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Rio de Janeiro´s Islands

Islands on Its coast are amongst Rio attractions. In the Guanabara Bay Islands, Oceanic Islands and Sepetiba Bay islands flora and fauna can be found as well as places for sightseeing, walking, scuba diving, underwater fishing and wounderful boat day trips.

The Islands and The City

Island of Rio de Janeiro seen from the top of Sugar Loaf MountThe islands of Rio are part of the geological formation of the city. On the islands, as in continental Rio, typical fauna and flora can be found as well as appropriate locations for walking and diving, underwater fishing and leisurely trips by boat.

In order to better understand the emergence of islands in the coastal waters of Rio, it is necessary to remember that in the geological past there was a rising of rocks and an elevation of sea level when lower areas were covered by water. The resulting archipelagos, islands and islets scattered over the seascape are an added attaction.

Islands in Guanabara Bay

Besides Governador, Fundão and Paquetá, which are outstanding in their peculiarities as they incorporate whole districts, there are many small islands that deserve the attention and interest of tourists in view of their rock formations, vegetation, environment preservation programs, or of their curious names.

Paquetá, Jurubaíba, Itapacís, Pacaraíba, Boqueirão, Aroeiras, Nhaquetá, Tapuamas are some of the names that go back to the native Brazilians who lived in Rio when the first Europeans arrived.

Originated in the tupi-guarani language, these words nearly always relate to natural aspects of Rio, either geomorphologic characteristics such as the shape of its outlines, or they are names for fishes, animais and items of the flora.

The name of the Jurubaíba archipelago, situated east of Governador island, for instance, is a reference by the Tupi nation (native american inhabitants) to the problems of entering and navigating in the area.

Governador island is of special importance to Rio as it houses the largest mangrove nursery in Latin America. In Manguezal de Jequiá (Jequiá Mangrove), one of the is!and's districts, a greenhouse project is being developed, at the fishermen's colony Z-10, for cuttings that will be used in the recovery and reforesting of mangrove areas.

Ilha da Cidade Universitária (Where most of the facilities of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro is located), better known as Ilha do Fundão (Fundão Island) is an interesting place to visit especially for those interested in the process by which the landscape in Guanabara Bay was altered with embankments created by joining several minor islands.

Ilha de Itapacis (Itapacis Island), situated between Paquetá and the arquipelago de Tapuamas (archipelago of the Itapuamas), name that means stone with a smooth surface, is useful as a kind of alert signal for the many who enjoy sailing in the area.

Ilha de Brocoió (Brocoió Island), whose name means whisper, rises on the right of Paqueta Island and is very close to it. It is one of the Guanabara Bay islands more densely covered by vegetation, although there is no trace of the native forest anymore. Visits if not booked are limited to the surrounding waters.

A tourist on a boat to Paquetá going past Tapuamas Islands will see Ilha do Sol (Sun Island), once famous internationaliy as residence of actress and dancer Dora Vivacqua, Luz del Fuego, who created there the first naturist club in Brazil.

Paquetá's name also has its origin in the language of native Brazilians. It may mean many "pacas" (Brazilian mammal) or many shells. Certainly, the latter is the correct meaning, since the island was famous in the past for being a natural nursery fo shells. For travellers and Rio residents it is one of the most charming settings in the city, if you would like to visit something off the beaten track of the main touristic attractions of the city.

Paquete Island can be reached by boat that leave from Praça Quinze de Novembro (Quinze de Novembro Square) in the town center. Once on the island, vísitors cannot use cars for transportation, but must walk or resort to bicycles and horse-drawn carts. This makes the outing or sightseeing more pleasant, bucolic and ecologically correct. In the streets ímpressive old trees can be seen as the popular Maria Gorda (Fat Mary), a rare specimen of baobab approximately 7 meters wide.

One of the great spots for outings and direct contact with nature, besides the beautiful view of Guanabara Bay from the belvedere, is Parque Municipal Darke de Mattos (Darke de Mattos Municipal Park) presently a Unidade de Conservação Ambiental (Environment Conservation Unit).

Oceanic Islands

These are also beautíful islands, and vists can be planned and arranged with some travel agency in Rio that offer maritime sightseeing. There are two archipelagos, of Cagarras Islands and of Tijucas Islands.

The archipelado of Cagarras is so important for the city of Rio de Janeiro that there is a project in the House of Representatives for the creation of a Natural Monument.

As this may in the future mean the banning of non-industrial fishing and ecotourism activities in general, there is an important movement supporting the common sense of keeping Cagarras as an Area of Ecological Relevance, while allowing sustainable use of natural resources including responsible activities of Nature Tourism or Ecotourism.

Even the biologists who know and research Cagarras Islands, the habitat of dolphins including the "flipper" species, are still moved with the sight of dolphins so close to a great urban center like Rio.

Continental birds, migratory birds and seabirds such as cormorants, "fragatas" and boobies are also guests of the Cagarras Islands, following the example of tourists who come in search of the beauties of Rio.

Tijuca Archipelago is situated between the districts of São Conrado and Barra da Tijuca. It is formed by the islands Do Meio, quite close to São Conrado, Alfavaca, Pontuda and Lajes da Tijuca, a group of rocks at some distance from the coast.

Thanks to exceptional visibility and a rich marine life, the archipelago is an excellent location for divers to observe and photograph various species of fishes, moray eeis, turtles, rays, octopuses etc.

There is a service of motorboats that usually leave Cais da Praça Quinze (Praça Quinze Dock), in Guanabara Bay, for Tijuca Archipelago. It is also possible to rent small private motorboats from Canal de Joatinga (Joatinga Channel), at a distance of only five minutes from the islands.

Ilha de Cotunduba (Cotunduba Island) is also considered an oceanic island. It is situated right at the entrance to Guanabara Bay, near Urca and Praia Vermelha, from where boats leave for tours organized by specialized travei agents. The rocky cliffs of Cotunduba are very popular with alpinists and rapei enthusiasts.

In Guaratiba, in the city's west sector, Ilha Rasa de Guaratiba (Guaratiba's Rasa Island) is one of Baleia Jubarte's (Jubarte Whale megaptera novaengliae) favorite spots when migrating past the coast of Rio. Ilha Rasa boasts a few samples of flora at risk of extinctíon such as the herbs Quaresminha, Norantea and Cacto-coroa-de-frade, besides the shrub known as Jenipapinho-do-mato.

Ilhas das Palmas e das Peças, with their sandbanks, mangroves, Atlantic Forest and rocky cliffs are included in the 951 hectares of the Área de Proteção Ambiental de Grumarí (Grumarí Environment Protection Area).

Islands in Sepetiba Bay

The stretch of Baía de Sepetiba (Septiba Bay) that is part Rio de Janeiro City comprises the islands Bom Jardim, Nova, Cavado, Guaraquessaba, Tatu and Pescaria.

Pescaria Island, which is part of Base Aérea de Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz Brazilian Air Force Base), is joined to the continent by a long pier turned into a dirt road.

On Sepetiba islands there is a prevalent marsh vegetation and activities such us by non-commercial fishing by fishermen and mollusks harvest of the "sururu" type, which is very valued in seafood cuisine.

References:

  • Riotur brochures | City of Rio de Janeiro Tourism Authority
  • Many books about the history and iconography of Rio de Janeiro City