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Whale Coast Travel Guide

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The long stretch of coast from Caraiva to Mucuri - including the Abrolhos archipelago - is known as the Costa das Baleias (Whale Coast).

CUMURUXATIBA AND PONTA DO CORUMBAU



The name refers to the humpback whales that swim these waters in the Brazilian winter and spring.

Cumuruxatiba, the best place to enjoy the region 's beauty, is a simple fishing village set in a dramatic landscape of colorful cliffs, diverse vegetation, long beaches, and rocky islands that are perfect for reef diving.

The village is accessible by boat or dirt road, whether coming from Porto Seguro in the north (along the BR-101 highway) or from Prado or Caravelas in the south.

Originally inhabited by the indigenous Pataxós Indians, Cumuru - as the peaceful village is affectionately called - is now an ideal refuge for anyone seeking seclusion without forgoing comfort.

Many of the welcoming hotels and guesthouses in Cumuru offer tours and water-sports equipment for guests, and the whole area is ideal for walking, horseback riding, cycling, sailing, and buggy-riding.

You can watch the humpback whales from July to November, their breeding season. At low tide, especially during the full moon and new moon, the sea recedes considerably, creating striking patterns on the sand. On the beach near the center of the village, a pier projecting into the sea evokes the sand mining that it was constructed for in the 1960s.

Map of Whale Coast

PONTA DO CORUMBAU

To the north of Cumuru, near the Pataxós and Itacolomi reefs, is one of the most beautiful and isolated beaches in the region.

Ponta do Corumbau is a small, one-kilometer peninsula, surrounded by mangrove swamps and bisected by a river. You can reach it by motorboat or boat, or in a 4X4 (take BR-489 highway, followed by a dirt road trek to Vila Corumbau).

The beach's sole barraca, Sol e Vida, is owned by the fisherman Ariovaldo, who offers boat rides and seafood meals. Other options for food are the high-quality resort restaurants or meals served by locals in their homes.

BARRA DO CAÍ BEACH

This deserted beach, crossed by the Cat River, offers a privileged view of Monte Pascoal. That mountain is a landmark for fishermen. A cross marks the spot on the beach where the native Indians first encountered Cabral's Portuguese expedition, come ashore to take on fresh water.

The beach offers a few barracas, as well as Restaurante da Gloria, open only in the high season. Apart from these, the only attractions on land are a townhouse and a small chapel.

BOAT TRIPS

Boat trips from Cumuru usually involve either diving or whalewatching. The top diving spot is Ponta do Corumbau, as the Carapeba reefs there are ideal for snorkeling. Biologist-led whale watching tours (which run only from July to November, during the mating season) usually last two hours.

Passengers also get to hear the humpback whales "singing" to each other through a device called a hydrophone.

Other options include speedboat rides to the towns of Corumbau and Caraíva, and to the beaches of Curuípe and Praia do Espelho.

Those who prefer not to use organized tour operators can hire the popular guide Mestre Antonio Carlos (who pioneered the local boat-tour business) and choose a personalized route with his guidance. Contact: Aquamar in Cumuruxatiba.

TREKKING AND HORSEBACK RIDING

One of the most interesting treks in the region is the long walk from Cumuru to Porto Seguro. There are also easier, shorter treks that can run as far as Caraiva (around 42 kilometers), returning by boat or car.

Those up for an eight-day trek can try the fascinating but demanding walk from Prado north to Porto Seguro, which passes farms, beaches, stunning cliffs, palm trees, and mangroves.

Horseback-riding trips include either a ride through the woods or one by the cliffs and along the shore. The rides range from 4 to 9 kilometers in length.

CARAVELAS AND ALCOBAÇA

Caravelas is the main ga teway to the Abrolhos archipelago. It offers much better tour agencies and hotels than the poorly-developed Alcobaҫa, which is the other main gateway to the region.

The beaches in both towns - as well as in neigh boring Mucuri and Nova Viҫosa - are not the most attractive in the region; rivers darken their waters. The main attraction in Caravelas is its historical center (dating from its founding in 1503), which is easily explored on foot.

Some of the colonial houses along Rua Barão do Rio Branco and Rua Sete de Setembro still have their original Portuguese-tiled facades. Unfortunately, the baroque Igreja Matriz de Santo Antonio, built in the 18th century, has lost its original features and preserves only a few statues from the period.

Also worth a visit is the port in the neigh boring town of Ponta da Areia. This important late 19th and early 20th century center for coffee exportation declined in power with the closing of the coffee-ferrying Bahia- Minas Railroad in 1961. Despite being in Bahia – where Carnaval usually means trios elétricos and axé music - Caravelas maintains a tradition of samba school parades during Carnival, as is more popular in the Southeast. The artist Frans Krajcberg has lived in Nova Viҫosa since 1982, and he uses material he collects in the mangroves and woods in his creations.

IBAMA VISITORS' CENTER

A model of a 17 meter (56 feet) humpback whale is the main attraction in the Centro de Visitantes do Ibama.

Ibama is the acronym for the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, and the center ofters photographic exhibitions and houses an environment-focused library, as well as holding folkloric performances and workshops. There are attentive guides to answer visitors' uestions about the group and their work. Contact: Praia do Quitongo, Caravelas.

HUMPBACK WHALE INSTITUTE

The Instituto Baleia Jubarte is a NGO created in 1996 to promote environmental education and to protect the Abrolhos National Marine Reserve.

Biologists from the institute, who accompany every boat that enters the reserve, give visitors lectures. The group aims to educate the community on the environment and monitor the whale population. The institute also holds exhibitions and sells whale themed videos and souvenirs. Contact: Rua Barão do Rio Branco, 26.

ABROLHOS


The Parque Nacional Marinho dos Abrolhos (Abrolhos National Marine Reserve) is 70 kilometers (44 miles) from Caravelas, and the trip between the two places takes 2 hours by motorboat, 3 hours by catamaran, or 7 hours by sailboat.

Map of Abrolhos National Marine Reserve

The park encompasses the ArquipeIago dos Abrolhos, formed by five islands - Redonda, Guarita, Sueste, Siriba, and Santa Barbara. The largest of the islands, Santa Barbara has clear waters that allow diving and snorkeling in water that averages 24°C (75°F).

Underwater visibility can reach up to 20 meters (68 feet) from May to September.

Charles Darwin and Jacques Cousteau visited Abrolhos and its menagerie of terrestrial and marine animals, including coral reefs and atobá birds (boobies).

Humpback whales, the park's greatest attraction, are in the area from July to November. The probability of seeing a whale during this time is high enough that tour groups offer partial refunds for visitors who don't spot any.

Tours last 1 or 2 days and include a visit to Siriba, the only island where docking is permitted. Reservations for high season must be made well in advance, as the government agency Ibama limits the number of visitors per day.

Depending on weather conditions, which are often poor during July and August, the Navy may not give permission for boats to leave the coast. September and October are optimal times to visit, with good weather and excellent whale watching. During low season boat trips require a minimum of ten passengers.

THE HUMPBACK WHALE'S MIGRATION ROUTE

Humpback whales can extend up to 16 meters (52 feet) in length and weigh up to 40 tons. They migrate from the tip of North America (their main feeding grounds) to the clear warm waters off the south of Bahia to mate and calve.

Humpbacks can be spotted at little as an hour's boat ride from the Bahia coast, where males and females meet over a symphony of mating calls. Biologists from the Humpback Whale Institute have been recording tills music through hydro phones for the past half-decade, and they have noticed changes in these "cries" with each mating season.

Whale Coast travel Guide and tourism information such as accommodation, festivals, transport, maps, activities and attractions in Bahia - Brazil Travel Guide

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