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São Paulo State Beaches: Toque Toque Grande

Take advantage of the warm low season to discover a scenic and romantic getaway in São Sebastião, not far from São Paulo.

São Sebastião Beaches
Brazil Travel Spotlight10

Belo Horizonte Travel: Monthly Birding and Birdwatching Tours in Municipal Parks

Tuesday April 15, 2014
Parque Municipal Primeiro de Maio. Photo courtesy of Fundação de Parques Municipais. View full-size

In Belo Horizonte, Brazil's fourth largest state capital and one of the host cities in 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, plenty of nature is just around the corner. Well-kept municipal parks such as Mangabeiras, abundant in native vegetation and animal species, are among the top attractions in BH and a real treat for birdwatching and birding aficionados. If you're one - newbie or seasoned - plan on enjoying the free tour organized every month by Ecoavis (www.facebook.com/ecoavisBH), a local NGO, in a partnership with the city's Municipal Park Foundation (Fundação de Parques Municipais - FPM). The tour's name is AVISTAVIS, which sounds almost like "aviste aves" ("see birds") in Portuguese.

Each month, the group visits one of the 70+ parks maintained by FPM, an organization created in 2005 which is also responsible for the city's four municipal cemeteries and five ecological agriculture community centers (Cevaes). Next month, the visit will be to Parque Primeiro de Maio (1st of May Park), in the northern part of town. A symbol of BH's Environmental Program, the park transformed an abandoned property with open-air sewage into an environmental preservation area with a trail, picnic areas and playgrounds; 118 acres of the Primeiro de Maio Creek were recovered, a sewage network was put in place, and nearby streets were urbanized.

According to the Municipal Park Foundation, Parque Primeiro de Maio sightings included 16 orders, 32 families, and 65 species of birds from 2011 to 2013 (Parque Lagoa do Nado, in the Pampulha region, has 117 species recorded between 2008 and 2014 so far; Parque Burle Marx, in the southern tip of the metropolitan area, was second, has a list with 75 species).

Some of the species sighted at Primeiro de Maio the last three years in a row were the Swallow-tailed Hummingbird (Eupetomena macroura); Sapphire-spangled Emerald (Amazilia lactea); Grey-necked Wood Rail (Aramides cajaneus); and the Common Waxbill (Estrilda astrild). The Great Egret (Ardea alba), Pale-breasted Thrush (Turdus leucomelas), Southern House Wren (Troglodytes musculus), and Rufous Hornero (Furnarius rufus).

You can find lists of species sighted in various parks on the city administration website (portalpbh.pbh.gov.br). Click on "Parques Municipais" (where you'll find an interactive map with all the FPM parks), then, to the right, on "Observação de Aves" (where you'll find the schedule). At the bottom of the page, click on "Espécies Avistadas nos Parques de BH" (species sighted in BH parks).

These are the tours scheduled for the rest of the year. The July one is two days before the first World Cup semi-final (Tuesday, July 8) at the Mineirão arena.

They start at 7 a.m. Participants are advised to wear comfortable clothes in neutral colors. Participation is free. See the full Ecoavis schedule of upcoming events and email them (under "Contato") on their website: www.ecoavis.org.br

  • May 11 - Parque Primeiro de Maio
  • June 8 - Parque Ursulina de Andrade Mello
  • July 6 - Parque das Mangabeiras
  • August 31 - Parque da Serra do Curral
  • September 7 - Parque Aggeo Pio Sobrinho
  • October 05 -Parque Julien Rien

For 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Travelers:

Correction: FPM's bird sighting records vary in the number of years listed. This post has been corrected to reflect that.

Reatech 2014 Presents New Inclusive Technologies, Products, Services

Friday April 11, 2014

The 13th Brazilian edition of Reatech, the International Fair of Rehabilitation, Inclusion, Accessibility and Parasport, is taking place in São Paulo (through Sunday at the Imigrantes Exhibition & Convention Center). The leading event of its kind in Latin America, this year Reatech has about 300 exhibitors presenting new technologies, products and services to an estimated 50,000 visitors.

The trade show produced by Grupo Cipa/Fiera Milano has a job fair, with over 7,000 openings for people with disabilities and reduced mobility offered by various companies and employment agencies; 50 lectures; and 40 hours of cultural activities and entertainment, including sports courts and test driving of adapted vehicles. Reatech is expected to generate R$320 M in business deals.

The launching of new technologies is a big draw at Reatech, and some of most exciting releases this year are free apps which directly benefit travelers. One of the them is Rota Acessível, or IBM Accessible Way (rotaacessivel.com), an app developed by IBM Brasil's research lab in a partnership with AACD (Brazil's Association of Assistance to Children with Disabilities). The app, which can be downloaded for free from App Store and Play Store, pinpoints urban elements such as traffic lights, lowered curbs, accessible parking spaces, and tactile paving.  It allows for crowdsourcing: users can report on the accessibility (or lack of thereof) in their cities and help expand the service.

Another promising, free app for travelers is Clapp-In (play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=clappin.com),  which allows users to report on both public and private spaces such as hotels, parks, tourist attractions, restaurants and bars.  And for the tourist who enjoys putting in a little effort to communicate with the locals, there is PRODEAF (www.prodeaf.net), also free, which translates Portuguese to LIBRAS (Brazilian sign language).

Brazilian sidewalks, often obstructive or nonexistent and one of the inclusion issues which directly affect travelers as well as residents, are one of the points in the Statute of Persons with Disabilities, a bill whose rapporteur in Brazil's Chamber of Deputies, federal representative Mara Gabrilli, took part today in "Quotas and Work for People with Disabilities", one of the forums at Reatech.

Inclusive tourism in Brazil will be the topic of one of the lectures on Sunday: "Adapted Speleology and an Evaluation of Parks and Caves to Receive Disabled, Obese and Senior Travelers", by Érica Nunes, the Brazilian Speleology Society's coordinator of Inclusive Cave Tourism. She will present photos of the caves visited and analyzed so far, share the experience of Association Handicap Aventure (France, handicapaventure.edicomnet.fr) in the caves of southern São Paulo State, and discuss Gruta do Lago Azul and Abismo Anhumas in Bonito, Mato Grosso do Sul.


Reatech 2014:

Through Sunday, April 13 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Imigrantes Exhibition & Convention Center, São Paulo, Brazil



Photo courtesy of Reatech.

Deep in the Heart of Brazil: Visiting Caves in Bahia and Minas Gerais

Monday March 31, 2014
Poço Azul. João Ramos. View full-size

The scene in front of me is altering my perception, and it takes gentle taking of my hand by Israel, the guide at Poço Azul, to help me ease into the crystalline pool. So this is where the water begins!

Chapada Diamantina is a natural choice for any traveler who wants to explore the subterranean wonders of Brazil. So is Minas Gerais, where one of the newest tourist attractions is the Peter Lund Cave Route. The Peter Lund Museum and the Maquiné Cave Museum are helping us all understand the magnificence of these attractions and their importance to science.

Take time to learn about some of the best caves (and related attractions) to visit in Bahia and Minas Gerais:

Poço Encantado. Jota Freitas/Bahiatursa. View full-size

Fazenda Yrerê: Visiting a Cocoa Farm in Ilhéus

Sunday March 30, 2014

It was artist Jane Hilda Badaró who told me about Fazenda Yrerê. I'd asked Jane Hilda, who grew up and lives in Ilhéus, for tips on some of her favorite places in the area, and this cocoa farm owned by a couple - Gerson Marques and Dadá Galdino - and open to visitors was the first one she highly recommended.

Cocoa-producing farms are part of the reason why Ilhéus and the Cocoa Coast are on the rise as tourist destinations in Brazil. Yrerê had an extra chance to be in the spotlight in the last three days, when it hosted the 1st Flower and Chocolate Fair of Southern Bahia. That's because, besides offering guests the chance to visit a cocoa grove and cocoa processing stations, the farm with a great patch of preserved forest also has a magnificent orchidarium, as well as a profusion of tropical flowers putting out their colorful displays here and there.

Cocoa beans drying in the sun. View full-size

The farmhouse is simple and cozy, and filled with creative displays.


Be on the lookout for birds such as the green-headed Tanager (Tangara seledon), which is known in Portuguese as saíra-sete-cores ("seven-color-saíra").


In this fun experience for families traveling with kids, there are farm animals as well.



The rustic furniture is made by Dadá's family. The gardens look great for a quiet rest after the guided tour of the land.


And then there's food - regional culinary, cocoa juice, chocolate made from the fruit of those trees you saw growing in the shade of the tropical forest, in an earth-friendly system locally known as cabruca.


Read more: Fazenda Yrerê, Cocoa Coast, Bahia, Brazil

All photos courtesy of Fazenda Yrerê.

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