Tag Archives: ecotourism

One of the World’s Most Important Coastal Ecosystems: Paraná, Brazil

By Guilherme Mendes Thomaz@guimendesthomaz

This article was first published at the The Travel Word, who have agreed to its republication here. View the original article on The Travel Word.

Curitiba, the capital of the Brazilian state of Paraná, is the biggest city in Southern Brazil. It has the country’s eighth largest urban population, approximately 3.2 million people spread across 26 municipalities. It is also an important cultural, political and economic centre in Brazil.

Curitiba, the capital of the Brazilian state of Paraná, is the biggest city in Southern Brazil. It has the country’s eighth largest urban population, approximately 3.2 million people spread across 26 municipalities. It is also an important cultural, political and economic centre in Brazil.

"Vista panorâmica de Curitiba, da Torre daOI/Brasil Telecom"

From Curitiba's Telecom/Ol Tower, there is an unbeatable 360-degree panoramic view. There is also a telephone museum in the lower levels that attracts numerous visitors to this part of Brazil. Photo courtesy of Laura Lott from Flickr/whltravel

Despite its size, Curitiba is considered by some people to be an ‘unknown’ destination, especially when compared to São Paulo, Rio de JaneiroSalvador and other cities in Northeast Brazil. What most travellers do not even imagine is the exuberant flora and fauna found in the city and its surrounding areas, especially the wonderful islands on Paraná’s coastline.

Curitiba is located in an ‘ombrophilous mixed forest’ area also known as Araucaria moist forest, a sub-type of the Mata Atlântica or Atlantic Forest. The city is therefore fittingly famous for its green areas, like the Botanical Gardens and three greenhouses used for the annual production of native and exotic tree species, fruit plants and flower seedlings. Elsewhere there are thick populations of purple and yellow ipês (tabebuia) and Paraná or Brazilian pine (Araucaria angustifolia).

Biodiversity by Rail

To reach Paraná’s coast from Curitiba, you can go by car or take one of the most exciting train tours in the world across the Serra do Mar, one of the best-preserved Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest areas.

The incredible ecosystems of between Curitiba and Parana's Coast glide by during the train trip across the Serra do Mar, one of Brazil's best preserved Atlantic Rainforest areas. Photo courtesy of Carlos Renato Fernandes

Along the 110 kilometres of rail, the train traverses 14 tunnels, 30 bridges, and several mountains and viaducts. One highlight is the Viaduto do Carvalho, a segment of rail suspended on five masonry pillars above a hillside of rock; you almost feel like you are flying. Another unforgettable sight is a 70-metre waterfall called Véu da Noiva, which means ‘bride’s veil.’

Once you arrive in Morretes or Paranaguá, two historical and colonial towns located on the Paraná coast, you aren’t far from amazing landscapes, rich animal and vegetation biodiversity, spectacular bends, canyons, gorges, waterfalls and a lot more. You will also find the piers mooringboats to Superagui National Park and Ilha do Mel State Park and Ecological Station. Both are gorgeous islands offering up-close contact with the environment of the region, each of them with its own characteristics and peculiarities.

Ilha do Mel State Park and Ecological Station

Ilha do Mel is carpeted by the Atlantic Forest and home to two conservation units devoted to preserving the natural environment of the island. The Ecological Station covers approximately 95% of the island, focusing on scientific research and environmental educational. In addition to similar pursuits, the Ilha do Mel State Park is also open to the public for leisure and tourism.

Ilha do Mel, PR: Praia de Fora vista do Farol das Conchas

The Praia de Fora beach catches late afternoon light on the Ilha do Mel, a favourite island and state park on Paraná's Coast of Brazil. There is a strong focus on environmental preservation and education, as well as scientific research, but also public visitation, leisure and tourism. Photo courtesy of Guilherme Mendes Thomaz

The island is a perfect destination for hikers, bikers, surfers, nature lovers and anyone who just wants to relax and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. Beautiful beaches, rich flora and fauna, mangroves, lagoons, swamps and other interesting attractions such as the Fortress Nossa Senhora dos Prazeres, the Lighthouse Farol das Conchas and Encantadas’s Grotto have turned the paradisiacal isle into one of the most visited places in Southern Brazil.

Superagui National Park

In 1989, environmental activism resulted in the creation of Superagui National Park, 21,400 protected hectares that are considered by the UN as one of the most important coastal ecosystems in the world. The park was also been declared by UNESCO a Biosphere Reserve in 1991 and a World Heritage Site in 1999.

Superagui National Park includes Ilha do Superagui and other small islands on Paraná’s coast such as Ilha das Peças, Ilha de Pinheiro, Ilha do Pinheirinho and some contiguous continental areas like the Rio dos Patos and Canal do Varadouro. Bays, beaches, mangroves and abundant Atlantic Forest compose the Superagui National Park ecosystem.

The lush vegetation of Brazil's Parana Coast, seen here at Superagui National Park, is why the area is considered by the UN as one of the most important coastal ecosystems in the world

The park is the natural habitat of a multitude of animal and plant species, some of them rare or endangered, such as the red-tailed Amazon (Amazona brasiliensis), the broad-snouted caiman(Caiman latirostris), the cougar (Felis concolor), the brown howler monkey (Alouatta fusca) and the Superagui lion tamarin (Leontopithecus caissara). This last one is a monkey species only been found on Superagui Island. Agoutis, deers, wild pigs, toucans, marine birds, jararaca and coral venomous snakes, among other animals, can also be found in the region.

On Ilha do Pinheiro, the roosting habits of the red-tailed Amazons are a strong draw. These endemic birds leave their nests in the morning to fly to the larger islands and then on to the continent, where they spend long daytime hours. They then flock by the hundreds back to the island at the end of the day, a natural spectacle not to be missed.

Another appealing animal is seen on the way to the park are dolphins. Wherever you end up, you are close enough to Baía dos Golfinhos (Dolphins Bay) at Ilha das Peças that you could see many groups of them. A dolphin-watching jaunt on Dolphins Bay is certainly a must-do when you go to Ilha do Mel State Park or Superagui National Park.

Along Paraná's Coast of Brazil, the endangered endemic red-tailed Amazon, or papagaio de cara roxa, perform their spectacular daily migration from Praia Deserta beach to the mainland and back. Photo courtesy of Guilherme Mendes Thomaz

There are also human settlements in the area, like the small fishermen communities on Ilha das Peças and Ilha do Superagui, where they run other businesses, such as pousadas and guesthouses, camping grounds, bars and restaurants. These locals live a life in sync with nature; unlike their counterparts on Ilha do Mel, Superagui locals also have less access to new technologies, which means that traditional costumes and dances, like the fandango(Paraná Coast’s popular dance), are preserved for future generations. Public access to the park is restricted, so you can only visit the communities, the beaches and their immediate surroundings.

The greatest land attraction of Superagui National Park is Praia Deserta, a 38-kilometre-long desert beach that can only be appreciated on foot (a four- to seven-hour hike) or by bicycle (rentals are available in the park).

For more about the wild nature, rich fauna and flora of Brazil’s Paraná Coast, contact Special Paraná, your whl.travel local connection in Curitiba and Paraná’s Coast, also an expert on the area’s accommodation, tours, activities and loads of local hints.

Guilherme Mendes Thomaz

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Filed under Ilha do Mel, Morretes, Paranaguá, Pictures, Superagui Island, Tours, Tours in Curitiba, Tours in Morretes, Tours in Paranaguá, Train Tour from Curitiba to Morretes, Train Tour from Curitiba to Paranaguá, Travel Tips

Sweet and Natural as Honey: Brazil’s Ilha do Mel

By Maureen Valentine

This article was first published at the whl.travel blog, who have agreed to its republication here. View the original article on the whl.travel blog.

Found off the coast of southeast Brazil, Ilha do Mel, which means Honey Island, is about as far from life’s chaos as serene nature can get. Hikers, surfers, bird watchers, stargazers and nature lovers alike are in awe of all that this little Atlantic island has to offer. In fact, many agree that Brazil’s most pristine beaches are located right here, where, until the 1970s, the local economy was dominated by fishermen and the lack of traffic spared the land as an ecotourism haven.

haha

As Ilha do Mel is an island of fishermen, this colourful pier is always full of activity. Sampling the abundance of seafood available in the eateries from the daily catches is always a treat.

As Ilha do Mel is an island of fishermen, this colourful pier is always full of activity. Sampling the abundance of seafood available in the eateries from the daily catches is always a treat.

Ilha do Mel is hardly a mass tourism destination, which is one of the things the locals and visitors love about it. Recently reconnected with the mainland –  electricity was introduced in 1998, as were regular boat shuttles, water pipes and other eco-friendly amenities – the island today is fortunately still car-free, a sandy knot of trails crisscrossing an ecological reserve protected by strict regulations on guesthouses, restaurants, stores and tourism. Even better, one guiding principle on the island – a long-term one – is to preserve the environment in its unspoiled state.

Building and Supporting Sustainable Infrastructure

Ilha do Mel is a relative newcomer as a tourism destination and is actively fine-tuning its infrastructure. Efforts are also being made to educate local business owners about business improvement opportunities that tap into tourism as a force for long-term sustainability and an improved standard of living.

Boats are a common sight around this oddly shaped island, since they are the only form of motorised transport. Travellers must reach the island by boat and can walk its expanses, taking in all the magnificent views.

Ilha do Mel boats

Boats are a common sight around this oddly shaped island, since they are the only form of motorised transport. Travellers must reach the island by boat and can walk its expanses, taking in all the magnificent views.

Within this framework, some guidance is being offered by Discover Paraná, the whl.travel local connection on Ilha do Mel, in cooperation with Sebrae, a non-governmental organisation that contributes to the sustainable development of communities by offering to micro and small enterprises the conditions necessary for their survival.

“Our main focus on Ilha do Mel is to train the local guesthouse owners,” explained Bibiana from Discover Paraná. “Together with Sebrae, we take part in meetings. On these occasions we explain to entrepreneurs what the Internet is, how Internet bookings can help them, how they can reach clients, what clients expect from them etc. Building up the entrepreneurs we will build up the destination, as they will be more aware about what they can do. With this done, a change in the destination will be a natural process.”

One local guesthouse owner, Carlos, is a community leader and involved with many programs, like the Ministry of Tourism’s ‘Bem Receber‘, which educates and incentivises entrepreneurs to create and run projects relating to responsible tourism, including water and energy saving, staff education and training, waste recycling and more. As a result of his participation in this program, Carlos’ pousada, Enseada das Conchas, as well as another lodge called Fim da Trilha, have succeeded in reducing the accommodations’ waste production. Travellers staying in these inviting, locally owned Ilha do Mel hotels and guesthouses are rewarded with the knowledge that efforts are being made to minimise the environmental impact their stay is having on the surrounding gorgeous gardens.

Getting Practical

Ilha do Mel is accessible only by boat from Paranaguá or Pontal do Sul. From Pontal do Sul, the 30-minute service runs every hour in low season, every 30 minutes otherwise. Cars can be left in Pontal do Sul, in parking lots from which public transport buses easily reach the dock. After 5pm, private boat transport must be arranged.

From Paranaguá, boats depart for the 90-minute crossing two to five times per day, depending on the season. The boat owners are organised in an association and all tickets include the price of the return trip, as well as a nature conservation fee of approximately US$2 dollars. All passengers arriving from Pontal do Sul must produce a badge showing that the fee has been paid.

pousadailhadomel_fortress_fortaleza

This fortress was built by the Dutch in 1767 to ward off English buccaneers. Its whitewashed walls are quite a remarkable site and tourists are welcome to peruse the dark, dreary jail, which is quite a contrast to the beauty of the rest of the island.

Upon arrival at the island’s dock, several men wearing uniforms (t-shirts) wait to assist travellers with luggage. Their services are priced at fixed rates, depending on the location of the guesthouse; haggling is not usual in Brazil. These helpers are also organised in an association and only the next worker in line is able to take luggage, a very helpful service for guests who don’t know their way around the island and will have difficulty toting their bags through the sand.

Travellers who can get by with a little Portuguese will find that guesthouse owners are more than willing to lead personalised Ilha do Mel tours that bring to life their little paradise in the Atlantic. Others will simply take pleasure in exploring the bountiful jungle or strolling along pristine, sandy beaches. Surf enthusiasts will find all their needs met by Fernando (from Pousada Treze Luas) and Zeco (from Grajagan Surf Resort), experienced surf instructors with boards for rent or lessons to teach.

The local cuisine is all about fish and seafood. Try the best of it at Mar e Sol, where the ‘Prato Surfista’ is highly recommended.

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Filed under Accommodation, Articles, Hotels, Ilha do Mel, Informations, Tours, Travel Tips

20 Reasons to Visit Curitiba!

Curitiba has been attracting and facinating tourists more and more. To help you to understand this fact, we are giving you here 20 reasons to visit Curitiba and show you that once in Brazil you can not miss the oportunity to visit one of the most amazing cities in Brazil. 

1. Fourth best city of the Brazil to do tourism (Viagem & Turismo Magazine – Nov/2007);

2. Best cultural destiny in Southern Brazil (Veja Magazine – Dec/2007)

3. Reference in life quality;

4. 52 m² of green area for inhabitant, with more than 30 parks and forests;

5. Curitiba has more than 150 hotels, 10.000 apartments and 18.000 beds in several categories;

6. Located in less than 100 km ( 62.14 miles) from Paraná coast, with historical cities, islands, beaches and bays;

7. New best businesses destination in Brazil (Veja Magazine – Dec/2006);

8. 3rd Best infrastructure of the country (Exame Magazine – Nov/2006);

9. Best cost-benefit (Veja magazine – Dec/2007);

10. It is one of the 5 best cities in Latin America for businesses (América Economia – May/2006);

11. Airport located 20 minutes from downtown;

12. Located only 1 hour and 20 minutes from Rio de Janeiro and 50 minutes of São Paulo in direct flights;

13. Located in a strategic point of Mercosul and has an highway network;

14. Model in urban planning and public transportation rewarded internationally;

15. Pioneer in environmental actions, such as the separation of the garbage, hosting in 2006, the events of UNO about biodiversity and biosafety;

16. In 2007, Curitiba occupied the 8th place among the Brazilian cities that received more international events (Ranking ICCA);

17. Curitiba has more than 100 places for events;

18. Diverse gastronomical options influenced by countless heritages present in the city like Italians, Germans, Ukrainians, Arabs, Poles, Portuguese, Japanese among others;

19. Counts with more than 30 malls, handcraft and gastronomy fairs/market, besides thematic streets in several locations of the city;

20. Was chosen in 2003 as “The American Culture Capital”.

Fonte: Material Promocional do Curitiba Convention & Visitors Bureau.

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