Sunday, May 17, 2009
Morro de São Paulo is one of 5 villages of the island Tinharé in Bahia, Brazil, 272 km from the city of Salvador by route and 60 km by sea. The only way to go to the island is by boat or by regular flights that go from the airport of Salvador to the local airstrip.
Cars are forbidden on Morro de São Paulo. The only method of motorized transportation on the island is by tractor, which carries passengers to other distant beaches, to pousadas (small hotels) on Third, Fourth and Second Beach (the closest to the village) and to the airport.
Martim Afonso of Sousa, landed in 1531 and baptized this island “Tynharéa” and the Bahian accent soon transformed that name to “Tinharé”.
Tinharé Island is situated to the north of the Camamu Bay archipelago, South of Bahia, a region known as Tabuleiro Valenciano or better still, the Coast of Dendê. Due to its distinct geographical location, the island was subject to innumerable attacks by French and Dutch ships, a true free land for pirates during the colonial period.
Under the jurisdiction of São Jorge dos Ilhéus, the land was given to Jorge de Figueiredo Correa by D.João III, and assigned to Francisco Romero for settlement. The constant attacks of the Aymoré Indians and Tupiniquins against the local regional population helped to quickly populate the islands, and in 1535 Morro de São Paulo village was born on the north side of the island.
Morro de São Paulo protected the so called "barra falsa da Baía de Todos os Santos", strategic entrance to the Itaparica Channel and to the Santo Antônio Fortress (currently named Farol da Barra). Additionally, the Tinharé Channel was essential for delivery of supplies from major production centers to the capital, Salvador. The geographical importance of the island during the colonial period justifies the richness of historical monuments, today protected by the National Historical Patrimony.
The first summer houses were built on this beach. Today most of them have become "pousadas"/inns, stores or restaurants, and the few that remain are rented to tourists throughout the year.
Similar to the houses converted into "pousadas", the old beach kiosks, almost all owned by local families.
The first beach is also known for marine attractions. This beach also serves as the landing area for the tirolesa, or zipline, from the lighhouse.
This is well known especially among young people.
The beach forms the stage for "rodas de capoeira" at the end of the day.
This beach also offers several accommodation options: tents, inns, restaurants and campsites.
This beach is special due to Caitá Island, formed by a large barrier of coral reefs. The underwater view offers coral and fish of all colors and shapes. It's possible to rent all necessary equipment. Group boat trips can be arranged as well.
At first sight, Fourth Beach appears to have no end. A great barrier of coral forms innumerable natural swimming pools along this beach. Fourth Beach is much quieter than her sisters.
Following Fourth Beach, the first entrance goes to Zimbo, a small village. Entering Zimbo, there are several trails that lead to the village of Gamboa, or to the mount [hill] of Mangaba.
Walking a little further, after crossing a mangrove swamp and a small river, is the Fifth Beach or Beach of Enchantment. Until recently, it was still considered part of Fourth beach, as well as all of the extension of beach to the source of the river that separates the island of Tinharé from the island of Boipeba. Before arriving to Boipeba, there is the small village of Garapuá, a fishing town.
Along the way to the small neighboring island of Boipeba, there is the small fishing village with calm, crystalline waters. There are a few simple pousadas here.
The small island of Tinharé is separated by Rio do Inferno (Hell River). From Morro de Sao Paulo, tractors and small watercraft leave daily to bring travelers to this island.
Ponta da Pedra ("Tip of the Rock")
This beach provides access to the town of Gamboa. It is almost a 30 minute walk from the dock of Morro de Sao Paulo to the dock of Gamboa.
This area is called Tip of the Rock or beach of Gamboa by its inhabitants. The beaches are surrounded by rocks and transparent calm waters. There's a local yacht club, where sailboats are anchored.
A little ahead there is a clay erosion area.
After a 20 minute walk along the beach of the Tip of the Rock, there is the town of the Gamboa. Gamboa, until recent years seemed to be kilometers away from Morro de Sao Paulo, for there was no sign of the tourism development that was bustling in Morro de Sao Paulo. It has continued being a peaceful fishing village. Perhaps this is the reason why some inhabitants have moved here and built houses and inns. However, although the infrastructure has developed somewhat, with good "pousadas" (inns) and restaurants and regional cuisine, the peaceful atmosphere of this fishing town is still preserved.
In Gamboa, the waters are calm and crystalline and the beach serene, with fewpeople moving about. The majority of the island locals live in Gamboa.
The Fortress Beach, reveals a strip of sand next to the natural swimming pools where it is possible to dive or snorkel.
How to get in
Morro has no actual airport but charter flights from Salvador take 20 minutes from Salvador and land on a runway near the Fourth Beach. Turismo Bahia Travel Agency, TURISMOBAHIA operate flights for around R$180 from Salvador.
You can get there from Salvador by catching a ferry or catamaran from the Mercado Modelo, a 5 min walk from the lower end of the Lacerda Elevator. The catamaran costs about R$ 60 (2008) and takes approx 2 hrs.
A catamaran leaves from Salvador at 8:30AM, 9AM, 11:30AM. 1:30PM, 2:00PM.
Catamarans come back from Morro de Sao Paulo at 9:30AM, 11:30AM, 3:PM, 3:30PM.
Get there early and buy your tickets. Since you are travelling on the open ocean, sea sickness pills are advised.
Tickets can be brought at the boat terminal building or at your Posuada or a number of travel companies--that are open every day.
Another option is to take a boat from Valencia which is both cheap and smooth but takes more time. From Salvador take a bus to Fiera de Santana and from there, you can take a direct bus to Valencia. Takes around 4 hours from Salvador to Valencia and from there another 1 hour by ferry to reach Morro. The ferry ticket is R$ 15. Although this takes a bit longer but this will save you from the ordeal of that bumpy ride in the boat from Salvador to Morro.
There is an alternate and cheaper option which costs R$ 30 and takes twice the time as the Catamaran (about 4 hours). From Sao Joaquim in Salvador, take a ferry to the island of Itaparica. From there you can get a bus to Valenca from which there are regular boats that head to Morro de Sao Paulo.
Drivers can reach as near as the neighboring city of Valença, where you can park your car at one of the various Car Parking for as many days as you wish. From Valença you have to take a boat to Morro. You have to go to the local harbour and there you will find boats every hour from 7 am till 6pm . In summer they will run until there are passangers to travel. If you take the "traditional" boat, it will take about 2 hrs but this is a relaxing trip and you have plenty of time to enjoy the sightseeing for only R$5,00. But if you want to get quickly to Morro, you have the "lancha rápida" (fast boat) that will take you for R$12,00 and in 40 minutes you will be there. At the Valença harbour you have to pay a fee of R$0,65 per person and to get in Morro you have to pay a R$6,50 local tax.
The best (and only) abundant form of transport on the Island is your feet.
Being an island, there is no vehicular access to Morro de São Paulo. Until recently, tractors for garbage collection, transportation of heavy materials,tours to distant beaches and to and from pousadas on the Fourth Beach were the only motorized vehicles allowed. Today however, although vehicles are not permitted on the beaches and main roads (i.e. Caminho da Praia, Fonte Grande), there are buggy-taxis on the roads that parallel the beaches, through Zimbo, Campo da Mangaba and the Gamboa village.
Up the hill (morro, in Portuguese), there is a lighthouse and a fort dating from 1630.
Shops line the path from the boat dock past the first beach. There are many clothing stores that sell mostly t-shirts and bathing suits but some also sell skirts and dresses. Be sure to check out the flip-flops. Havaiana and Ipanema flip-flops are very popular. There is also a shop that sells lots of touristy trinkets.
There are at least 2 dive shops on the islands. Companhia do Mergulho is a good and honest company. The best months to dive are Nov - Mar.
Diving is poor during October due to the frequent storms that reduces visibility to 1 meter(3 feet).