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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
The organizers of the Adventure Sports Fair - Brazil's top event in the segment - have started announcing this year's attractions and featured speakers. The trade show, which will take place at São Paulo's Pavilhão Ciccillo Matarazzo (the Biennial Pavilion) at Ibirapuera Park from May 15 to 18, will have an outdoor halfpipe as one of its main attractions. Besides skateboarding, snowboarding, climbing, and diving are some of the featured sports. Moreover, the fair has become a window into the latest developments and the potential of adventure travel in Brazil.
Along with the fair, the pavilion will host the Adventure Congress, organized by the Brazilian Adventure Society (BAS), and the Interamerican Sustainable Tourism Forum (Fits), which will bring together environmentalists, travel agencies, tour operators and governmental tourism organizations.
Adventure Sports Fair director Sergio Bernardi said in a press release that the addition of new sports to the event is a growing trend. "People today are trying everything nature can offer in terms of sports," he said. The event's slogan this year, in fact, is "Vida ao ar livre" (Outdoor Life).
Among the features speakers who have already confirmed their participation are Roy Rudnick and Michelle F.Weiss, a Brazilian couple who traveled 60 countries in a Land Rover; mountain climber Karina Oliani., the youngest Brazilian woman to reach the top of the Everest; and filmmaker David Schurmann of the Schurmann family of sailboat explorers (schurmann.com.br).
Abeta, the Brazilian Association of Ecotourism and Adventure Travel Companies, has signed up a partnership with the fair and will be promoting top destinations for the segment in Brazil, such as national parks. Brazil's Ministry of Tourism (MTur), the Environment Ministry and Instituto Chico Mendes, which manages the country's national parks, plan on boosting visits to national parks before and beyond 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil. "By 2016, we want to have complete networks of touristic activity in Rio de Janeiro State's parks with a focus on the Olympics, and by 2020, we want all of Brazil's 69 parks open to visitors," said Tourism Minister Gastão Vieira in a press release.
According to an MTur poll carried out in 2012, 21% of international visitors seek Brazil for ecotourism. The segment is second only to beaches (64%) in leisure travel in Brazil.
Adventure Sports Fair 2014:
A US$50 M renovation at the Sheraton Rio Hotel & Resort is coming to a conclusion and one of the outstanding results is the opening today of L'Étoile, its new rooftop restaurant with French-Brazilian cuisine. Stellar features indicated by the restaurant's name: cuisine by chefs Jean-Paul Bontoux and Emmanuel Serrano and the spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean.
The food at L'Étoile promises attractive blends of French and Brazilian accents. One of the featured dishes is duck magret with mango.
The hotel is keeping its theme suite for kids. The newest theme is "Rio 2", by architect Luis Pedro Scalise. Available until May 16, it fits two grown-ups and two kids 12 and under, and has plenty of details in hyacinth macaw blue, such as bed linens and lampshades in dyed duck feathers.
The animated movie's director, Carlos Saldanha, visited the suite with his family this week.
So did Carlinhos Brown, who wrote the Rio 2 soundtrack.
The daily rate for the room is R$779 plus 15% tax. It includes a buffet breakfast, one grown-up lunch, kids' recreation at the Sheratoons Kids Club, two tickets to see the animated movie (which opens in Brazil March 27) as well as gifts and a parking space at the hotel.
The 14th Restaurant Week has started in São Paulo. The event, which comprises other cities such as Campinas and Vinhedo, is offering fixed price lunch (R$34,90) and dinner (R$47,90), with R$ 1 from each meal donated to various organizations.
This is a great time to discover restaurants such as Blú Bistrô, where chef Wlisses Reis is featuring his take on Brazilian culinary with appetizers such as Trem Bão, a Minas Gerais combo with corn angu and cheese, pork rib ragu, and taioba crisps; two options of main dishes, one of them the Arretado - sun dried meat with baião de dois, coalho cheese, and farofa; and for dessert, Maracatu - burnt tapioca with peanut farofa, baba de moça and bacuri foam - as one of the options.
www.restaurantweek.com.br (though March 30).
Three cruise ships with 10,000 passengers arrived in Salvador today, part of a total 15,000 tourists arriving for Carnival celebrations at the Salvador port. About 526,000 tourists were expected in Salvador this Carnival season. It is estimated they would spend R$1 billion.
The MSC Orchestra was the first to arrive this morning. Other ships which made Salvador their port of call on Fat Tuesday were the Sovereign of the Seas and the Costa Fascinosa.
The group welcoming tourists included baianas in traditional attire, a band, and even Bahia's newly appointed Tourism Secretary, Pedro Galvão, who succeeded Domingos Leonelli last January 13.
According to Bahia's Tourism Secretariat, 87% of the tourists in Salvador for Carnival are from Brazil, especially from Minas Gerais, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Distrito Federal and Sergipe. International visitors come mainly from Argentina, the US, Italy, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom.
Salvador is still going to host some great events in its post-Carnival season, for example the Ilê Aiyê Ressaca, ("Hangover", or post-Carnival party) this weekend at the world-famous bloco afro's headquarters.
Fundição Progresso, one of Rio's top cultural venues, hosts stellar musical events year round, and greatly contributes to the quality of Carnival in Rio with its annual marchinha contest and several shows and parties. Tonight, as a Carnival ball takes place at their headquarters (a former foundry, or fundição), there's free Carnival at the stage they set up for the festivities at Praça Tiradentes in central Rio.
Besides groups formed in their own musical workshops - Tum Tá Que Tá, Afluente do Céu and Bloco d'O Passo na Rua - the stage is featuring some of the top blocos in Rio de Janeiro Carnival. The performances opened yesterday and continue through Fat Tuesday. Rio Maracatu and Casuarina performed after Tum Tá Que Tá last night: tonight, Toca Rauuul, a Carnival bloco which celebrates the music of Raul Seixas, will start, followed by the great singers Teresa Cristina and Moyseis Marques, who many travelers probably know from Lapa nights.
Tomorrow, Afluente do Céu choir will open the stage with their unique take on marchinhas and other Carnival classics. Next, Banda Fundição, created specially for Fundição's first marchinha contest in 2006, will play hits from the constest as well as Carmen Miranda, Braguinha, Emilinha Borba, Chiquinha Gonzaga, João Roberto Kelly, Lamartine Babo and Braguinha classics. Cordão do Boitatá (feat. Luiza Dionísio and Aurea Martins) will close, with a version of their own street Carnival party - a great opportunity if you couldn't be there for it in pre-Carnival or this morning.
On Fat Tuesday, Bloco d'O Passo na Rua will debut in Rio Carnival and get everyone dancing. Orquestra Popular Céu na Terra will be next, bringing their bright costumes, puppets, percussion, acoustic guitars and brass instruments, with vocals by Bianca Leão and Alan Rocha. The stage season's will close with a Banga! If you missed the amazing Bangalafumenga this morning, here's one more chance to party with them before Carnival is over.
Fundição Progresso - Rio Marchinhas
Praça Tiradentes at 5 p.m. through Fat Tuesday
Photo of courtesy of Fundição Progresso
You've arrived in Rio for Carnival and suddenly you realize that you really, really want to wear a costume to the bloco parades. You sure didn't plan ahead like these guys in the Suvaco do Cristo pre-Carnival parade a few days ago. If you're with friends or family, you might have decided it would be cool to dress up with a theme.
You might be hoping to buy a cute, fun ready-to-wear something. Some blocos, such as Cordão do Boitatá, which paraded in pre-Carnival and will have its big Carnival party this Sunday at 9 a.m. at Praça XV (Centro), are big on dressing up.
You bet revelers who "went out" (paraded, in bloco lingo) with Desliga da Justiça, which is exclusively pre-Carnival, have saved their costumes for one of the 400+ street parades which will take place this Carnival and post-Carnival in Rio.
Simpatia é Quase Amor will be back in Ipanema this Sunday at 4 p.m. Here's some inspiration from their pre-Carnival parade.
The primal rescue center for last-minute Carnival shopping in Rio is Saara, where stores selling costumes and accessories till about lunch time tomorrow include Buenas Festas (till 1) and Babado da Folia (till 2).
Hopefully Divinas Axilas (www.facebook.com/AtelieDivinasAxilas), Suvaco do Cristo-supported NGO, will open their shop tomorrow in Botafogo. I couldn't call them to confirm early enough today. On their Facebook page, you can see a photo of the Frida Kahlo and mariachi costumes their artists Tiago Luna and Cris Dutra created for Suvaco's pre-Carnival parade. Beautiful!
Face painting is an easy way to change your looks for your street Carnival experience.
No costume? No worries. Go as yourself. Just carry the bare essentials (I recommend leaving your passport and credit cards in the hotel's safe deposit box and bringing just another form of ID, such as your driver's license, and cash). And have a blast!
Find Your Bloco:
- The Official 2014 Rio de Janeiro Carnival Guide
- Rio Street Carnival 2014 by Agenda Samba e Choro - To the left of their homepage, find listings of blocos by date ("Ver por data"), neighborhood ("Ver por bairro") and name ("Ver por nome")
All photos courtesy of Riotur/ Rio de Janeiro Tourism Secretariat. View more photos of Rio Carnival 2014, often updated in real time, on their official Flickr.