianopolis - Number 1: Pomerode

South Brazil, in special the northern part of Santa Catarina State, received a large influx of German immigrants in the middle of the 19th Century. In the region known as the European Valley, a number of small villages still retain the influence of its Germanic origins in the architecture, the local dialect and cuisine. The most well-known city is Blumenau, home to the Oktoberfest, a beer festival that is second only to Munich in number of visitors. A more authentic experience is to be had in Pomerode, a small village nearby, where an estimated 80 % of its population still speaks a German dialect.

We just revisited Pomerode last weekend and decided to spend the night, rather than the usual day trip, so we could try the local brewery, Schornstein.

It was a good idea: the beers at this microbrewery were great- my favourite being the Pale Ale, a strong flavoured beer that will please lovers of Real Ale!

At the brewery, you can also snack in typical German fare such as sausages and hackepeter (the German version of middle-eastern Kibbe). If you want to have a proper meal of typical German Colonial cuisine, go to Wunderwald for lunch. The most famous dish is Marreco recheado (Stuffed roasted goose served with apple puree and red cabbage). For me, this is as good as German food gets! If you have any space left, visit the Torten Paradis Kaffehaus for tea and cakes in the afternoon. Next door is the equally tempting shop for the Nugali chocolates- the closest thing in Brazil to Lindt chocolates.

To burn all these calories, rent a bike from the tourist office and cycle through town up to the Enxaimel route (the timber-framed houses built in early 20th Century by immigrants from Pomerland). Cycling is a very popular mean of transport here, with cycle lanes in all the main roads.

An interesting but sad cultural note: although German immigration to Santa Catarina preceded the Great Wars, the settlers suffered a great deal of hostility during this period and many had to change names and their way of life. A striking example is found near the end of the route. There is an old cemetery to the right of the road, where you will see the tombs of the original immigrants- all with eulogies in German, except for those that died during the Second World War, when German was completely banned in South Brazil.

Tips by Brazil Ecojourneys team:

If you do not have a car, there are frequent buses from Blumenau. Once there, rent a bike to go around town;

If you would like a guided visit to Pomerode, check our Deutsche Santa Catarina day trip from Florianopolis.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Short trips from Porto Alegre

Revisiting Serra Gaucha this week, we made a stop at Bento Gonçalves, a town founded by Italian immigrants in the middle of 19th Century. Bento is famous in Brazil for its wines and make a great destination for a couple of days away from Porto Alegre, the Capital of Rio Grande do Sul. A great surprise was to find the Sapore & Piacere café, a cafe/bistro that serves delicious lunches for less than US$ 10! Or if you pass Bento in the afternoon, try their cakes and coffee. The café is near the exit of town, just across the church.
Another good gastronomic stop, besides visiting the Vale dos Vinhedos (wine valley) for some wine tasting (see our self-drive program - is at the Casa da Ovelha in the Caminho de Pedras, a rural road with well preserved old stone farm houses, to buy yogurt and cheese made of ewe’s milk. Their mature Pecorino is a great buy!

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Adventure Travel World Summit 2008

Last week we participated in the Adventure Travel World Summit in Sao Paulo. The event was a great opportunity to make new contacts and meet fantastic people working in adventure and ecotourism throughout the world. We also had a unique chance of attending some amazing talks on sustainable tourism. In the opening night Gerard and Margie Moss gave a great introduction about Brazil and about their project studying the influence of the Amazon in the rainfall patterns throughout Brazil. Check for more information.
Antonia Neubauer from Myths & Mountains gave a great talk about how to be a responsible tour operator in developing countries. Their READ project is truly a great example to follow. See for more information. The main theme of the Summit probably was that there is a growing desire for travelling as an instrument of personal transformation. The closing lecture by Carol Bellamy was for me the most inspiring. She pointed that responsible travellers should not only look at transforming themselves but also transforming the lives of those they meet. I couldn´t agree more.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Our brand new website!

We are launching today our new website which focus on South Brazil as a travel destination.

The new site has lots of novelties (one of them being our own travel blog!), new information sections and maps , new tours and destinations, space for testimonials and loads more! We hope that is easy to navigate and that you can find what are you looking for.

We would love to have your comments on it and hope that you will recommend it to all your friends.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Let´s start from the beginning...

Our first Blog! Here we will share our travel experiences, tips on travelling to South Brazil, cool places we discover and what else comes to our mind that we think it might be interesting for anyone, our clients or not, coming to this part of the world. Please help us!