Morro de São Paulo - Tinharé Island
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::Tinharé Island -
Morro de São Paulo ::
Morro de São Paulo is located on the Island of Tinharé, with 400 km² the largest of 36 mostly tiny and uninhabited islands that form the Tinharé-Boipeba Archipelago, facing a piece of Bahian coastline known as the "Costa do Dendê". Two other large islands exist in the archipelago, Boipeba Island and Cairu Island, the latter enjoying a connection to the mainland by a bridge.
Officially, the archipelago has six "villages" (Morro de São Paulo, Canavieiras, Torrinhas, Tapuias and Garapuá), three "towns" (Galeão, Gamboa and Velha Boipeba) and one "city", Cairu, the adminstrative capital. The official status of all these places, however, says very little about their size, infrastructure and importance.
Tinharé Island is known to Europeans since 1531, when Martim Afonso of Souza caught sight of it and named it "Tynharéa". By the early 17th century, the island featured two chapels: One dedicated to Nossa Senhora da Luz at Morro de São Paulo and another to St. Francisco Xavier at Galeão, at its Northeastern and Northwestern points, respectively, guarding the Bay of Tinharé. In the 1630s, a fortress was built in Morro de São Paulo, as part of a defense line to protect the City of Salvador against the Dutch. Until today the island preserves patches of Atlantic Rainforest as well as impressive mangrove swamps, in particular along its continental side.
The village of Morro de São Paulo and its environs constitute the principal touristic region of the archipelago. Internationally known since the 1990s, Morro de São Paulo has two air fields for small planes (air taxis), a beautiful natural harbor and offers countless lodges and hotels of all levels, restaurants, bars, beach huts, shops and cyber cafés, among other facilities.
The picturesque scenery of Morro de São Paulo impresses directly upon arrival: The caribbean blue of its waters, the green of its forested hills, the walls of the historic colonial fort (678 meters) right by the ocean, all towered by the 19th century lighthouse, compose one of the most singular and famous Brazilian landscapes.
In Morro de São Paulo, visitors become acquainted with a unique reality: There are hardly any motor vehicles on the entire island. Their number is limited by law, and the few ones that exist are allowed on secondary roads only. So, forget traffic jams and exhaust pipes, as they simply do not exist. You can spend days without ever even getting to see a car. This rare circumstance is one of the secrets behind the particular magic of Morro de São Paulo.
Quite naturally then, the best option — and not rarely the only one — to explore the beaches and the historic buildings of the area is by foot. All roads in Morro de São Paulo are of sand, which contributes to its strong beachfront feel. There's no need to worry about distances, because most locations can be reached in a few minutes. And within this "pedestrian paradise", you find quality hotels and restaurants and an animated and nationally renowned night life. Unlike so many other locations in Brazil, Morro de São Paulo has managed to integrate a satisfying touristic infrastructure without giving up its unique personality.
Get to know more details about: Environment - The Village - The Beaches - Walks, Hikes and Tours - Sports - Restaurants, Bars and Night Life.
Morro de São Paulo is abound with colonial history. Many of its historic structures still await restoration, which makes it possible, for the time being, to appreciate them in their "natural state". The earliest beginnings of the village go back as far as the 1530s, when it was destined to become the capital of the province of Ilhéus (a project that was aborted after a year), which makes Morro de São Paulo one of the eldest Portuguese settlements in Bahia and in Brazil.
In 1624, the crystal waters of the Bay of Tinharé harbored the armada of Dutchman Johan Van Dorth, on his way to capture the City of Salvador — the capital of Brazil at the time — which proved the strategic importance of Morro de São Paulo. A year later, Bondewijh Hendricszoon stopped here with a small fleet, but soon headed North upon hearing that Salvador had been retaken by the Portuguese. As a measure against such unwanted visits, in 1630 the Portuguese erected an ambitious fortification which, in its heydays, boasted a system of walls of almost a thousand meters in length, a tribulation of 183 soldiers and 51 pieces of artillery.
The "Forte do Morro de São Paulo", the most extensive colonial defensive system of Bahia and probably also of Brazil, is of relevant architectural interest. Some parts of the complex are poorly preserved, such as the remains of the commanders residence and the original chapel of Nossa Senhora da Luz from the early 17th century, both near the lighthouse, and some of the former bastions along the hillside. The central body of the fortress at the tip of the island, its walls along the entrance of the bay and the Forte do Zimberior, however, are impressive testimonies of Portuguese colonial building techniques that withstood the tides for centuries.
The current structure of the village evolved around the fortress. The "Fonte Grande", a large well on the interior side of the village was built in 1746 in typical colonial style — a circular format and covered by a small dome — to secure the water supply to the soldiers and the villagers. Today, it enjoys the protection of the National Institute for Historical and Artistic Heritage (IPHAN).
In 1859, when Dom Pedro II — King and "Emperor" of an already independent Brazil — visited Morro de São Paulo, the village counted with about 300 resident families. The lighthouse was built between 1850 and 1855, and still serves to mark the entrance to the Bay of Tinharé. Until today, Morro de Sao Paulo struggles to restore its historic heritage, so it can be appreciated by visitors and the local population.
: : Island of Tinharé -
Gamboa do Morro : :
The village of Gamboa, a fishing village near Morro de São Paulo, is located in the Northern part of the island, with a beautiful sunset view of the Bay of Tinharé. The village beaches are calm, and some are visited by sea turtles on a regular basis. It's protected localization makes Gamboa ideal for all kinds of water sports. The Morro de São Paulo sailing club and the Rosa dos Ventos Restaurant, both owned by Hotel Pousada Natureza, are located here.
: : Island of Tinharé -
Garapuá : :
Located by a perfectly shaped half moon bay on the Eastern side of Tinharé Island, facing the ocean, Garapuá is a small fishing village surrounded by vast coconut groves and extensive mangrove forests. Garapuá is visited by day tours from Morro de São Paulo. Some basic infrastructure and a few barracas-de-praia (beach huts) exist. During low tide, natural pools from between coral reefs and sandbanks emerge that allow long walks. If you stay overnight, you can join the local fisherman on their nightly lobster fishing trips. Other attractions are the shallow Garapuá Lake, roughly 3 kms long, the Chapel of St. Francisco de Assis and, to the South, a string of practically deserted beaches — Quadro, Pratigi e Pontal a.k.a. Ponta da Barra — all the way down to the Rio do Inferno and Boipeba Island.
: : Ilha de Cairu - Cairu : :
The native Indian name of Cairu Island was "Aracajuru" ("House of the Sun"). Cairu, the city, was founded in the mid 16th century and gained the status of a town in 1610. Following the classic pattern of Portuguese Colonial urbanism, Cairu is partly buit upon an elevation and divided between a high part and low part (called "Cidade Alta" and "Cidade Baixa", respectively).
During the 17th century, with the continent still considered unsafe due to Indian revolts, Cairu was considered the best and safest location in the region, and its importancy began to diminish only after the submission of the last rebellious tribes in the late 18th century. Cairu gained the status of a city in 1938 and is the municipal capital of the Tinharé-Boipeba Archipelago. Since about are 30 years, Cairu is connected to the continent by a bridge.
Contrary to what its political status may suggest, Cairu is not very large, and its atmosphere is rather that of a small interior town. The Cidade Alta of Cairu boasts historic buildings of great value, such as Nossa Senhora do Rosario Church (~1610) and the famous Santo Antônio Monastery (17th century), and the residence of São Francisco Xavier and Santo Inácio, both built by the Franciscans (17th century).
The construction of the monastery began in 1654, under the Capuchins, and a precious set of Portuguese tile mosaics from the 17th and 18th centuries exists until today. The monastery, guarded by a stone cross and flanked Santo Antônio church and the ruins of Ordem Terceira de Santo Antônio chapel overlook the river that separate the islands of Tinharé and Boipeba, and the lookouts on the upper floor offer a beautiful view of the archipelago.
By the early 18th century, timber extraction had begun to rival the region's tradtional cassava flour production. Since its earliest days, Cairu had been an important supplier of cassava for the capital. With the addition of timber, the Cairu was wealthy enough to send financial aid to assist with the reconstruction of Lisbon after the great earthquake in 1756, over a period of 30 years.
By 1780, timber production had become so lucrative and intense that the government appointed dedicated supervisors ("Juiz das Matas", or Forest Judge) to control production and cut down abuse. These measures, motivated by the extraordinary quality of some of local timber species, especially for naval construction, count as the earliest attempts to introduce environmental protection laws in Brazil. Baltasar da Silva Lisboa, a biologist and lawyer who acted as the "forest judge" of the region for about 20 years, authored writings on the local flora that remain important reference works until today.
Tourists visiting Cairu usually stay in Morro de São Paulo and come on day tours that focus on history. As far as the beaches go, Cairu Island looses out against its neighbours Tinharé and Boipeba. Today, the production of piaçava (palm fibre) constitutes the main economic segment of Cairu, besides cloves (cravo-da-india), black pepper (pimenta-do-reino), guarana, plus fishing and some shipbuilding.
: : Island of Boipeba -
Boipeba : :
The term "Boipeba" originates from the native Tupi language (boi-peba, literally means "ugly snake", possibly referring to "sea turtle"). Located to the South of Tinharé Island, Boipeba Island sports miles and miles of beautiful beaches and four villages — "Velha Boipeba", "Moreré" and "São Sebastião" a.k.a. "Cova da Onça" (Leopard Cave). Boats to Boipeba depart from Valença and Torrinhas on the mainland as well as from Morro de São Paulo. The economical base of the population is the fishing, and by now also tourism.
Velha Boipeba (Old Boipeba), by the banks of the Rio do Inferno, is the islands main village. Built around the Matriz do Divino Espírito Santo church from the early 17th century, it offers a number of hotels, pousadas, bars, and restaurants. The village beach faces the Rio do Inferno and has calm waters. Several barracas-de-praia (beach huts) make it the busiest beaches of the island.
Boipeba is famous for its fine beaches. There's one for every taste here. Like in Morro de São Paulo, Boipeba sports a Primeira Praia ("1 st Beach"), located on the ocean side of the village and protected by reefs. Tassimirim, the next beach down the line, is seamed by forest and coconut groves and features lodging options in its proximities. At low tide, natural swimming pools form between the rocks.
Cueira Beach is a tropical dream. It is practically deserted, it has a wide belt of white sand and gentle waves, protected by the distant reefs. Excellent for bathing at low and high tides, it is the ideal place to spend a day playing Robinson, sunbathing or reading a good book.
Moreré Beach, a small inlet embedded into a vast palm grove and dense vegetation, has calm waters and corals reefs located about 500 m. from the of the beach, where natural pools form at low tide. Moreré is ideal for diving and snorchling. Sandbanks allow for long walks during low tides. The "twin" coconut palms of Moreré are an attraction of their own. There are some small local restaurants and pousadas in Moreré. Following Mororé Beach, still part of the same inlet, lies Bainema Beach. Sport fishing is practiced here. Rays, carapebas, sheat-fishes, horsecloths, mackerels, whitings, pambos and mullets are caught here, among others.
The Southern beaches of Boipeba Island are Ponta dos Castelhanos and São Sebastião, a.k.a. Cova da Onça. The beach of Ponta dos Castelhanos (Point of the Spaniards) is located around a small cape, is entirely deserted and seamed by impressive coconut groves. The coral reefs around the cape are tricky a number of the shipwrecks — the eldest being the 16th century Spanish galleon "Madre de Diós" — attracts divers.
São Sebastião, a.k.a. Cova da Onça Beach is located near the estuary of the Rio dos Patos, which separates Boipeba Island from the mainland. During low tide, it is possible to take a beautiful walk up to Ponta dos Castelhanos.