GUIDE TO BRAZIL
Mountains, coast and sea all provide some great opportunities for fresh-air adventure.
Websites 360 Gratis ( www.360graus.com ) and Guia Verde ( www.guiaverde.com ) cover a host of activities: canyoning, paragliding, kitesurfing or wakeboarding to rafting, surfing, trekking, diving or mountain climbing. They're in Portuguese, but need little translation.
Climbing in Brazil is best from April to October. The best thing about rock climbing in Brazil is that in one hour you can be on the beach, and the next on a world-class climb, 300m above a city. Brazil has lots of fantastic climbs, ranging from beginner level to routes yet to be conquered. Within 40 minutes of central Rio de Janeiro, the hub of Brazilian climbing, are some 350 documented climbs. The national parks of Serra dos Orgaos and Itatiaia and Caparao have some particularly good climbs.
Hang Gliding & Paragliding
It's easy - and fantastic - to hang glide duplo (double) in Rio. Paragliding (parapente) can be set up, too. Another place you can double hang glide is Rio da Barra, near 'francoso, Bahia.
Hiking in Brazil is highly popular. It's best done during the cooler months of April to October. During the summer, the tropical sun heats the rock to oven temperatures and turns the jungles into steamy saunas.
There are lots of great places to hike in Brazil, both in the national and state parks and along the coastline, and especially in the Southeast and South. Plenty of good hikes are mentioned in the regional chapters. Outstanding areas include the national parks of Chapada Diamantina, Serra dos Orgaos and Itatiaia, Chapada dos Veadeiros and Caparao, as well as the Parque Estadual Marumbi, the Serra de Sao Jose, near Tiradentes, and the Canela area.
Contact some of the local hiking and rock-climbing clubs, which have details of trekking options.
In Minas Gerais you can ride stretches of the old gold road, the Estrada Real, or take a five-day horse trek from the state capital, Belo Horizonte, to its most famous historic town, Ouro Preto. The Pantanal is another attractive riding area.
Surfing is very popular, and several Brazilian professionals are usually to be found in the top 20 of the world rankings.
There's surf virtually all along the coast, with particularly good waves in the South. The best surf beaches are in Santa Catarina state and the Brazilian championships are held at Praia Joaquina, on Ilha de Santa Catarina. Sao Francisco do Sul, Ilha do Mel, Ubatuba, Ilhabela, Maresias and the Boi~ucanga area all serve up good waves.
The best surf is in Rio state, Saquarema. Buzios and Itacoatiara beach in Niteroi are also popular breaks. There's plenty of surf close to the city of Rio and there are places to rent boards and take classes. Prainha is the best surfing beach near the city. The waves are best in the Brazilian winter (from June to August).
On other surf beaches surfing is still a way of life - even in Espirito Santo state with its breaks of only lm to 3m - boogie boarding is popular too. Renting boogie boards and surfboards is easy to do right on the beach wherever you go.
Further north, Itacare and Sitio and Porto de Galinhas and Fernando de Noronha are among the better spots.
A curious event is the national pororoca (tidal bore) surf championship held at Sao Domingos do Capim at the time of the full moon nearest the March equinox. The waves here are formed by the tidal bore on a tributary of the Rio Amazonas, a long way from the ocean. Waves can reach a few meters in height.
Windsurfing has caught on in Brazil. In Rio you can rent equipment at Barra da Tijuca, but there are better conditions, and again equipment to rent, at Buzios in eastern Rio state. In Sao Paulo state there's good windsurfing at Ilhabela and around Boicucanga. But Brazil's hardcore windsurfing mecca is much further north, along the Ceara coast, northwest of Fortaleza, where constant, regular, strong trade winds blow from July to December. Jericoacoara is one of the best spots in the country for windsurfing. Near Fortaleza, the beaches of Praia do Futuro and Praia de Iracema are also popular spots.
Other Water Sports
Sailing is big at Buzios in Rio state and the larger resorts along the coast.
Mergulho (diving) doesn't match the Caribbean, but is worthwhile if you're keen. You can arrange diving excursions or rent equipment in Rio. Good dive spots are Arraial do Cabo; the Reserva Biologica do Avoredo, near Porto Belo in Santa Catarina state; Boipeba; Ponta do Seixas, near Joao Pessoa in Paraiba ; and Fernando de Noronha, perhaps the country's finest diving spot.
Fishing in the interior of Brazil is fantastic. The Rio Araguaia in Goias and Tocantins is known as a fishing paradise with a large variety of fish, including the pintado, dourado and tucunare (peacock bass). The legendary fighting qualities of the tucunare attract sport fishers from far and wide to the Araguaia and other Amazonian rivers. Fishing for piranha is not undertaken by serious anglers, though it's good fun. Fishing is brilliant in the Pantanal too, and is allowed from February to October.
You can also ride an inner tube down the Rio Nhundiaquara.