It has no roads, no cars. Its virgin rainforests are strictly protected and home to countless mammals from caiman to sloth and colourful birds like the striking blood-red Tanager. Its crystal waters are liberally sprinkled with turtles and offer some of the best diving in the world. You arrive by ferry and drag your suitcase along sandy tracks past quaint boutiques and restaurants or follow meekly as it is trundled on a barrow to your pousada by a burly local carrier. In the evening you will sit at a beach table, capirinha or chilled beer in hand, a bowl of freshly-caught seafood stew on order and your bare toes sifting the still-warm sand while a silent thunderstorm backlights the mountains of the distant Serra do Mar like some vast Hollywood set.
Ilha Grande lies just an hour off Brazil’s Costa Verde, that lush strip of Atlantic coastline stretching from north of Rio all the way down to Santos. It its time, this huge unspoiled tropical paradise, with more than 100 miles of jungle trails, has been a pirates’ lair – and as recently as the early 1990s housed a penal colony on one of its countless remote and isolated coves. Nowadays it still takes prisoners but only those who track down its isolation, sample empty beaches, coral reefs and laid-back Brazilian hospitality. It’s difficult to escape.
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