Don't Miss: The Sea Turtles of Tamar

There are only five remaining species of sea turtle left in the world – and all of them live on the Bahian coast. A true highlight of any trip through the region is a visit to the sea-turtle reserve that's dedicated to protecting loggerhead, hawksbill, olive ridley and green turtles – and their adorably tiny babies.

Of the 18 stations in Bahia run by the nonprofit organization Projeto Tamar (the name is an abbreviation for the Portuguese word for sea turtle, tartaruga marinha), the Praia do Forte station is perhaps the most impressive, exhibiting pools with marine turtles of various sizes and species, as well as urchins, eels and other sea life.

Outside the station itself, the most important action happens on the shoreline during the turtles’ nesting season (September to March). Tamar researchers protect around 550 nests a year along 50km of coast close to Praia do Forte. The moist, leathery, ping-pong-ball-size eggs are buried in the sand when laid and either left on the beach or brought to the hatcheries for incubation. When they hatch, the baby turtles are immediately released into the sea. Though this system allows some 500,000 baby turtles to hatch each year in Bahia, only several hundred will reach adulthood.

A trip to the reserve, located just behind the church on Praia do Forte's main square, is interactive and family friendly; take your time and have an outdoor lunch beside the ocean at Souza Bar, located inside the project station.