Sometimes you just get it right. Time, place and mood. Last week, the Ilha de Boipeba fulfilled those criteria to perfection, leaving me longing for more – more beach-time, more lobsters, more caipirinhas, more coconuts, more of that chilled Brazilian flow.
Boipeba is a lotus-eating classic, tossed gently into the Atlantic just south of Salvador off Brazil’s endless coast. About 3,000 people live on the island, formerly on fishing, now mainly on tourism – though that last word is pretty hard to apply to a place with no cars (transport is only by mule, tractor or wheelbarrow), convoluted access and beaches as empty as in these pics. AND it was high season.
Tucked away beyond the mangroves, beach almonds and palm trees are a few bars, restaurants and pousadas (guest-houses where rates peak at around $125/ £80 / night*), all small-scale, welcoming and often run by hip souls who washed up here from Europe. This means food isn’t just limited to the wondrous Bahian moqueca (as below in shrimp and plantain form, eaten with rice, cassava and red beans, an alternative to its fish or crab incarnation), but expands into Italian or French-prepared pizza, pasta and crepes. Those sound pretty mundane, but here in Boipeba some magic in the air ensures they’re actually imaginatively concocted.
On the beaches you have to be aware of the tide as its daily ebb and flow often swallows huge stretches of sand. And if you attempt the long and beautiful beach walk to Moreré (the second of the two villages), you have to do it at low tide to cross one particular channel. Otherwise everything is sweetness, light and sizzling colour – even the boa constrictor we spotted just lazily curled itself around a branch, inoffensive, unaggressive.
And to sleep? Booking in advance is always pot-luck but in our case we opted for views, rather than toes in the water. And they were absolutely sublime from the eyrie of Ceu de Boipeba (meaning ’sky of Boipeba’), an extraordinary 6-room pousada originally built as a private villa by a fashion designer, so big on lush detail. How they got the huge slabs of granite and plate glass to the hill-top I have no idea. Helicopter? But our ‘de luxe’ room had views to die for (above), whether from bed, shower or hammock, sweeping over the low jungle below us and down to the huge crescent of Bocca da Barra beach, washed by gentle Atlantic waves.
Glass walls, though shielded by stunning crepe de chine curtains, meant we woke with dawn and the chorus of tropical squawks, then hung out on our terrace before it was time to indulge in a gargantuan Brazilian breakfast: tropical fruits galore, fresh juice of fruits I’d never tasted before, eggs, rolls, freshly made cake, yoghurt, strong Brazilian coffee…plus that view (above), all too much. But we soon learned that the steep, hot hike down to the beach and, later, back up the hill required sustenance – and a will to survive.
Swimming? a dream. Seafood lunches in beach barracas, divine. Dinners in Velha Boipeba, the pretty main village with plenty of easy chats, a pleasure. Caiprinhas at sundown by the harbour, idyllic. What more can I say? Book a flight to Salvador, take a ferry to Bom Despacho, from there a taxi or bus to Valença, then a fast boat across to Boipeba. The Brazilian leg will take 5 hours all told – but that’s pretty acceptable as a fast track to paradise.
*in high season, roughly Jan-Feb, otherwise considerably less