Ilha Grande is a beautiful island located 150 km southwest of Rio de Janeiro. It is Brazil’s third largest island and has a tropical scenery and nice beaches. The hillsides are covered in lush forests which are remnants of the Mata Atlantica ecosystem. The land area is 193 km ² and the highest point is Pico da Pedra D’Ãgua, at 1031 m.
This Atlantic rainforest holds some of the largest remaining populations of many endangered species, including the red-ruffed fruitcrow (Pyroderus scutatus), the brown howler monkey (Alouatta fusca), the maned sloth (Bradypus torquatus), the red-browed Amazon parrot (Amazona rhodocorytha), and the broad-snouted caiman (Caiman latirostris).
The seas around the island, which are also protected, has a unique mix of tropical, subtropical, and temperate-zone marine life, and may be the only waters in the world where it is possible to see corals and tropical fish along with Magellanic penguins and southern right whales.
The entire island is a protected area, with most of its territory included in Ilha Grande State Park, and the rest subject to stringent development restrictions. Small-scale ecotourism, however, is encouraged, and the island, which is road-less and off-limits to cars, features over 150 km of hiking trails connecting the handful of coastal villages and hamlets, where lodging is available, to one another and to the many beaches, mountain peaks, waterfalls, and pristine forests.
I visited there during the winter of 2009, but the weather was still pleasant. The island was the scene of a devastating mudslide on January 1st 2010 killing at least 19 people.
Isla de Ometepe is definitely a good candidate for “eight wonder of the world”. It is an absolutely fantastic island and one of my favourite places in Central and South America.
Ometepe is an island formed by two volcanos rising from lake Nicaragua in the Republic of Nicaragua. Its name derives from the Nahuatl words ome (two) and tepetl (mountain), meaning two mountains: two volcanic peaks (Conception and Maderas) rise from the hazy blue expanse of Cocibolca, ‘the Sweet Sea’ and form an hourglass of beaches and jungles.
Isla de Ometepe has an area of 276 km². It is 31 km long and 5 to 10 km wide. The island has a population of 42,000, and an economy based on tourism, livestock and agriculture.
It has a hiding a wealth of archaeological treasures and a very romantic countryside. Thomas and I spent some of the most romantic time of our travels there.
Happy New Year! It’s been a few weeks since I managed to get to a reliable enough internet connection to update our blog, but fear not, I’m now back in civilization and catching up!
Isla de Ometepe is Nicaragua’s fantasy island, formed by twin volcanoes rising out of Lago de Nicaragua (Lake Nicaragua). Lago de Nicaragua is a HUGE lake – 177km long by 58km wide – and looking out across it is more reminiscent of gazing out to sea than an inland lake.
I made my way here on an extremely rough four hour boat trip from Granada, during which time I miraculously managed to avoid chucking my guts up. For anyone else trying to get to Isla de Ometepe, I’d definitely recommend the easy route via San Jorge.
Having braved the extremely broken-up roads around the island, I ended up with a cheap $5 room at Santa Cruz, just past Playa Santa Domingo and at the foot of the Maderas volcano. I soon realized that on Isla de Ometepe I was in a wonderfully unspoiled & friendly place – perfect for walking, relaxation and simply contemplating. Some of the activities possible here include hiking the volcanoes, horse-riding & swimming. We ended up doing very little here except for wandering around the island, and climbing half way up Volcan Maderas – one of the most memorable walks I have done in a long time. During a five hour walk I met one farmer, some monkeys and no tourists.
It was hard to drag myself away from Isla de Ometepe, but the nearby beaches & surf of San Juan del Sur beckoned.
Koh Lipe (also spelt ‘Lipeh’ or ‘Leepae’) is a small island in Thailand (Satun Province), near the Tarutao National Marine Park, on the Andaman (west) coast of Thailand adjacent to Malaysia. It has a small local population of Chao Ley – otherwise known as ‘sea gypsies’ – who inhabit the island throughout the year making a living from fishing in the low (tourist) season, and from tourism in the high season.
Click above to hear our Koh Lipe Podcast. This podcast includes a short interview with Pooh from Poohs bar and restaurant, as well as Tina getting bitten by a bunch of angry mosquitoes, again.
Two years ago I visited Koh Lipe, and it conjured up memories of the time I spent island-hopping in Thailand in 1991 – a time when even Koh Phangan didn’t have sealed roads. It had that laid-back, lost-in-time feel to it, something I feared could no longer be found easily in Thailand.
Tina and I decided we’d head to Koh Lipe this year for a couple of weeks over Christmas and New year. We knew the island would be at its busiest over this period, but had to go over New Year due to work commitments.
As soon as we arrived, a few changes struck me – firstly, there was a lot more development taking place – with buildings and bungalows springing up around the island. Secondly, the holiday-makers on the island had, in the space of two short years, changed from being comprised mostly of backpackers & travelers to being more noticeably made up of couples & families. In particular, it was obvious that a few tour operators from Scandinavian countries had started shipping families out to Lipe by the bus load.
The increasing numbers of tourists to Koh Lipe has obviously resulted in more rubbish being left behind on the island – and this became more evident the more time we spent walking through the sandy paths criss-crossing the island. Particularly in peak season rubbish-disposal seems to be posing a bit of a problem.
Koh Lipe has no sealed roads, and no cars. Yet. A few locals own Honda scooters and they sometimes drive these at break-neck speed down the sandy paths. In the next 1-2 years I expect the first sealed road will be built linking the Chao Ley village to Pattaya beach – the main beach on the island.
Despite this development, I felt Koh Lipe still retained its charm. The scenery as a whole in Taratao National Park is stunningly beautiful – with emerald green seas and white sandy beaches in abundance. Koh Lipe and the other islands in Taratao marine park have some of the best diving and snorkeling in Thailand. You can either snorkel straight off the Koh Lipe beaches, or head out on a snorkeling trip as we did. The coral and underwater life was breathtaking and in my opinion it was on a par with Dahab in Egypt where I learned to dive a few years ago.
There are several ways to get to Koh Lipe but the most popular are:
1) Taking a train or plane from Bangkok to Hat Yai followed by a minibus/taxi to Pak Bara on the Andaman coast, where you take a ferry or speedboat to Koh Lipe. We flew Airasia and Nokair to & from Bangkok. Air Asia suffered from chronic flight delays.
There is more information on getting to and from Koh Lipe on the Koh Lipe Thailand website.
Where to stay
We’d recommend Mountain Resort (where we stayed) – fan huts during peak season were 600 baht a night – they would be cheaper at other times. Mountain Resort has a great view of the sea looking towards Koh Adang, and in our opinion, although not directly on the beach, it is located above the most beautiful beach on Koh Lipe.
Poohs – If you need accommodation, the internet, somewhere to change money or book onward travel, or just a friendly bar and restaurant to hang out in, Pooh’s is the place to go. Following the interview I did with him in the podcast, he asked me to pass on his phone number +66 (0)89 5953737. If you need help – contact Pooh- he’s incredibly friendly and a bit of a Mr Fix It!
Dang Dee Tour Services – We did our snorkeling trip through Annie at Dang Dee (+66 (0)89 4637801). Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org. The price is about 500 Thai Baht a day, including lunch for a 4-stop snorkeling trip amongst the neighbouring islands.
Koh Lipe – a tiny island located in Tarutao National marine park, is the most beautiful island I have visited so far – both in Thailand and worldwide. The video below – containing a 10 minute island tour (including a visit to all the beaches) should give you an idea why we love this island so much. Enjoy 🙂
You may be interested in seeing the video of Koh Lipe we made whilst there during this Christmas trip.
This is where we’ll be heading on 23rd/24th December if anyone is at a ‘loose end’ for Christmas… I went to Koh Lipe a couple of years ago, and it is well worth the journey. It’s absolutely stunning.
Koh Lipe is a small island that is part of the Tarutao National Marine Park located in Satun Province.
Satun is a small province in the south of Thailand that borders Malaysia, facing the Andaman Sea. The province possesses renowned picturesque islands with verdant forests and mountainous land. The majority of the locals are Chao Lay and speak a dialect unique to their culture. It is located 973 kilometers from Bangkok and occupies an area of 2,478 square kilometers with 80 kilometers of coastline.
Most tourists head out to the pristine islands of Tarutao National Marine Park. Its landscape is full of underwater peaks, excellent beaches, calm and peaceful coves, jungle and mangrove swamps. Snorkeling can be found at Koh Lipe (Lipe Island), while neighbouring Adang Island has stunning primary forest with mountainous terrain and waterfalls.