I’ve never been shipwrecked before. To be honest it wasn’t top of my to do list for our stay at Asalem Seaside Hideaway on Ilha Grande either. Yet as the afternoon wore on and the waves grew taller, an unplanned submersion seemed inevitable.
Hubbie and I had been dubiously eyeing up the sit on top kayak bobbing alongside the pontoon at Asalem. Being avid paddlers, we’re unashamed snobs when it comes to canoeing. A flimsy craft suitable for first-timers at the seaside certainly isn’t in our boat inventory back home. However, in the absence of anything better, we gingerly set out to explore Ilha Grande perched on top of a bit of wobbly plastic.
We’d managed to paddle quite a distance around the headland and coves of the island, admiring the tropical birds and lush rainforest seducing the shorelines.
Hubbie had decided I would sit at the front. Ostensibly because his superior steering prowess was needed at the stern, but I’m sure it was more to do with the bow taking the full force of the waves. So I’d be the first to get drenched.
Chivalry is dead.
The storm came out of nowhere. Which is of course a load of rubbish, why do people say that? It came, in fact, from above. Rain was soon lashing down on our backs and zinging all around us on the water. Is zinging even a word? We headed back towards the distant shore, with the flimsy vessel taking on water at an alarming rate. Clearly there was a bung missing somewhere. If there had been hatches, we’d have battened them down! It was hard work paddling against the wind, especially as the boat was now tilting precariously to the left.
I had a bit of a sinking feeling.
I think behind me hubbie was enjoying the challenge, whilst I sat hunched against the weather, muttering to myself about the ridiculous things we do for fun. It was at this point that hubbie ordered me to put some effort into my strokes, and a heated discussion ensued. We have our best arguments in boats!
Unreasonably, despite being drenched, I didn’t want to go overboard. The water was warm, we were dressed for snorkelling, and there weren’t any sharks (that we knew of). Yet the human mentality is programmed to want to stay afloat. As they say, a drowning man will clutch at a straw.
After much sweating, swearing and aching we eventually made it back to the pontoon at Asalem. Where I promptly jumped ship and went swimming in the rain. Logic has never been one of my strengths.
Asalem Seaside Hideaway
I know Brits love talking about the weather. It’s one of our favourite pastimes and you’ll only understand why if you’ve ever lived in the UK. Every day is different, the forecasts are often wrong and it’s a nightmare trying to plan outdoor stuff. Rain is one of our regulars though, and in fact we had gone to Brazil to escape the MONTHS of wet weather we’ve had back home.
What a mistake!
We spent 5 days on Ilha Grande, and aside from the afternoon we arrived, it rained the ENTIRE time. Now I know these things happen, and we can’t blame anyone for the deluge, but it wasn’t supposed to be the wet season. So I feel entitled to a moan.
We stayed at Asalem Seaside Hideaway, a short boat ride from Abraão, the main town on the island. Asalem enjoys a coveted spot, hidden in the jungle right on the shore. Palm trees and beaches all around.
Continuing the theme of unconvincing boats, we were a little alarmed to be picked up in Abraão by Asalem’s old and rusty looking boat. Other visitors were jetting off in shiny speedboats or quaint wooden boats. Yet ours looked like it was held together by peeling paint, and a good dose of luck. There weren’t any seats so we perched on the deck with our legs dangling into the cockpit. Luckily it wasn’t raining at that point, otherwise we’d have been completely soaked.
Arriving a few minutes later at Asalem we stopped worrying and remembered why we’d chosen to stay here in the first place. The individual rooms were poking their heads out of the forest to greet us, and a short climb up to the restaurant area revealed superb views across the bay. We could cope with spending a few days here.
Hubbie rolled eyes when I told him we’d be staying in 3 different rooms over our 4 night stay. Sure we often stay in multiple hotels in the same town to widen our experience and spread our luck. But this was ridiculous. Then I explained it was the only availability they had (the downside of a spontaneous trip!), and he forgave me. I think.
Our first two nights were in the Honeymoon Suite. It was nearer the water than the others, and a little more private being tucked away in the trees. Inside, the suite felt quite sterile and low maintenance (easy to clean up all the sand trailed in by guests no doubt!). Practicality had clearly won over style, yet it was comfortable and we loved that they’d thought of things like having a drying rack on the balcony for our bathing stuff. There’s a bit of an eco feel, which perhaps explains why the bathroom wall was just concrete and not even painted. Which is fine. Just a little disappointing given it was the ‘honeymoon’ suite.
We loved the balcony and spent the first afternoon swinging in the hammock. Or at least I did. Hubbie had to make do with the chair. Unfortunately once it rained the hammock became soaked, and didn’t dry out again whilst we were there.
For the last 2 nights we moved to the Eco Suite. We had been booked into the chalet (which didn’t look that great) for the last night but the Eco Suite had a cancellation so the staff were very kind and gave us a free upgrade. Inside it was almost identical to the Honeymoon Suite, but the balcony had comfy chairs rather than hammocks.
The views were better too as it was higher up, but it was less private since there was another suite above us, and also the standard rooms across to the right. On balance I think we preferred the Eco Suite, just for the views.
For the first couple of days the food was terrific. Fresh calamari platters, banana fish stew (with whole bananas, an Ilha Grande speciality!) and aubergine lasagne. All washed down with the obligatory caipirinhas, which were 2 for 1 during happy hour. Breakfasts weren’t bad either, with a good range of breads, meats, cheeses and fruits. It all tasted even better sitting in the open air restaurant, which has been constructed with the view in mind!
The constant rain meant that boats couldn’t go out, and fish was soon off the menu. Not something you expect on an island! This meant we had the lasagne 3 days in a row, because there was little else. It was very good lasagne though.
The menu also doesn’t change, so if you’re staying for a few days be prepared for repetition. We could have gone into Abraão for dinner, but the thought of getting soaked on the boat trip back to town before we’d even sat down for a meal wasn’t appealing.
Service was pretty slow, as it is all over Brazil. Whilst we weren’t there to rush our evening, we were a little bemused at having to once wait an hour and a half before our appetisers arrived!
Tip: arrive early in the restaurant for happy hour caipirinhas, and also to grab some good seats. If all guests are eating on site, there aren’t enough chairs and you’ll have to wait if you’re not quick enough!
What we loved
If the weather had been better, this is the sort of place we wouldn’t want to leave! The location is perfect for a bit of tropical paradise relaxation, and the views are stunning. There’s also no better way to spend an evening than sitting looking out over the bay as dusk approaches, with the lights of boats and villages twinkling merrily in the darkness.
It was wonderful being so close to nature.
We loved jumping off the pontoon every morning for a snorkel with our waterproof camera, and although visibility wasn’t great thanks to the rain and the silt, we managed to spot lots of brightly coloured fish, colossal crabs, brain coral and more importantly, a sea turtle!
Hubbie even made a video of it all…
Most of the staff were friendly, and I have to mention in particular Natalia who was the chirpiest and most helpful person we met on our entire trip!
What wasn’t so great
The heavy rain and storms had us marooned at Asalem for almost the whole trip. Of course not the fault of Asalem, but it’s all part of the reality. Boat trips were cancelled, and there was no point in doing the jungle trails we’d planned because the mud had made them impassable. The first day it wasn’t so bad. We spent some quality time with our kindles, caught up on journal writing and even on occasion observed the lost art of conversation.
Yet 4 days of it was just too much. We felt trapped, and wished we’d stayed somewhere a little less salubrious in Abraão. At least then we could’ve walked around town, met other travellers and eaten at different restaurants.
We were also a little bemused by the service at times. As we experienced throughout our trip to Brazil (which I’ve ranted about in another post), communication left a lot to be desired. The staff just didn’t seem to talk to each other. No-one knew anything about our onward transfer to Paraty, which had been pre-booked and paid for through Asalem before we left the UK. There was also confusion over a boat trip we’d arranged. If we hadn’t checked the evening before (we were a bit suspicious) we wouldn’t have been going out at all that day! Then the staff told us that the boat wouldn’t be providing snorkelling equipment. On a snorkel tour! We had our own gear anyway, but it seemed a bit odd. Yet when the boat arrived we found that of course they had snorkels and masks. Again, a bit of a problem with communication.
This casual attitude does seem to be a typical problem in Brazil, and not unique to Asalem! No doubt all part of the culture but not really helpful when you want to make travel and tour arrangements.
Would we stay here again? Absolutely. We’d just go at the height of the dry season, and go prepared to double check all our arrangements.