July 29, 2012
In the vast kaleidoscope of attractions guarded in Chapada Diamantina, Pratinha is one of the most appealing to cavers - veterans or rookies - and just about anyone seeking a taste of ecotourism and adventure in this part of Bahia. Pratinha is part of the Marimbus/Iraquara Environmental Protection Area.
Privately owned Pratinha Farm (Fazenda Pratinha), a park located in Iraquara in northwestern Chapada, is home to the Pratinha Cave, where you can go for some easygoing snorkeling in the limpid waters of the Pratinha River; the Blue Cave (Gruta Azul), open to awed contemplation only; and the lake outside the Pratinha Cave, great for swimming and zip lining.
Visitors can also go hiking on easy trails or schedule other activities, such as horseback rides or a kayak trip down the Pratinha River to Lapa do Caboclo, an archaeological site with rock art. Another interesting spot that can be reached on foot or on horseback is the meeting of the Pratinha and the Santo Antônio Rivers, with clear blue and dark waters respectively, which flow side by side in a phenomenon similar to that of the meeting of the Solimões and Negro Rivers in the Amazon.
Activities can only be pursued with Fazenda Pratinha guides, who are all experienced and trained locals. The basic farm/park infrastructure includes a restaurant, restrooms, and gear such as snorkeling masks, fins, life vests and underwater flashlights.
Iraquara, an 18th-century town with about 22,000 inhabitants and a total area of about 397 square miles, has the greatest concentration of caves in Brazil. At least 100 caves have been registered in the area, and there are more still to be mapped.
However, only a few are open to tourism; Pratinha, Lapa Doce, Torrinha, and Fumaça are among the most famous natural attractions in Chapada Diamantina.
These caves, part of a karst system, are made of sedimentary rock over 1 billion years old.