We visited a total of 4 ports in Brazil.  When I was doing my initial research into these ports, I had a difficult time finding interesting things to do.  As it turned out, 3 of the 4 ports were fascinating!

BELEM — we took a ship’s excursion, the “Guama River Excursion”.  It turns out that Belem is called the “Gateway to the Amazon”, and we were actually up about 100 kilometers into one branch of the Amazon Delta.  The river was too shallow to get near the pier, so the ship anchored out about two miles from shore and we tendered in to town.  The water was amazingly rough considering how far we were up the river!  Local river boats were added to the ship’s tenders for the trip.

The local riverboat used to tender ahore. Taken from our rain-streaked cabin window.

The local riverboat used to tender ahore. Taken from our rain-streaked cabin window.

Once ashore, we transferred to a similar riverboat to head up river.

A riverboat similar to the one we took up river.

A riverboat similar to the one we took up river.

The city is huge; almost 2 million people.

The city is huge; almost 2 million people.

Boats at the waterfront.

Boats at the waterfront.

We took a fork from the Amazon to the Guama River, and began passing small homes along the riverbank.

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When we reached an island village, our enthusiastic guide began to show us local flora and fauna.  One young fellow was chopping nuts; Betsy thought he was cute!  A 74 year old man wrapped his feet with leaves to aid in climbing, shinned quickly up a palm tree then dropped down freestyle, halting his drop about a foot from the ground by tightening the grip of the leaves!  The leaves the guide is showing are used to heal wounds.  He then demonstrated a local nut used for war paint, dabbing us all with red.

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On our return trip, we enjoyed an impromptu “race” with a second boat of folks from the ship on a similar excursion.


It was a great excursion, one of the best we’re taken sponsored by the ship!  It was only marred a little at the end when the river water became so rough it was difficult to operate the tenders.  The crew did their best, but the tenders had to run very slowly in the chop, thus there were long waits.  At one point, two guests suffered injuries, one gash in an ankle and one head injury when something fell, all ashore at the pier.  We didn’t see either, as we were fortunate to get on a tender before it got even more rough.  Even so, we were bobbing around like a cork.  This was one of those times when the problems were beyond the cruise line’s control.

Fortaleza, Brazil We had nothing planned for Fortaleza and ended up not doing much.  The ship’s shuttle took us to the Mercado (mall) and the cathedral next door.  The cathedral was large but nothing special, and the mall was overwhelming.  No one took American dollars, and none of the ATM machines we found were working properly, so we purchased nothing.

It also rained slightly, the first rain we saw on the cruise.  The cathedral photo was shot through the wet window of the bus.

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NATAL, Brazil In Natal, we were fortunate that one of our fellow passengers discovered an academy of Capoeira, a national dance of Brazil.  The academy was normally closed on that date, but agreed to round up a group of students and put on a show at their studio.

Capoeira is combination of choreography and martial arts.  In the days of slavery, slaves were permitted to dance, but not to fight.  They developed a ritualized manner of fighting that appeared to be choreographed.  It has developed into a form of dance centered around whirling kicks, somersaults, cartwheels and flips, all with near misses.  It is fabulously athletic and exciting to watch.  We took taxis to the studio and thrilled to an hour long presentation; one of the best performances we’ve seen, anywhere.

The director of the academy, with a traditional Brazilion Berimbau. We later bought a smaller version of this stringed instrument.

The director of the academy, with a traditional Brazilion Berimbau. We later bought a smaller version of this stringed instrument.


Younger students at the academy, in the learning process.


The students attend free of charge, learning to read and write in exchange for the CApoeira lessons.


Older, more experienced boys. The have traveled internationally to perform.

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RECIFE, Brazil  This was our second visit to Recife, having toured the city on our first Oceania cruise in 2006.  This time, we decided to visit the old town of Olinda, on a hill just north of Recife.  Along with Cynthia and David Bradley, we took a taxi to the top of the hill, then a self-guided walking tour to the bottom, where we cabbed back to the ship.  Thanks to Cynthia and her incredible research, we had maps and descriptions.


Cathedral at the top of the hill

Cathedral at the top of the hill


View of Recife and our ship from the top of Olinda

View of Recife and our ship from the top of Olinda

Wood carver at work

Wood carver at work

Showing the carving Betsy purchased

Showing the carving Betsy purchased

As we started down the hill, we spotted what appeared to be a church at the end of a cul de sac used for parking.  We walked over for a closer look.  There was no name, no handles on any of the doors, and we were about to give up, when a young man opened one of thje doors, unaware that we were nearby.  When he spotted us, he opened an iron gate and motioned us to come in.



We discovered it was a convent for nuns of the Paula Francine order, who normally eschew contact with the outside world.  It is sometimes open by appointment, but we just lucked into it.  The young man spoke no English and we no Portuguese, but he motioned us onward and led us through the public rooms, each with a different tile pattern.



Leaving the convent, we started down the hill.  Along the way, we passed girls dressed for Carnival, which by the time you read this will be underway (starts Feb 5).

We stopped in a shopping area, and purchased a small Berimbau, which looks like a bow with a gourd attached.  It’s played by tapping the wire string with a stick and produces two notes with two variations.

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Some sights as we descended the steep hill…


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At the bottom of the hill, still in Olinda, was one of the first buildings…


…another cathedral…


and drummers practicing for Carnival.


After a very pleasing and successful day in Olinda, we taxied back to the ship.  After Brazil are the five days at sea crossing the Atlantic that I mentioned in an earlier post (using the time to try to catch up on the journal — unsucceesfully).

Next, Togo and Benin in West Africa and the island nation of Sao Tome & Principe off the African Coast.  A brief mention of Luanda, Angola, then Walvis Bay and Luderitz in Namibia.  As I write this, we’re are on our way to Cape Town followed by four other South African ports, Port Elizabeth, Durban, East London and Richards Bay, with only one sea day.  I’ll be hopelessly behind!

Thanks for bearing with me…








Don Horner

About Don Horner

Okeechobee, Florida
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3 Responses to Brazil

  1. Ellen Fox says:

    Awesome! What an amazing experience!

  2. marthalawlor says:

    I love arm chair traveling, especially when I can’t be there myself!

  3. Elaine Brennan says:

    Loved reading about your travels in Brazil ,