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Published: March 23rd 2008
During my time in Rio de Janeiro - I took two trips to the big island - Ilha Grande - it sounds so natural in Portuguese but translated "Big Island" - clumsy. It is virtually road and car free, a natural relaxed paradise just a few hours from the hustle of big city Rio.
For most of it's history as part of the country of Brazil Ilha Grande was a high security prison - off limits to the public, the military personal posted there must have loved the experience, the prisoners, loathed it - tiny dark damp cells with the promise of island paradise just a few inches behind the walls.
Ilha Grande continued as a prison until 1994 - and then was opened up for tourism - as a result it is pristine.
The island has maybe 20 distinct beaches, 10 or so areas of inhabitation with Abraão - the main settlement - the island is criss-crossed with many many trails - taking you from one beach to another in a few hours. Schooners operate day trips to top snorkelling or sunbathing spots and the diving in the area is nice. There is apparently the wreck of
a helicopter somewhere near by - but I dived just some of the simple spots as it's a pricey activity in Brazil.
The beach "Lopes Mendez" is considered one of the best in Brazil, and a top surfing spot - I loved the trail to it. It is possible to almost circumnavigate the island solely by trails. Apart from one small section that is a designated reserve the entire trek should take about 4-5 days - something I would have loved to have done - but commitments to travelblog stopped.
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