Brazil is a country of continental dimensions, home to diverse cultures and people, incredible landscapes, extensive protected nature areas and, unfortunately, many social inequalities. Despite the size and diversity of attractions, we still receive few international visitors (6.5 million visited the country in 2017) and our internal tourism suffers from a lethargic economy. Since Brazil began to awaken the eyes of travellers, only a few destinations have gathered attention. Until recently, Brazil was only known for Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, or at most Foz do Iguaçu and Salvador.
Little by little, and with the help of foreigners, other destinations, such as the Amazon, Pantanal and Bonito, have gained prominence. The country became known as one of the best for ecotourism and adventure tourism and other regions began to receive the benefits of the activity. Several communities have been able to shift their economy to tourism, although in many places it has grown unsustainably. In a country where a quarter of the population lives in poverty, responsible tourism in Brazil can be a tool for positive transformation, and this has been the case in some communities.
Traveling in Brazil is not always easy, we know. But with some information in mind, you can become a responsible traveller in Brazil who supports its culture and people.
Check out some of our tips:
The Amazon is not only one
It is important to know that the Brazilian Amazon has 5.5 km2 and occupies not only the state of Amazonas, but also Pará, Acre, Amapá, Rondônia, Roraima and part of the states of Mato Grosso, Tocantins and Maranhão. In addition to being the largest tropical rainforest and largest biodiversity reserve on the planet, the Amazon is home to 12.3% of the Brazilian population (estimate IBGE 2004) and each region is different in its landscapes and culture. Choose carefully where you want to visit and remember that the fight against Amazon deforestation is for all of us!
Tourism activities in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo are a tradition in Brazil. After all, the slums are already part of the city. But it is very important to know how to differentiate a tourism that exploits poverty from one that values and benefits people. In our itineraries through Morro da Babilônia, in Rio de Janeiro, we make sure to work with local guides and social projects and with care to value and integrate the community. Escape from the famous “favela tours” where you do not interact with any local residents and leave no financial benefits there!
Visiting indigenous communities
In Brazil, there are more than 860,000 indigenous people from 240 different peoples. Although much of the country still ignores their existence, they struggle daily for land rights and the preservation of their culture. Little by little, some villages have been following the development of tourism as an alternative for employment and income generation. If you decide to visit an indigenous community, it is very important to understand that they are there to introduce us to their culture and traditions and not to adapt to our own. Most of the time, the conditions of accommodation and activities are in the indigenous way of living: hammocks, boats and direct contact with nature.
Just like the Indians, the black population is part of the history of struggles and prejudice, and especially, of Brazilian culture. According to IBGE, more than half of the population (54%) are black or brown, and in every ten people, three are black women. Still struggling for representativeness, black people are responsible for incredible milestones of our culture, such as samba, capoeira, bumba-meu-boi, jongo, maracatu, frevo, carimbó, acarajé, feijoada and many others. There are still some quilombos (ancient places of refuge for African and Afro-descendant slaves throughout the Americas) left in Brazil, where it is possible to visit and get acquainted with the quilombola culture. In Paraty, in Rio de Janeiro, the Campinho de Independência quilombo is one of the oldest in the country and receives visitors with ethno-ecological itineraries. In Bahia, the nucleus of Ethnic Tourism Rota da Liberdade is formed by representatives of remaining quilombola communities that live 1h30 from the capital, Salvador. There are also quilombos in Sergipe, Goiás, São Paulo, and in every state you will find Afro-Brazilian memories and roots. Just look for it!
Ecotourism with safety
With such a diverse nature, Brazil is an incredible place for ecotourism. From trekking to diving, from rafting to bathing in waterfalls, we have activities to suit all tastes. In most places, prevails the awareness that we need to preserve nature to continue enjoying it. But it’s up to you too to do your part. Always observe the guidelines in national parks and other conservation units and avoid doing any activity in nature by yourself, without an instructor or guide, to ensure your safety and the care with the place.
Animal-watching tourism has also gained ground in the country, with sightings of whales, jaguars, birds and more. Everyone should experience wildlife watching done at a distance and with the right care. It is one of the highlight activities in the Mamirauá Sustainable Development Reserve in Amazonas. But be careful not to get into the wave of selfies with animals. Wild animals were not born to interact with people. It is bad for them and can be a risk to us. You do not need to swim next to a pink boto in the Amazon to fall in love with it!