A narrow strip of sand that seems like it may be submersed any second, marks the meeting between Baía de Camamu’s (Camamu Bay) peaceful waters and the stronger waves of the Atlantic Ocean. A framework of wood and straw beams is the only sign of human occupation at Coroa Vermelha (Portuguese for Red Crown), as the bay’s locals dubbed this sand strip.
This desolate small island, a good spot to take a swim in the sea, bears witness to one of the main attractions of Camamu’s: the resistance of beaches, groves and islands in this Southern Bahia refuge to human occupation.
Coroa Vermelha could look altogether different. The locals explain how the island was purchased years ago by a famous singer in an axé music group (a typical local rhythm) who tried to build a mansion there.
The tides, the wind and the corrosive sea air prevented the construction from coming to fruition – and the small wooden shack, which seems on the verge of collapsing, remains the only building on the island.
The mansion the sea and the wind took away sums up the history of small cities and villages on Baía de Camamu, a stretch of land that begins at the mouth of Rio Maraú (Maraú River) and nearly encloses it entirely, named Península do Maraú (Maraú Peninsula).
Camamu, the starting point for a tour of the bay and the peninsula, can be likened to a Salvador (the state capital) that did not grow.
The municipality, which was once Brazil’s foremost cassava flour producer, also features one high and one low portion, and colonial houses, just like the capital of Bahia. However, instead of the 365 churches in Salvador, which (singer and songwriter) Dorival Caymmi sang about, Camamu has just one, Matriz de Nossa Senhora de Assunção, the largest in the state’s interior. Flour is still made there and can be purchased as a souvenir, in different colors.
Motorboats and schooners leave Camamu and Barra Grande for a tour of the bay that must be started early in the morning, so its most interesting spots can be seen, such as Ilha da Pedra Furada (Pierced Stone Island), which got its name because its rocky formations have holes made by molluscs in them (a small admission fee is charged, 2 reais, or US$ 1.09).
There is also Ilha do Goió (Goió Island), named after a local crab. Ilha Grande (Large Island), with its tranquil beaches, also offers lodges in which to stay. The Tremembé Waterfall, hidden in the back of the bay, offers a cold, strong water bath that is the perfect contrast to the salty, lukewarm, tranquil water of the beaches.
Between one island and the other, it is almost inevitable to pass through Cajaíba do Sul and admire the work of its shipyards. In them, many of the schooners we see along other coastal tourist spots in Brazil, such as Paraty and Angra dos Reis.
Some are sent abroad, to countries such as Angola. Outside the bay, in addition to Coroa Vermelha, the attraction is ocean fishing: Tuna, Barracuda, Cavalla and Greater Yellowtail are some of the species that may bite the hook.
It is not easy to get there: by car, coming from the South of Brazil, take BR-101 highway up until the crossing with Valença. From there, drive along BA-001 until you reach Camamu.
From Northern Brazil, take a ferryboat from Salvador to Itaparica Island – and from there head to Camamu through BA-001 highway.
Three different bus companies offer trips from Salvador to Camamu: Santana ((55) (71) -3450-4951), Cidade Sol ((55) (71) -3682-1791) and Águia Branca ((55) (71)-4004-1010).
These are the options for lovers of adventures and backpacks. Those seeking greater comfort may board a plane if they are staying at the Kiaroa Luxury Resort, one of Bahia’s finest, at Península do Maraú, featuring a spa, an infinity edge pool and bedrooms and bungalows featuring large, comfortable beds and insect repellent always handy.
The resort’s policy is to preserve the vegetation, therefore insects may attack those roaming the facilities. A fair price to pay for the ocean scent and the plants, and the mesmerizing landscape of Península do Maraú.
Where to stay:
Hotel Rio Icaraí
Praça Dr. Francisco Xavier Borges no number, Center, Camamu. Tel (55) (73) 3255-2315 and (55) (73) 3255-2335
Pousada Recanto da Natureza
Barra do Serinhaem. Tel (55) (73) 3256-7045 and (55) (73) 9936-8414
Kiaroa Eco-Luxury Resort
Barra Grande, Península do Maraú. Tel (55) (73) 3258-6213 and (55) (71) 3272-1320
Where to eat
Restaurante Sabor do Mar e da Terra
Beef jerky, seafood moqueca and feijoada (black beans) among the specialties. Second street perpendicular to Cerqueira Campos, Camamu. Tel. (55) (73) 9933-8542.
Pastelaria Mistura Perfeita
Pastel (Deep fried pastry wrapping with assorted fillings) made on the spot. Avenida Beira-Mar, Center, Camamu. Tel (55) (73) 3255-1873 and (55) (73) 8167-3979
Restaurante São Jorge
A stop during the tour of Baía do Camamu. Located by the wharf on Ilha do Sapinho. The specialty is lobster, served grilled or with gravy, and shrimp.