Ihla Grande, Brazil, January 2013

Ihla Grande is off the coast south of Rio. It takes about 2 hours then you need to take a boat over. I got the main ferry from Angra Dos Reis which takes about 90 minutes, but it does only cost R$4.50 and I was coming from Paraty in the south anyway. There's only one village of any size on the island, Villa do Abraão, and there are no cars. There are some emergency vehicles and the dust cart, but the only real traffic is bikes.

Dois Rios
One of the rivers at Dois Rios
The island is covered in rainforest and there are several marked walks you can do. I did the two hour each way walk to Dois Rios up the old road which went to the prison. The ruins are still there and the site is now used by the university for environmental research. The beach in town is also good. There is a wide selection of accommodation. The pousadas weren't cheap, but there are hostels and a lot of campsites, so there's a good range of places at different budgets. There aren't any banks or ATMs. Most bars and restaurants take credit cards and I managed to survive with R$60 in cash for 3 days, but a lot of the pousadas don't.

I hadn't planned to do any diving. I figured it would be much the same as in Paraty and that hadn't been that exciting. However, walking past Elite Dive Center, I noticed they had a diagram of a wreck on their outside wall. Never one to pass up the chance to go wreck diving, I asked them if it was possible to do it, stressing I only wanted to dive on the wreck. It's called the Pinguino and sank in 1967. The next day, they had try divers, but they said it should be possible the day after, and I should come back down in the evening to confirm. I was fully expecting them to say it wasn't possible when I did return, but no, we were apparently on for the wreck.

It was pouring with rain as we got on the boat. This wasn't unusual. It was wet season and it seemed to have been pouring with rain for the previous two weeks. Even with a two piece 5mm wetsuit, it was starting to get a bit chilly as we motored out. After about 10 minutes, we were told there was a problem. I tried to look unsurprised. The visibility was bad because of the rain and they couldn't make out the transit marks to find the wreck in the bay. So we were going to do a reef dive and try and do the wreck the second dive.

I jumped in with another guy from Argentina and we swam out along the shore at a depth of up to 16m. It was much the same as Paraty with the thermocline at 8m and reasonable coral down to 6m. There were the usual fish: damsels, angel fish, hog fish, morays and the flying gurnards.

Villa do Abraão
Villa do Abraão
After surfacing, we had the packed sugary junk food and the visibility still wasn't good enough to see the transit marks, so we did another reef. Fish life on this was more prolific and we did see a turtle. I thought it was better than the previous week's diving down the coast. The visibility was better though with the thermoclines, there were layers of plankton and you still have the mixing effects when the two layers are disturbed. However, there were only 6 of us on the boat, so not as many people to kick everything up as on my previous trip.

I was very disappointed not to do the wreck as that was the only reason I'd booked the diving. In 2013, should we really still be relying on visual marks? GPS is ubiquitous now. I've got it on my phone. The weather conditions weren't unusual. It's a rainy part of the world at certain times of the year. Cost of the two dives with kit was R$200, or R$180 if you had cash.

I would thoroughly recommend Ihla Grande though. It's a nice, laid back resort.