By Lacy Edney, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Rio is well known for its beaches, caipirinhas, Carnival, and of course the classic sounds of samba. Yet while travel agencies around the world can get you to Brazil, there are two Rio-based groups that offer the local expertise to provide an experience beyond the ordinary.
Travelers seeking secluded beaches, tailor-made travel itineraries and VIP treatment should check out Dehouche. The British duo Henry Madden and Paul Irvine made the decision to start their business while on Rio’s Ipanema Beach in 2003, caipirinhas in hand.
“My business partner and I were actually set to start our own completely unrelated business in Shanghai and Hong Kong,” recounts Irvine. “But the SARS virus hit and we couldn’t go, so with the time booked off work we decided on a last minute trip to Brazil for a spot of R&R instead.”
Arriving in Rio, they drove to Trancoso, a tiny village in Bahia little-known by foreigners at the time. “Brazil just blew us away – idyllic beaches, fabulous food, wonderful countryside and above all, fun loving and proud people,” says Irvine.
Three months later they arrived in Brazil for good. “Being based on the ground here in South America is the backbone of our business model, to ensure we have an unrivaled knowledge of the region,” explains Irvine, adding that operating itineraries from their Rio and Buenos Aires offices helps to pass value on to their clients.
An office team of ten people, including a 24-hour concierge, works to make an unforgettable experience. According to Dehouche, “an airport transfer may turn into a champagne breakfast with Jesus overlooking Rio, a whimsical craving for lobster becomes a speedboat ride to a barbeque on a moonlit beach.”
At a different side of the spectrum, for adventure seekers looking to experience Rio up close, Rio Adventures provides a wide range of options for exploring Rio’s mountains, rivers, forests, and ocean.
Rio Adventures’ owner Ricardo Steelen says his home city has a lot to offer in terms of outdoor adventure activities. “The idea to focus on outdoor and adventure tourism came to me because very few operators were doing it at the time,” he says, “and they still don’t.”
Rio Adventures offers outdoor activities ranging from cascading-canyoning (waterfall rappelling) to paintball. Thrill-seekers should check out the hang gliding and parachuting options.
Water bugs will enjoy scuba diving, rafting and cascading-canyoning (waterfall rappelling). Hiking, trekking and rock climbing are also available for active tourists.
Steelen’s biggest challenges are the traffic in Rio and the days when mother nature simply will not cooperate. “[Our business] depend[s] on good weather.” But Rio Adventures even offers paintball and go carting for those cool and overcast days.
The majority of his clients are from the U.S., Canada and the UK, but many come from other parts of Europe as well as Australia and South Africa.
For either luxury or adventure travel, having the local knowledge of Rio and Brazil in your corner makes for the best possible vacation, getting the most from the time spent in the Cidade Maravilhosa.