I have been living in Brazil for one year now and I have finally managed to check out some of the diving opportunities available here .
In the state of Rio de Janeiro there is an island called Ilha Grande (Big Island) This place is incredible as it is a large land mass covered in almost untouched Jungle called “Mata Atlântica” , this means literally “Atlantic Forest” or “Atlantic Bush” and it was the other great forest of Brazil along with the Amazon .Unfortunately must of the forest was destroyed by logging over the last five hundred years during the Portuguese colonisation of Brazil. In this respect Ilha Grande is a true gem , with 193 Kilometers of mostly unspoiled wilderness! The island is also famous for it’s warm clear “Emerald” waters , Ilha Grande is my favorite location in Brazil so far…
I travelled to Ilha Grande with the company Bellsub Esportes . This is an old and extremely reliable operator based in São Jose dos Campos in the São Paulo state and it has been in existence since 1983 . They are a great group of people , who also speak excellent English and I have had the pleasure of working with them as an Instructor here in Brazil.
In Ilha Grande we stayed at Pousada Nautilus , a fantastic all inclusive dive resort located in a little bay next to a little beach in the jungle. This is the kind of place that I as a diver and explorer and always hoping to find but never do , a beautiful calm and carefree dive resort surrounded by raw jungle and tranquil nature . What made Nautilus so great for me is you can hire cylinders for R$30 (+-$8) a pop and go diving off the pier here with a buddy , which gives you great long relaxing dives where you can explore the shallow reefs and interesting macro life. I love the freedom that this type of diving offers and it was great to experience it in a tropical resort setting as these are usually more commercialized and restricted in my experience.
The reefs in this region mostly consist of star coral and sponges with little bits of brain coral and small colorful anemones . There are a variety of tropical fish to be seen and I also saw two seahorses and a turtle.The are also loads of spider crabs and lots of other interesting crabs hiding in the cracks. I find the marine life to be an interesting mix of temperate and tropical and while it may not be breathtaking it is certainly pleasant and unique .Nautilus also offers boat dives and I visited Bananal and a few other sites which were all quite similar . One of the most famous dives in the area is the Penguino(Penguin) wreck dive but unfortunately I have not had a chance to dive it yet.
In my opinion the best time to visit is in March and April when there is less rain and the water is warm and clear with 10m+ viz and 27C water, but I have also visited in may and it was pleasant , although the water was somewhat cooler at 23C and I believe conditions are fairly good all year round. It is quite easy to get to Ilha Grande , the island is an hour boat ride from the coastal city of Angra dos Reis and in this region there are hundreds of small islands to visit and many boat charters to take you around . You can find many options tailored to budget and comfort. I plan to return to Ilha Grande in July to explore the region and it’s many islands and Bays in more detail.