By Stephanie Foden, Contributing Reporter
SALVADOR, BRAZIL – Nine states make up what is considered the “Northeast” of Brazil, stretching from sun-blazing Bahia all the way up to unspoiled Maranhão State. A world away from the city beaches of Rio and the urban culture of São Paulo, Northeast Brazil offers something for: thrill junkies, birdwatchers, beach bums and aspiring archaeologists alike.
The massive region, more than twice the size of Central America, is a hotbed for adventure tourism, as it features a variety of climates from tropical marine and palm-fringed beaches to lush dense forests.
Nordeste (Northeast) has two of the best places for exploring marine life in the country: Abrolhos Marine National Park and Fernando de Noronha. Both areas are off the mainland and might be tricky and costly to travel to, but are well worth the trip for scuba diving enthusiasts.
Just off of Pernambuco state, Fernando de Noronha might be one of the most beautiful places in Brazil. Even in shallow waters snorkelers can spot turtles and small sharks.
Lesser-known Abrolhos, off the southern Bahian coast, is a well preserved five-island archipelago with colorful coral reefs. Due to its conservation, visits to the island are reserved for daytime, and the marine park’s crystal-clear water has a visibility that can reach 65ft during winter.
Humpback whales are known to come here during migration from June to October. “The humpbacks are heading north on the currents at this time, and they like to spend some time around Abrolhos. You can see them occasionally, mothers and calves swimming together,” Adam Hirst of Brazil Adventure Tours told The Rio Times.
Just down the coast from Natal, Pipa looks different than most northeastern beaches with its colorful cliffs rather than palm trees framing the beach. Due to offshore winds rising up the cliffs, Pipa is the perfect place to enjoy paragliding.
“If you can catch enough of a thermal to rise higher, you can also see all the way along to the Lagoa das Guaraíras in Tibau do Sul, and the interior of Rio Grande do Norte – maybe even to Africa on a clear day if you rise high enough! In Pipa, you are actually closer to Africa than to the far southern and western parts of Brazil,” explained Mr. Hirst.
If travelers are looking for a break from coastal activities, the Northeast countryside is an ideal place for adventure seekers, from the alluring depths of Chapada Diamantina and Nascentes do Rio Parnaíba to the ancient cave drawings in Serra da Capivara.
They are all remote, natural splendors, with unusual rock formations, waterfalls and barely any tourists at all. Explorers in these regions have a chance to see some of Brazil’s Cerrado wildlife, such as capuchin monkeys, maned wolves and macaws.
One of the Northeast’s greatest unexpected undertakings is a 4×4 journey along the stretch between São Luis to Fortaleza. Passing by to photograph the stunning lagoon-ridden dunes of Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, a boat ride on the Parnaíba River Delta and taking in a breathtaking sunset while sand surfing in Jericoacoara, this is surely one of the most thrilling jaunts in the country.
“I think it [Lençóis Maranhenses] is the most photogenic place in Brazil,” says Hirst. “The lakes in the dunes are bright blue in the sunlight, and make a wonderful contrast with the white sand. The curving lines and shadows make for wonderful photography at the ends of each day, while the waters are wonderfully fresh for a swim.”