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Ilha de Marajó

Introducing Ilha de Marajó

The 50,000-sq-km Ilha de Marajó, slightly larger than Switzerland, lies at the mouths of the Amazonas and Tocantins rivers. It was the ancient home of the Marajoaras indigenous culture, notable for their large ceramic burial urns. Today, Marajó’s friendly residents live in a few towns and villages and on the many fazendas (ranches) spread across the island. This is a world apart, where bicycles outnumber cars and water buffalo graze around town. Legend has it the buffalo are descended from animals that swam ashore from a French ship that sank while en route from India to French Guiana. The island is well known for its buffalo cheese, buffalo steaks and buffalo-mounted police force.

Only the island’s eastern shore is easily accessible to tourists. It has three small sleepy towns: Joanes is the smallest of the three, with a decent beach and small hotel (and not much else); Salvaterra has the island’s best and largest beach but the town itself is a bit lacking; and Soure has the most in terms of hotels, services and overall ambience, though the beaches are a bit harder to reach. Much of the island’s interior is wetland, and is home to tens of thousands of birds, including the graceful guará, with its scarlet plumage and long, curved beak.

Services are slowly improving on Marajó; there are two ATMs in Soure, and more hotels accept credit cards. That said, it's not a bad idea to bring extra cash from Belém. Also be aware that Marajó is very wet from January to June, with almost-daily rain.