Lounging luxuriously at the front of our private boat, I tried not to giggle hysterically as we skimmed along the coast, watching the lush Atlantic rainforest whiz by in a blur of verdant green. I had a feeling our Paraty speedboat tour was going to be the highlight of our trip to Brazil.
With the wind in my hair I smiled smugly to myself as we left the cumbersome larger boats chugging far behind in our wake. Paraty soon became a distant memory, and I waved imperiously at the poor souls enduring these crowded tourist schooners. I imagined a touch of envy in their acknowledgement, and with oversized sunglasses perched firmly on my nose, tried to look as though I did this sort of thing every day.
Needless to say, I failed.
Moments later I’d managed to spill sun cream down my front, and almost knocked the sunglasses overboard whilst trying to save the camera from a liberal dousing of solar protection. Hubbie just rolled his eyes and pretended he didn’t know me.
After visiting Rio and Ilha Grande, we’d travelled south along the aptly named Costa Verde to spend a few days in the 17th Century colonial town of Paraty. Charmed by the cobbled streets, whitewashed churches and colourful doorways, we set out on a Paraty speedboat tour to explore the famous coastline of the Serra da Bocaina National Park with the affable Davi Trindade from Palombeta.
It hadn’t been a difficult decision to choose Palombeta Speedboats. We knew we wanted luxury, personality and above all independence, and Palombeta was the only company that promised to meet our demands. Davi hails from Trindade (hence the surname!) just down the coast, and what he doesn’t know about the local area isn’t worth knowing!
Walking along the pier in Paraty, there were dozens of tourist boats all lined up bobbing sleepily in the morning sun. Ranging from uncomfortable looking wooden vessels painted in gaudy pink, to enormous replica pirate schooners bedecked with sun-loungers and bars, they certainly didn’t float our boat. The skippers’ sales pitches fell on deaf ears as we flip-flopped our way along the jetty to where Davi was waiting with his sexy speedboat.
The 20 foot Palombeta II is Davi’s newest and largest boat, complete with plush cream leather seats and most importantly, a dashboard containing a cocktail shaker. I’d already spied the ice box and limes and rather hoped the famous Brazilian caipirinhas would be featuring later in the day.
We weren’t disappointed.
Communication had been a huge headache whilst trying to organise our trip to Brazil. Hotels and tour agencies often didn’t bother to respond to my enquiries, even those with whom we had bookings. It affected our visit greatly, and turned what was supposed to be a relaxing holiday into a rather stressful couple of weeks, with a lack of information, unconfirmed reservations and even nearly missing our flight home. Yet with Davi it was a refreshingly different experience, and I’m being nothing but honest when I say it was our day out with him that totally saved our trip from being a bit of a damp squib.
Whatever a squib is.
Davi responded to my countless emails almost immediately and his infectious enthusiasm meant our Paraty speedboat tour was really the only part of our trip we were truly excited about. He also speaks EXCELLENT English, having learned from Australians whilst working on yacht charters out in Indonesia (he also speaks Malay!). Whilst I’m not arrogant enough to wish everyone spoke my mother tongue, it does make things a helluva lot easier and infinitely more enjoyable when you can communicate with your host.
By departing at 9.30 am Davi made sure we were ahead of the hordes so we could beat all the tour groups to the top spots. Our kinda guy! In fact after we’d left Paraty we pretty much had the entire coast all to ourselves, meaning deserted beaches and secluded snorkelling spots were the order of the day. Much of the coastline south of Paraty is accessible only by boat, so it has retained it’s virginity and been spared the ravages of development. Truly one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting!
First up was Jurumirim beach for sea turtle spotting. A sport that requires much patience, it was fun lounging in the sun, watching the little heads breaking the surface and trying to guess where they’d pop up next. This was one of my favourite bays as the shores were simply dripping with rainforest foliage, a tropical paradise if ever there was such a thing!
A little further on was something unexpected. Monkeys!
Anchoring off Ilha do mantimento Davi leapt gracefully ashore with offerings of banana and we waited with baited breath to see what would appear. Half expecting a dinosaur to come crashing out of the Jurassic looking bushes, I was a tad relieved when a couple of birds and some Sagui Monkeys ventured from the trees. If I was the kind of girl to use the word ‘cute’ then these chaps would certainly make the label. Timid at first, the lure of fruit soon won them over, and it wasn’t long before hubbie had joined Davi in hand feeding our new friends.
Hubbie loves his animals, and I’ve seriously never seen him so in his element. He didn’t even smile that much at our wedding!
Being a bit of a girl when it comes to animals, whilst hubbie was monkeying around I enjoyed watching some inquisitive sergeant fish from the comfort of the boat. They were joined by a shoal of hungry trumpet fish, fitting bed fellows if ever there were any.
Itching to plunge into the sparkling turquoise waters ourselves, our next anchorage was Praia da Lula, a more perfect swathe of deserted beach you couldn’t hope to find!
After a swim in the warm water we left our footprints in the untouched golden sand and for a few moments felt like the only people on earth!
At Ilha Comprida it was time for a spot of snorkelling, and all 3 of us dived in to search for marine life. Well, Davi and hubbie did, I jumped with a little less grace, proceeded to swallow a whole load of water and hoped neither of them noticed my spluttering as I tried to compose myself. Definitely not a natural water baby! Interestingly the sea tastes far less salty than what we’re used to back in Europe.
The reefs weren’t vibrant like the ones we’ve seen all over South East Asia, but the fish were colourful and there was lots of mildly disturbing looking ‘brain’ coral. Having far more efficient lungs than us, Davi dived down and found us a red sea star, making sure to keep it underwater before replacing it gently again afterwards.
We’ve just treated ourselves to our first GoPro so went a bit overboard with the photos.
Further south along the coast we stopped at the famous Saco da Velha, a place so esteemed that it once made the cover of the Lonely Planet Brazil guidebook. The small fishing community on these shores is so remote that the inhabitants rely on the water for everything. There is even a school boat and a refuse collection boat, both of which we saw motoring along the estuary. This solitary way of life is rather appealing, but you’d be screwed if you’d forgotten to pick up that pint of milk at the shops!
Following Davi through the forest, we scrambled barefoot up the hill behind one of the houses to a superb viewpoint. Inwardly I was muttering to myself about stepping on creepy crawlies and cutting my tender European soles on jungle nasties. Yet surprisingly I really enjoyed padding softly through the mud and leaf litter, and somehow feeling a bit closer to nature than if I’d had shoes on. It was quite slippery on the steep bits but ever the gentleman, Davi helped me up. Meanwhile hubbie was being a proper man and balancing multiple cameras and shooting a film whilst negotiating the path at the same time.
To wash off the mud (why was I the only one covered in it?) we waded along the shoreline to a half submerged cave. After a short rocky scramble we entered an ethereal grotto, the entrance disguised behind trailing rainforest fronds. I tried not to notice the hundreds of underworld cave bugs (no, that’s not their technical name!) scurrying silently over the walls. Definitely a bit of a local secret, we’d have never found this place by ourselves!
We stopped for a swim at the Praia do Engenho but most impressive was the colossal almond tree casting some welcome shade over much of the beach. Great spot for a picnic!
Next up was a movie set! The filming location of Edward and Bella’s honeymoon in the Twilight Saga to be precise. Maybe I should watch it someday. The house, Casa em Paraty, is beautifully positioned on the Praia do Costa and can be rented out to normal humans too. The perfect place to get away from it all and enjoy the stunning Mamangua Bay which is like one huge tropical fjord.
Apparently it rained every day during filming. I couldn’t help but feel a little smug satisfaction at the sunny blue skies above us. And thanks to Davi for reminding us to keep topping up the sun cream. It’s easy to forget when you’re out on the water.
Rather fittingly Davi had a couple of cold caipirinhas waiting for us as we climbed back on board. Secretly worrying about drinking too much alcohol in the intense heat (yeah I’m a lightweight), I was delighted to find he’d used just the right amount of cachaça (rum). Delicious. Everywhere else we’d tried the famous Brazilian tipple we’d been overpowered by the vast quantities of cachaça used, and thus struggled to understand why it was so popular.
Mamangua was possibly the highlight of our Paraty speedboat tour, being so remote and tranquil it was a world away from the vibrancy of the town, let along the frenzy of Rio. I could quite happily exist here, and hubbie thinks Davi has the best job in the world, so maybe one day we’ll up sticks and come out here! That’s of course as well as running a Moroccan riad, a Scottish castle and South African game reserve.
Lunch was a delightfully rustic affair at the waterfront home of fisherman Dadico, a friendly chap who Davi knows well. We inspected the day’s catch and chose our fish which was subsequently grilled and served simply but deliciously, with lime and garlic rice.
I absolutely loved that he had a little bar set up on the pontoon, full of his own hand carved boats and better stocked with drink than most bars in town!
The view wasn’t bad either!
We stopped for a final snorkel at Ilha do Mantimento on the way back, but by this stage we were quite exhausted. It’s tiring work lounging in the sun, sipping cocktails and floating amongst fish!
Hubbie played with bubbles…
So it was all aboard for the finale of our Paraty speedboat tour, and possibly the most fun bit yet…Davi let us both have a go at being skipper! Hubbie of course was a natural, and I tried my best although I didn’t like to mention I couldn’t actually see any of the reference points I was supposed to be heading to without my contact lenses. I may be a qualified RYA Day Skipper and have crewed a tall ship in a previous life, but hubbie still had to stand nearby whispering ‘left a bit…no, right a bit’.
Luckily there wasn’t much to crash into and we reached Paraty without incident.
Davi was so relaxed he put his feet up for a while!
You know I don’t wax lyrical unless I mean it, but I can’t sing the praises of Davi enough. Our Paraty speedboat tour with Palombeta was seriously one of the BEST experiences we’ve ever had on our travels. Definitely up there with learning to plough with water buffalo in Laos, and tracking rhino in Swaziland. Davi had the perfect mix of professional with personal, and we couldn’t have asked for a better captain. Hubbie and I had big grins on our faces ALL day, and agreed that it was worth coming all this way just for today alone.
Boat capacity: although the Palombeta II is licensed for 8 passengers, in reality Davi never takes more than 2 couples, or at most a family with young children, to ensure everyone is comfortable. It’s quality over quantity.
Timings: we departed at a respectable 9.30am to avoid the tour boats which tend to set out after 10am. Still plenty of time to enjoy that huge breakfast at your pousada! The tour lasts for 5-6 hours.
Meet and greet: Davi (or his sister Francisca who is also a skipper!) will meet guests at their hotel reception or the marina, or even out of town if necessary.
Itinerary: each Paraty speedboat tour is bespoke, and the day will be tailored to your interests, and the weather.
Cost: the tour costs R$ 1.100,00 for up to 4 people on Palombeta II (or R$ 850,00 on the smaller Palombeta I). Expect to pay a little more for more than 4 to cover the increased fuel consumption cost. Cash or credit cards are accepted.
Gear: There are snorkels and masks on board, but no fins. We took our own fins, but in the event didn’t feel the need to use them.
Extras: chilled water and fruit are provided.
Lunch: Davi or Francisca will choose the lunch spot in accordance with your dietary requirements (don’t worry if you aren’t a seafood fan, there are other options). This isn’t included in the tour price so bring some money with you for this.
Thanks SO MUCH to Captain Davi for the most perfect day out on the water. Our tour was complimentary (we contributed towards the fuel) but as always words and opinions remain entirely honest, and all my own.
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