Brazil’s tropical islands are as pretty as any in Southeast Asia and, for now at least, remain free of Bob Marley theme bars and buzzing mopeds. The wildest and most beautiful are off the coast of northeastern Brazil. The Abrolhos are a string of little rocks off southern Bahia with more whales than the Whitsunday Islands. Fernando de Noronha has emerald-green water replete with underwater life. The diving and snorkelling at both is the best in the Atlantic south of the Caribbean.
Brazil’s outback interior is dotted with chapadas, time-worn escarpment mountains cut by dozens of rivers and waterfalls. The Cachoeira da Fumaça in Bahia’s Chapada Diamantina National Park drops almost 500 m into a deep blue pool, while the Cachoeira do Poço Encantado in Goiás’s Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park drops over a series of beautiful tiers in pristine cerrado forest.
Bruce Parry may have made it seem remote when he was there for the BBC, but tourists can visit the pristine flooded forests and river villages of Mamirauá too. The wildlife is spectacular, from red-faced uakari monkeys to Amazon manatees and huge black caiman.
Jalapão is one of Brazil’s least known and least visited wildernesses offering great hiking, wildlife and perhaps the most remote whitewater rafting in Latin America. There are table-top mountains, vast plains with barely a human in sight, giant indigo parrots, maned rust-red wolves and puma, plunging canyons and seas of fiery-orange dunes.
Wildlife watching in the Pantanal
There is nowhere better for wildlife in the western hemisphere than the Pantanal. The lakes, rivers and forests of this seasonally flooded wetland cover an area larger than France. And they crawl with wildlife, from packs of hissing spectacled caiman, anaconda as thick as a wrestler’s thigh and more birds than you can imagine. The best way to see them is by kayaking, although walking, horse riding or riding in a jeep are also possible.
Nowhere south of Costa Rica offers more exciting or better organized ecotourism than this jungle lodge on the banks of the clear-water Cristalino river in the northern Mato Grosso. The wildlife is superb, with nesting harpy eagles, dozens of primate species, big cats, and the best bird and butterfly species list in the lowland Amazon. One of the best ways to see the reserve is from the rainforest canopy towers.