Weekly Photo Challenge: Silhouette

What better way to capture a silhouette than during the sunset? Well, that’s my favourite time of the day. It’s a time when a silhouette is, somewhat, more meaningful, when it happens more naturally.

Samppras, my travel companion, always looks very contemplative during sunsets, this time overlooking Itapua Beach in Salvador.

People reading this might think I am mad… ah well!

Activism that Works – With Samppras Carrot

Well, not too long ago, a few minutes in fact, I had a nice comment chat with Gator Woman (Not her name, of course, about conservation, so I decided to make a post about how activism can work. But why with Samppras Carrot? Well, that’s just because the only photo I have left of the place due to the lack of backup is one with my travelling companion (post updated, found another)!

Unfortunately, we live in a society obsessed with money and larger profits, doing anything possible to have more than their neighbours. Well, that’s very unfortunate. Sometimes, the dependence of money and this thirsty is just an attempt to survive, and that’s how the village at Praia do Forte, in the State of Bahia, Brazil, started off. They were fortunate enough to witness one of the most spectacular events in the world: Thousands of sea turtles coming to their beach to lay eggs. For years, the locals relied on the eggs of the turtles and, many times, on the turtles themselves for meat and speciality dishes to attract tourists to the village (Apparently, that’s one of the main reasons the Pinta Island Tortoise (Lonesome George) is now extinct… they were very tasty). As you can probably imagine, this was successful, but only for so long. Very soon, not as many females were coming to the beach anymore and some of the species came close to the brink of extinction (when one depends on them to survive, one will kill until there is nothing left… like the world and petrol).

In came a few oceanography students and, to be brief, started the Projeto TAMAR (Tartaruga Marinha), i.e. The Marine Turtle Project. This project started not by trying to change the law and enforcing it, but by educating the locals. Through a lot of effort and the help of sponsors (Who love having their names attached to conservation projects), they were able to show the locals that they would earn a lot more with tourists, who would come to see the turtles alive than to eat them… and they were right! Tourists from all over Brazil and the World have been flocking down to that paradisiacal beach to visit the project since the mid 80’s. Now the project has connections with several brazilian universities, local school and governments, finances several educational programs and has over 20 bases along the brazilian coast. As per 2008, over 8 million turtles have been released to the sea, many that now return to their birth place to lay their eggs.

Local families have been thriving with the capital that tourism brings to their lives and they have been much better off than when poaching occurred. Samppras can confirm that!

Praia do Forte – Bahia – Brasil

Praia do Forte is a beautiful beach to the north of Salvador, in Bahia. It is home to a sea turtle sanctuary, probably the largest in the world. Different species of turtles come to the shores of this beach in their thousands and their hatchlings are ensured safe passage to the sea. It is called TAMAR Project (Marine Turtle Project). Definitely worth a visit if you are ever in Salvador! It is a nice place!

Rio Pratinha – Chapada Diamantina

In 2007, I visited the town of Lencois and took some amazing shots. I loved the place and this place in particular, the Pratinha River. The crystal clear river flows under the rocks to the other side (See the other side of the river here.) At around 2:30pm, the sun shines directly on the water of the river, through the narrow gap between the rocks and the river glows blue. It is amazing but lasts too briefly!

Salvador (And Itapuã Beach) – Bahia – Brasil

What really to say about this place… having gone there and driving through it countless times, I still haven’t formed an opinion about it. Salvador is a beautiful city, if you know where to go really. In parts, you see beaches that you could only dream of and, other, utter poverty and carelessness. The main touristic centre, the Pelourinho, is literally falling apart. It is beautiful for tourists that are unaware of the problem, but it doesn’t take long for them to realize the truth behind the beautifully, newly painted building facades, with the building in the background crumbling. Well, Pelourinho is a Unesco World Heritage Site, so this alone attracts many tourists. But being trapped inside a restaurant because of the children begging you for money, becoming in some cases even aggressive, makes you think twice about going back! THe Pelourinho is home to the Church of St. Francis. It’s altar alone had more than 700kg of gold in decorations, symbolizing the once rich Brazilian capital. That’s all gone now and has been gone for a long time. This doesn’t mean that the place is horrible and you can find many beautiful places, with beautiful people! I liked Salvador, was very well received and have even considered living there. The beaches surrounding the city are incredibly beautiful (such as Flamengo beach, which is just amazing, where you really get to interact with the locals) and the farther you get away from the metropolitan area, the more beautiful they get! Well, the northeastern coast of Brazil is just amazing!

There is a particular song in Brazilian Popular Music called Tarde em Itapuã. It is an amazing song that every brazilian knows and has grown to love. It portrays probably the most amazing beach in the world, where all the problems go away. Maybe I was wrong to create expectations about it, but I was severely disappointed. Well, I think everyone who based their expectation on the song were too (I have checked that…). It is a beautiful beach, but in a very run down neighbourhood, but I was very scared with the warning people gave me… don’t go towards the ends of the beach. One of the most famous parts of the beach is the lighthouse… but “don’t go there! You will most likely get robbed… don’t go towards the other end of the beach either… that’s where the low lifes hand out”… so just stay in the middle, near the tents (where you will taste the best Acarajé in Brazil!) and you will be fine, so I was told! I enjoyed my visit and since I didn’t know the place, I took all the advice I was given by heart and don’t regret it! Even though I didn’t have many nice things to say, I still recommend a visit! Just like every place, go and have your own experiences and make up your own mind!

Just a quick photo and the song… makes you want to go too, doesn’t it?

P.S. Toquinho is my favourite musician (the guy on the left…), but I absolutely hate how easy he makes guitar playing look…

Lençóis – Chapada Diamantina

Published at The University Observer

The little-known Brazilian village of Lençóis will be a journey beyond your own experiences!

A trip to Lençóis in north-eastern Brazil is an escape from usual tourist traps. A small town located in the Chapada Diamantina National Park, Lençóis is situated about six hours away from Salvador, in the state of Bahia.

The town itself is spectacular, with buildings dating from the 18th and 19th century still well conserved. As it is not a very common place for European, or even Brazilian tourists to visit, it is still very cheap to spend time in Lençóis. During the high season (July, December and January) accommodation in a hostel will cost between R$25-R$30 which adds up to around €10-12 per night. At any other time, these prices could even be halved, while visitors can enjoy a large meal for R$10 (€4).

For the adventurous traveller, Lençóis boasts a wealth of outdoor pursuits to choose from such as hiking, rafting, camping and abseiling.

Plus, there are plenty of sights worth a visit within walking distance of the town, however it’s best to take a guide to avoid getting lost!

Paying a guide in the hostel may seem like the obvious option, but it may prove to be the most costly.

If you know the name of the place that you would like to visit, you can always walk downtown and ask a local to bring you there. They will charge much less for this service, R$10 instead of the R$40 that official guides will charge at some hostels.

Locals will take you to places such as Ribeirão do Meio and the Serrano, an area of the Lençóis river where visitors can swim and Travelenjoy a natural jacuzzi massage. However, hostel staff will arrange the vast majority of the more exciting trips.

A usual day trip is a hike to the 380 meter high Fumaça Waterfall. It is a two hour walk to the waterfall and back, but most of the trek is done over flat land and there are many more stunning waterfalls to be seen along the way. On the way back, there is a beautiful sunset view from the top of the Pai Inácio Mount.

The absence of a beach is more than made up for with the sandy Pratinha river. Travellers who wish to explore the crystal clear waters of the river can do so by renting scuba gear and will enjoy swimming with the fish!

Flowing through caves, the water of the Pratinha river is illuminated by the sunlight for roughly 20 minutes each day, giving out a strong blue light. A similar, but even more impressive event is seen in the concealed lake of the Poço Encantado.

A chance to experience the traditional nightlife shouldn’t be missed. Visitors who travel to the town during June and July as the locals prepare for Festa de São João (Festival of St. John), should join in with the traditional music and capoeira dance.

Once you have visited Lençóis, it will be difficult to tear yourself away from the natural beauty and welcoming people!