Blessed with wonderful nature, Bonito in Southwestern Brazil is a real paradise for nature lovers. Whether you prefer to hike, swim in waterfalls, visit caves, scuba dive in mystical lakes, watch birds or float down a river on a tube, there will be plenty of options for you!
As a part of our Say HI to Sustainability project, we (Kaja and Michael – exchange participants to Brazil from HI Norway) visited Bonito two weeks in September and had a great stay in this lush area, where even colibris and tucanos can be spotted from our breakfast table. In this blogpost, we have picked some highlights for you to explore – whether it will be on the screen or in real life!
Encountering a swimming anaconda
”What is that?” Michael exclaimed with an emphasis on each and every word, while looking into the water while we were ejoying our first Sunday by the green and crystal clear river Balneário Municipal. The popular leisure area is full of locals and tourists escaping the often 35-40ºC heat in exchange for a refreshing swim. There are also a lot of big fishes that are lazily swimming around waiting to be fed by visitors throwing pellets to them. But what Michael saw, less than a meter from his feet, was definitely not a fish. What he was looking at was a snake, the snake that is known to be the largest snake in the world; it was an anaconda!
We were first frightened. A two meter long snake in a popular, crowded leisure area is definitely not something we experience everyday. – In fact, it is something we have never experienced before, and something we hope to never experience again. The adult anaconda, called ”sucuri” in Portuguese, has a huge circumference, and can actually reach up to 10-11 meters, although 5 meters is a more normal size! The snakes are common in this area, but not commonly spotted. Locals being used to the snake told us that this very snake was just a baby, or “bebezinho” as they say in Portuguese. Since most of the other people seemed to be unaffected by the fact that an anaconda was swimming around in the river, we managed to calm down, and then decided to jump in and enjoy the crystal clear, refreshing waters!
Explore the third most crystal clear river in the world!
Bonito is known to offer some of the best eco tourism spots in Brazil. To maintain the natural beauty, tourism is well regulated and every visitor has to leave nothing but foot prints and take nothing but photos. It is mandatory to have a guide when visiting the sites, and only a limited number of people are allowed to visit each cave, river, waterfall or other beautiful site each day.
Did you know that the third most crystal clear river in the world is to be found in Bonito? We went there, to Rio Sucuri (Anaconda River), and had an exciting paddle trip about 1600 meters upstream before floating back with the stream, enjoying an amazing visibility, calm wildlife and pretty river vegetation for about 40 minutes. Take a look on our video to get a glimpse of our underwater journey, and get inspired to go there too!
Rio Sucuri holds 24ºC year-round, and the lush vegetation on the riverbeds inhabits a great variety of wildlife. During our trip, we were lucky to see an otter, a toucan, white and black monkeys, fresh water fishes such as Piraputanga, Pacu and Corimba, and even a crocodile (!). Luckily for us, the crocodile was also just a “bebezinho” – only 1,5 meter long, and “nothing to worry about” according to our guide.
It felt awesome to float with the stream and enjoy the great views in this super clear water. And measures are taken to keep it this way: it is prohibited to use sunscreen, other lotions and all types of insect repellent before entering the water.
They turn beer bottles into lamps and cups!
HI Hostel Bonito cooperates with a local initiative that really caught our eye: Casa do Vidro, or “The glass house” in English. They have a workshop store located just off the main street in Bonito, and they make a living solely by recycling glass products from the city, mainly wine and beer bottles.
Outside of their building they have set up a recycling point where many of the town’s local bars, restaurants and hostels drop off all the recycled glass from their own recycling stations. Casa do Vidro actually receives as much as 80 % of the glass that is being discarded in Bonito, inhabiting around 20 000 people! At their very store, they make sure to utilize each and every piece of the glass they receive, even the broken pieces that are being melted and reused! During the 2,5 years that Casa do Vidro has existed, the project has helped preventing more than 250 tonnes of glass from ending up in landfills.
When one enters the workshop, it’s easy to be amazed by the creativity and craftsmanship that is going on. The 5 staff works in different stations with cutting, cleaning, sanding and gluing to make everything from lamps and cheese bells to teacups. And if you ask, they will gladly produce products with your own pictures, text or patterns. Because of this, many of the local businesses have made partnerships with Casa do Vidro to have cups and more with their own brands and logos. As you can see at the photo below, we made some glasses specifically for our project too.
Even the trees in the local town plaza has been decorated with green, wine-bottle lamps from the store. And it shows the Bonito and its inhabitants’ passion to stay true to implementing recycling and nature in their community.
Good vibrations and sustainable solutions
Several sustainability issues are taken into consideration at the friendly HI Bonito Hostel, such as recycling and energy saving. We were also amazed by the hostel’s highly effective and intricate rainwater harvesting system. As the hostel is divided into 5 large buildings with a lot of roof space, they have created an impressive system that harvests water directly from the rain gutters.
All in all, they have the space to store 100.000 litres of rainwater, where as much as 60% of it can be filtered, stored and be ready to use for their swimming pool, laundry, cleaning and garden watering. The law in Brazil prohibits the use of rainwater for use in showers and drinking taps, so they still have to rely on the conventional water supply from the municipality as well.
On the grounds in the laundry area, they have placed 4 tanks that each hold 10.000 litres of water, with one of them functioning as a holding area for water that is being filtered.
The manager Breno Teixeira explained that this infrastructure is highly efficient, and that the many rainy days in Bonito really assist the hostel to provide enough water during periods when the hostel is full.
HI Hostel Bonito was the first hostel in town, and has for more than 20 years invited guests to enjoy their great atmosphere with its large leisure areas, comfortable rooms, and even a swimming pool. While eating breakfast next to people and below flags from all over the world, we could spot a toucan jumping around on the grass and a hummingbird that happens to have a nest next to the billiards table. While walking to the supermarket from the hostel, we also met a nice little scorpion with both claws out, in addition to several chickens that run freely around in the town’s calm streets, adding on to the good, relaxed holiday vibe that beautiful Bonito has to offer.