Our Beautiful Planet: A prison turned paradise in Brazil | Eco Africa | DW | 25.08.2017
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Eco Africa

Our Beautiful Planet: A prison turned paradise in Brazil

Ilha Grande was once Brazil's answer to Alcatraz. Now its unspoiled beaches, pristine rainforest and clear waters attract travelers from all over the world. 

Ilha Grande - or big island - is just a few hours from the intensity of Rio, Brazil's second most populous city. Its lush green forests and pristine beaches hide - but also owe their existence to - the island's strange history. 

Still largely undeveloped, the island has escaped the logger's chainsaw, car pollution, and high-rise hotel construction. That's because Ilha Grande was mostly closed to settlement or free movement until the early 1990s when the high security penitentiary on the island was shut down. Before that, it had housed a leper colony. 

As a result, it is home to one of the last untouched remnants of Brazil's coastal Atlantic rainforest. The 193 square kilometers (74 square miles) of protected forest on Ilha Grande is rich in biodiversity. Some of the last populations of endangered species live there, such as the brown howler monkey and red-browed amazon parrot. 

Photo: Ihla Grande, Brazil. Source: DW/J. Collins

A trip to Lopes Mendes beach requires a hike through the humid rainforest

A sweaty hike through the dense forest takes you to some of the world's most pristine and beautiful beaches; including to the fine white sand and crystal clear water of Lopes Mendes. The curved, secluded beach can't be reached by boat. Lined with palm trees, it is completely undeveloped - no restaurants, bars or accommodation allowed.   

The seas around the island are also protected. Dip your head under the water for a moment and you might be faced with sea turtles, tropical fish and coral reef - and further off the coast, southern right whales. 

Do you have a picture of a beautiful landscape or something amazing in nature that you want to share with our readers? If so, you can send it to us using the upload tool on our website, or by emailing us at ecoafrica@dw.com. We look forward to hearing from you.

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