The perfect starting place to discover the jungle
As you approach the low-lying, whitewashed colonial port of Vila do Abraão in Ilha Grande with your MSC cruise ship, the mountains rise dramatically from the sea, and in the distance there’s the curiously shaped summit of Bico do Papagaio (“Parrot’s Beak”), which rises to a height of 980m and can be reached in about three hours.
There’s really very little to see in Abraão itself, but it’s a pleasant enough base from which to explore the rest of the island. Ilha Grande comprises 193 square kilometres of mountainous jungle, historic ruins and beautiful beaches, excellent for some scenic tropical rambling. The island is a state park and the authorities have been successful at limiting development and maintaining a ban on motor vehicles.
Ilha Grande offers lots of beautiful excursions along well-maintained and fairly well-signposted trails, but it’s sensible to take some basic precautions. Carry plenty of water with you, and remember to apply sunscreen and insect repellent at regular intervals. According to legend, the pirate Jorge Grego was heading for the Straits of Magellan when his ship was sunk by a British fleet.
He managed to escape with his two daughters to Ilha Grande, where he became a successful farmer and merchant. However, in a fit of rage, he murdered the lover of one of his daughters, and shortly afterwards, a terrible storm destroyed all his farms and houses. From then on, Jorge Grego passed his time roaming the island, distraught, pausing only long enough to bury his treasure before his final demise.
If there is any treasure today, though, it’s the island’s wildlife: parrots, exotic hummingbirds, butterflies and monkeys abound in the thick vegetation.