Almanac (Travel) Life: This ilha is grand






The little outboard motor hums and the boat jumps across the roll in the water like a mountain goat leaping from ledge to ledge as we zip around a small rocky headland and turn right into the tiny bay that houses O’Sitio. The lush greenness of the tropical forest frames the beach. Houses timidly poke their faces through the canopy at various places indicating civilization. The boat’s engine cuts and we glide up the sand to a halt. A calmness descends as if we’ve stepped into a cocoon. Peace. Tranquility. And the insect inspired sounds of warmth.


The winter sun in Brazil is like a gentle hug. The temperature is 30 degrees but the rays are kinder and more considerate than the Australian version which has an aggressive sting to it. Here it’s as if the surrounding jungle tames the beast somewhat. We step out of the boat and young grinning blokes from our accommodation throw our bags across their shoulders and indicate we should follow them.


“Por favor. Por favor”


We disappear into the shade and follow a winding stone path up towards the main house. It’s cool under here. Cool and welcoming. We pass giant stands of bamboo that reach 20 or more metres into the sky and have a circumference at the base of about the same. The bamboo canes, hundreds of them clumped together, lean over the path, click and clack as the breeze flutters through them. It’s like Puffing Billy without the steam and the engine noise.


We are greeted by the manager who seems to just materialize from amongst the foliage. She is a local. Born and raised here like most of her family. Her grandfather built this place. The gardens surrounding the villas are easy and soft and inviting. The multitude of different greens in all the shrubs and trees is a visual feast as if pulled together like a giant natural quilt. Little paths lead off in different directions pleading to be followed. They meander up into the hill behind the accommodation in search of the pixies.


“Welcome” says the manager. “I’m Mariana. Welcome to our paradise.”


She is smiling serenely and holding an arm out indicating the direction of the villa we will be staying in.


“Just up the path.” She says. “Settle in and then come and see me at the main house to check in. No rush”.


I’m sure nothing is rushed here. She pads off to the main house and her bare feet make a slight slapping sound against the stone path. No shoes. No shoes usually means no worries too. We go to our room where the bags await, close the door, and say, almost in unison,


“How good is this?”.


The accommodation is comfortable and unpretentious like an old Queenslander. A ceiling fan turns the air. The villa is perched up high to capture any breeze that wanders past. The windows are large and open inviting the lushness and sounds of the jungle inside.





What follows is four days of frantic relaxation.


The sand on the water’s edge is coarser than expected but becomes finer and whiter the further up the beach you walk. Eventually it gives way to overhanging saplings with large green tropical leaves that droop over and give the swimmers a breezy shade. The beach at O’Sitio isn’t large but isn’t populated much either. People dreamily wander up and down or simply spread out on towels and slumber. The petite waves rhythmically roll onto the beach sounding more like an old Hardie Pope sprinkler spraying the hydrangeas at home than the result of gravitational forces exerted on the earth by the moon. A few bars are hidden in the backdrop selling their agua, cervezas, Coca Cola and various other treats. They don’t impose. They’re just there. The beer is icy cold.


People stand at the water’s edge. They’ve probably just found themselves there. Delightfully aimless taking in breaths of perfection. Strangely the men are attired in board shorts. I can’t recall seeing a set of budgies. I’m surprised by this, but I guess we’re not on Copacabana. The women wear the one-sided bikini. The front covers all the necessary bits albeit without an excess of material. Then a small strap at the rear, that could pass as a piece of dental floss, disappears into nature before reappearing around the sacroiliac miraculously holding everything together. Dimpled bare butt cheeks wobble and wrinkle like two slightly underinflated soccer balls on sticks. Those under about 25 carry this look off well. There are others who probably need a gentle tap on the shoulder. But there is no such thing as body shaming in Brazil.


By the time we’ve grazed over breakfast and donned the togs its usually about 11am. First plunge into the placid waters is about 11.07am. I float on my back and let the sun peck at my cheeks. The sky is a retirement blue. The sort of blue that has me thinking.


Note – O’Sitio is on the island of Ilha Grande which is about three hours south west of Rio by car.


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About Damian O'Donnell

I'm passionate about breathing. And you should always chase your passions. If I read one more thing about what defines leadership I think I'll go crazy. Go Cats.


  1. Sublime Dips. Earth is a miraculous and diverse place. Great to celebrate the wonderful when all we hear is the terrible. Just arrived back in Oz ourselves after 7 weeks in Southern Europe. Croatians have a brilliant word “polako”. They roll it slowly “poh-lar-ko” meaning slowly or “take it easy”. I always think of the shirts they gave away on World of Sport.
    Travel offers perspective. Our burning issues suddenly trivial. Our burning planet suddenly critical.
    Look forward to hearing about Brazilian food and culture. South America is a blur to me beyond Maradona and Pele.

  2. Cheers PB. Agree completely about the burning issues becoming trivial. One of the first things I heard on getting back is a bloke all exasperated and outraged because Melbourne doesn’t have enough dog-off-leads parks. Really? How utterly pathetic. Perspective is everything.

    Hope your European sojourn went well.

  3. Colin Ritchie says

    Sounds like heaven Dips!

  4. roger lowrey says

    You have excelled yourself here Dips. This is simply marvellous. I can even imagine you in a Jimmy Buffet styled Hawaiin shirt with one of those drinks with little umbrellas on top.

    As Vin Buckley used to say in literature lectures – three points to make here. Well, at least this kept you listening to make sure you made it to the third point even if the other two didn’t capture your attention.

    First, I loved the warm hug of the Brazilian sun. My sense of touch became aroused.

    Secondly, the Hardie Pope sprinkler reference was sufficient to enable me to close my eyes and get what was going on. My sense of hearing was aroused.

    Thirdly, your description of the female swimming costume didn’t arouse my senses so much as it did my imagination. That said, it was quickly parked to one side so not even a venial sin troubled the scorer.

    Just to finish with an honourable mention to you Peter, that “poh-lar-co” reference to the WOS sponsored shirts was priceless. Well done mate!


  5. It is Colin!!

    Outstanding comment Roger. Say three Hail Mary’s and you’ll be fine to get the Brazilian bikini out of your head. .

  6. John Harms says

    To add to the other comments, I reckon ‘frantic relaxation’ is a very clever line.

    I also love that once the swimwear and its host are described, the piece ends.

  7. John Harms says

    I should also say it sounds magnificent. No doubt you and Frances recuperated from puffing your way up and down mountains.

  8. Cheers JTH. Photos add a lot to the whole thing but photos never really capture it all. Except maybe the colour.

    It’s was simply delightful there.

  9. Luke Reynolds says

    Well played Dips. This reads magnificently on a Victorian winter night. Fascinated by South America. Look forward to hearing more!

  10. Love to have a chat Luke. South America has a bit of everything. Interesting countries, incredible history.

    I never knew that the potato originated in Peru!

  11. Kevin Densley says

    This piece certainly possesses a pleasant feel, Dips – idyllic is the word that kept coming to mind.

    The best sentence: ‘The sky is a retirement blue.’

  12. John Harms says

    That’s what the Peruvians say. The potato was actually invented by three nuns 10 miles east of Dingle.

  13. Cheers Kevin! I reckon I could retire for Australia.

    The potato invented!! Ha! You’re confused J Harms. Those nuns invented Guiness.

  14. Rick Kane says

    Now that’s what we call relaxed as Mr Dips! It would have been a struggle tapping on the keyboard considering you have all but tapped out. I think you call it, frantic relaxation! Great to see you and Frances chillin’, or as Jimmy Buffett would say, “wasting away in Margaritaville”!

  15. RK this place is the king of relax. It forces you to, which is superb. If everyone else is travelling in slow motion you find yourself doing the same!!

    Good to hear from you.

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