300 Islands, So little Time
The clear and calm water surrounding the city of Paraty is home to over 300 islands and a large diverse population of fish, birds and animals. I tried lots of different ways to explore the bay (including under it) and however you like to adventure on the water, there is an option in Paraty. Like most places, there was no need to book anything in advance or through a company, going straight to the service provider is always a better option.
If you are interested in SCUBA check out, Scuba Dive Brazil, Paraty.
1. Renting a Kayak / SUP.
A short walking distance from the historic part of town, north of the river, several little kiosks with chairs in the sand line the beach. Right on the water there is a tent that rents kayaks and paddle boards and the owner offers a 4 hour guided tour for R$160 a person. I got the spiel on what the tour covers and opted to rent a single kayak for R$20 and head in the direction the tour would have taken (north).
I am sure having a guide would have given me some more cool trivia on the area but an hour or two of kayaking around a couple of the islands and getting to appreciate the coastline from a different angle was a great experience and saving R$140 is always a big bonus.
Bonus info: If you are looking for a good workout, they have an outdoor fitness area on the same side of the river. So I would package a quick workout (bring a pair of gloves to save your hands) on the outdoor gym with a 45 minute intense kayak session (negotiate for a good deal!
2. Charter your own boat for the day.
This one was my favorite. I woke up around 8:30, enjoyed my breakfast that was included at the Pousada, filled my water bottle, grabbed my day pack and headed through the historic part of town and east towards the wharf. Before reaching the larger wharf that is home to the bigger tour boats, there is a small inlet with dozens of brightly colored 13-30ft schooners. I spoke to various captains until we had settled on a pink boat with a top lounge deck captained by a 20 something year old local, Bruno.
The package he sold me on included:
- 5 hours for whatever we wanted to do around the bay.
- Snacks and fresh fruit to munch on.
- Snorkel/goggle rental.
There are a lot of advantages to doing it this way, the biggest being that I was in control. I wasn’t happy with the snorkeling at one spot so the captain started the engines and helped me find another one. There was an island that I wanted to explore so Bruno dropped anchor and let me swim to shore. He even had a radio with aux cable so we could play our own music. A welcomed change.
We brought on our own beer and avoided having to buy the overpriced food that the bigger tourist boats offer. Also, the “rules” are a lot more relaxed when you have your own boat so use your imagination, but for me that meant that jumping off the top of the boat was totally fair game.
I enjoyed doing this so much that after a night of making friends we decided to split a boat, the following day between the 5 of us (only R$40 each) and I did it again.
3. The Tour/Party Boats.
Leaving daily between 10:30 and 11:30am I had my pick between the dozens of big boats that line the Cais de Paraty (the wharf) immediately to the south east of the historic part of town. I negotiated a ticket from $50 to R$30 but that was for fare alone, anything extra, including masks and snorkel is going to be extra ($R15 for a snorkel/mask), not a huge deal but everything adds up. The boat has a bathroom along with food service and full bar. Anything purchased is charged to an assigned passenger number and is taken care of at the end of the day. Bringing your on your own food is okay but they discourage you to bring your own liquor.
The boat has 4 stops at some of the more popular islands, drop anchor and everyone is encouraged to jump off and swim around and explore the beach. During busier days some of these stops will have 4-5 big boats at them at a time leaving the beaches a bit crowed. This process is repeated 3 more times at different beaches before you are returned back to the wharf. These boats usually hold up to 50 people so you never know who you will be sharing the next 4 hours with, but the bigger boats tend to have more kids on board.
It is a very casual and relaxing way to spend the day and for R$30 passage you really can not complain, but watch me. The armature musician singing loudly across the sound system mixed with the occasional baby scream addedd with the smell of other peoples food for 4+ hours was a reminder why the chartered boat was such a better way to go.
Whatever your choice when it comes to exploring the bay in Paraty, you are going to be treated to some awesome scenery. Get your ass out of Rio and continue to see what Brazil really has to offer.