Get to know the photo book "The Most Beautiful Trails of Patagonia"

Torres del Paine, El Chaltén, Bariloche, Ushuaia, Villarrica, Cerro Castillo, Dientes de Navarino and Parque Patagonia

Sea kayak circumnavigation of Ilhabela, Brazil

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Buying a sea kayak to travel was an idea I’ve had for years, and when I moved to São Sebastião, on the southeastern Brazilian coast, I decided it was time to buy it. Living in front of Ilhabela, nothing more natural than do the first trip around this impressive island, which I planned to do in 4 days to paddle around 30 km (18.6 mi) per day.

Warning: if you expect to see beautiful photos in this article, forget it, I had only a GoPro and an old compact camera with me, I decided to take a vacation from photography for a few days to devote myself only to the paddling experience.

First day in blue, second day in red and third day in orange

Day 1 – 30 km / 18.6 mi (11/01/2018)

As the wind and current inside São Sebastião Channel can be strong, I decided to choose whether to start the circumnavigation going north or south during the channel crossing, so I could see which direction it would be easier to follow.

I left Praia Preta do Centro, in São Sebastião, at 07:50 and went to Cabras island. As the sea was completely flat and there was almost no wind, I decided to go south so that the most critical place of the crossing I would cross on the second day, with more guarantee of good weather, and not on the third day as would happen if I had started paddling north.

Cabras island

Buraco do Cação, close to Bonete beach

Buraco do Cação, close to Bonete beach

The paddling to Bonete beach was very smooth, only in the last hour that the waves began to increase, but the sea was still calm. I arrived at Bonete at 1:00 p.m. with a light low back pain for staying hours in the same position, but no muscle fatigue. When I arrived, several people came to look at the kayak and ask where I came from, curious and amazed to hear the answer, since they usually think that kayaks are only for a quick tour in front of the beach. In the end, I was free to enjoy the beach and the company of a friend and her brother who also happened to be camped there.

Bonete beach in the only sunny day

Day 2 – 50 km / 31 mi (12/01/2018)

The day again dawned cloudy and with flat sea, but at least without the pouring rain that fell during the night. I left Bonete at 07:30, two hours after I woke up. Like the other beaches of this bay I already know well, I decided to cross soon the most unprotected stretch of the whole trip. All the way between Bonete and Saco do Sombrio I found only one fishermen boat, which was anchored between Ponta do Boi and Ponta da Pirabura.

After this unprotected stretch I arrived in Saco do Sombrio, a beautiful cove that has a small fishermen community and also a base of Yacht Club Ilhabela. The yacht club official, seeing a solitary paddler, took the boat and gently came to see if everything was right, but this was not the best visit, because soon a group of dolphins appeared and I took the opportunity to paddle with them for some time, the funniest moment of the whole trip!

Little beach between Saco do Sombrio and Figueira beach

Quick stop to take a dip, the only way to be safe from black flies

When I was arriving in Castelhanos, which would be the overnight stop, I decided to move on. It was still early, around 2:30 p.m., and ther was a light rain once in a while, so I decided to increase the physical challenge and do the circumnavigation in three days, instead of four. I paddled to Serraria beach, after Saco do Eustáquio, Guanxuma and Caveira beach. I was very well received by the Serraria fishermen, but in one of those (very frequent) times when I want to be alone in nature, I ended up choosing to go back to Caveira beach and spend the night there.

Caveira beach

Caveira beach

Day 3 – 38 km / 23.6 mi (13/01/2018)

Another day waking up at 05:30, but this time, more used to the routine to put the gear in the kayak, I left earlier than the other days, at 07:00, even doing a stop to see a beautiful sunrise.

Sunrise at Caveira beach

The first stop was at Poço beach, one of my favorites in Ilhabela. Very small, it has a good pond for swimming and a beautiful rapids, but also has one of the largest “communities” of black flies of the island.

Poço beach

Then I paddled in front of Fome beach, Jabaquara and Pacuíba, but only stopped on a tiny beach just before entering the São Sebastião Channel again. Even though I had paddled 50 km (31 mi) the day before, fortunately my arms were painless, since the last 10 km (6.2 mi) were the hardest because of the strong wind against me, and since my lower back was bothering me, I paddled stronger to be home sooner, to stretch my back and, of course, to have a good meal and rest in the hammock.

Another tiny beach, this one between Jabaquara beach and Ponta das Canas

Canas lighthouse, where the São Sebastião Channel begins

I arrived at Praia Preta do Centro at 3:00 p.m., after paddling a total of 118 km in 3 days, seeing many turtles, flying fish, dolphins, deserted beaches, paddling in the sun and rain, bathing in the sea and river, donating blood for many black flies and with the certainty that this is just my first of many sea kayak trips, this “toy” is absolutely fun!

Get to know the photo book "The Most Beautiful Trails of Patagonia"

Torres del Paine, El Chaltén, Bariloche, Ushuaia, Villarrica, Cerro Castillo, Dientes de Navarino and Parque Patagonia