Festas Juninas in Aracajú, historical lessons at Praia do Forte, and close encounters with nature in Florianópolis
The Say HI to Sustainability team Brazil has been on a two months long trip through different parts of Brazil. We have worked with hostel managers and owners on the HI-Q&S certification (read more about the certification here: https://www.hihostels.com/pages/sustainable-hostelling). This trip has given us the chance to learn more about local culture, as well as the different sustainable initiatives and practices that are in place at the hostels. This article focuses on three of these hostels, which are all located on the Brazilian coast, and they are all placed close to a very interesting and highly sustainable project, namely Projeto Tamar (https://www.tamar.org.br/).
One hostel we immediately fell in love with was Aju Hostel in Aracajú (state of Sergipe). We arrived right before the national holiday Festas Juninas (June Parties) and were happy to witness that the hostel was fully booked for these dates. Aju Hostel has many sustainable initiatives, and you can read about some of them in a post from the first Say HI participants here: http://sayhitosustainability.com/the-most-redesigned-hostel-in-brasil/, as well as on the hostel´s webpage: http://ajuhostel.com.br/acoes-sustentaveis/. Another sustainable action that Aju hostel has, is the partnership with Projeto Tamar (as a hostel guest you get free entrance to the project). This project was officially created in the 1980s. It is a conservationist project that since its beginning has sought to protect and preserve endangered sea turtles off the Brazilian coast. Today, however, the project also protects sharks and other species that live in the ocean. Tamar´s work is divided in three parts; applied conservation and research, environmental education and local sustainable development. There are currently 24 project bases along the Brazilian coast (however, only some of them have visitation centers like the one in Aracajú). In Aracajú, we visited the center and got a guided tour of the facility. The guide did not only provide information about the sea turtles, but also linked the work Tamar is doing to protection of the seas, and how we as individuals can take small steps in order to have a positive impact on the environment and reduce our footprints. Some of the easy tips he mentioned are the following:
- Can you say no to the plastic straw next time you are at a restaurant? You use the straw for a few minutes, and then it takes up to 200 years (!) to decompose. Is it possible to drink your juice or drink without the plastic straw, or even purchase a metallic one?
- Pick up some trash! You do not need to arrange a big trash pick-up event, but if we all pick up one or two pieces of trash every day, that is so much better than doing nothing!
In addition to the HI-Q&S work and learning more about the sea turtles and how to lower or environmental impact, we also got to experience the Festas Juninas in Arajacú. These parties are celebrated all over Brazil in June, in different ways in the different parts of Brazil. However, all of the parties include a lot of food and beverages, as well as some kind of live music (for example the traditional music and dance Forró), and happy, dancing Brazilians (and in our case two rather awkward-looking Norwegians trying our best to learn some dance moves). After June Parties, sea turtles and learning about the sustainable actions at Ajú Hostel, we left Arajacú and went on to Praia do Forte.
Praia do Forte Hostel
Praia do Forte is a small beach town just one hour outside of Salvador (the capital in the state of Bahia). At Praia do Forte Hostel, we were immediately met by one of the hostel owners, the energic Paulo who took us to lunch and taught us about the history of Praia do Forte. Paulo could inform us that the town was funded in the 16th century by the nobleman Garcia D’Ávila. He constructed a military fortress in Praia do Forte, and the town started to grow from there. For many years, Praia do Forte was made up of farms, fishermen and coconut trees. In early 1980s, the “paulista” (a person from São Paulo) Klaus Peters, bought all the farms that had made up Praia do Forte until then. The fishermen who were living in the houses in Praia do Forte were given documents so that now they became legal owners of the houses. Klaus Peters, son of German immigrants, also constructed the first hotel in Praia do Forte. Because of his German roots, he was able to attract European tourists to the area. About the same time, Projeto Tamar started to open up for tourists, and this marks the start of tourism as a means of livelihood in Praia do Forte.
Paulo also told us that Projeto Tamar was started by a group of biology students from Natal (a city further north), who were travelling along the Brazilian cost. In Praia do Forte, they found the biggest population of turtles they had seen so far, and Projeto Tamar was founded here. Out of the seven different sea turtle species that exist in the world, five of these species are found in Praia do Forte. After several decades of work, Projeto Tamar has returned over 25 million baby turtles to the sea.
Praia do Forte Hostel is another hostel that we were sad to leave after our stay there. The hostel staff are warm and welcoming, the facilities are cozy, and among their sustainable initiatives we would like to mention these:
- The hostel separates their trash in different categories, and the bins are clearly marked so that the guests easily can contribute to the separation. In addition to this, the hostel composts, which is a great way to reuse the food remains and turn it into soil and fertilizer.
- The hostel does not offer any disposable items at breakfast, and they also sell reusable cups and straws in order to encourage guests to not use single-use plastic.
- In addition to Projeto Tamar, the hostel also has a partnership with Instituto Baleia Jubarte, which is an institute that takes care of whales in the area. As a hostel guest, you get free entrance to both Projeto Tamar and Instituto Baleia Jubarte.
Five days in Praia do Forte allowed us to see and experience a lot, as well as working intensively with the HI-Q&S process. We urge everyone to visit this pearl of a sustainable tourist attraction on the northeastern coast of Brazil. If you want to read more about conservation tourism here, have a look at last year´s Say HI participants’ article about this: http://sayhitosustainability.com/conservation-tourism-praia-do-forte/.
Floripa HI Hostel Barra da Lagoa
Some weeks later we were lucky to visit Floripa HI Hostel Barra da Lagoa in Florianópolis, which is called the island of magic, located way further south than the other two hostels, in the state of Santa Catarina. Among its sustainable actions, the hostel has solar panels on the roof, which they use for heating up all water used at the hostel. They also collect rainwater which they use in the toilets and for some sinks. The hostel has also recently started to compost. Also this hostel is located very close to the Projeto Tamar (a three minutes’ walk actually). While we stayed at the hostel, the manager informed us that Projeto Tamar would return one of their turtles to the sea, and we got to witness this amazing return from the front row. It was great to see this young turtle being returned to its natural habitat after being taken care of by the Projeto Tamar, and it was great to meet even more Tamar employees and see that they are as dedicated and knowledgeable as their colleagues in Praia do Forte and Aracajú. In addition to this, we got to go on some nice hikes in the area close to the hostel, and thus enjoy the beautiful sceneries that Florianópolis has to offer. We absolutely recommend visiting Florianópolis, even during what is the Brazilian winter (see our Instagram post from the 5th of August 2019 for more reasons why you should do so).
What is mentioned in this article are only a few selected memories of what we have experienced during our travels in Brazil. Stay tuned and follow us on social media (@sayhitosustainability) to keep up with what we are doing. Say HI to Brazil and Say HI to Sustainability!
Written by: Ane Omland