Thomas and Ane have spent a few days in the small city Bonito, located in the state Mato Grosso do Sul. And just to get the obvious out of the way; “bonito” means “beautiful” in Portuguese, and Bonito and its surroundings are absolutely beautiful, if not to say breathtaking!
An ecological beauty
Bonito is also an ecological destination, and a hub for nature lovers. Here tourism and nature preservation go hand in hand, and a myriad of different tours are offered. On each of the tours we went on, there was a limited number of tourists allowed into the attractions each day, in order not to harm the local nature. Local biologists have conducted a study to find out how many people the different attractions can receive each day. Moreover, everywhere we walked there were signs informing the tourists that this is a preservation area, and that environmental degradation is prohibited.
The tours we were lucky to go on were Balneário Municipal, Arvorismo, Boia Cross and Parque das Cachoeiras. Balneário Municipal is an area by a river, where you can swim, snorkel or just enjoy the sun. The water is beautifully green and crystal clear, and you can see a lot of fish here.
While we were at Balneário Municipal, Thomas really hoped to spot a snake, as anacondas are found in the area. However, Thomas was not as “lucky” as the Say HI participants back in 2017 were, who actually spotted an anaconda while they were swimming in the river! To read about Kaja and Michael´s experiences (with and without the snake), take a look here: http://sayhitosustainability.com/explore-the-beauty-of-brazil-in-bonito/. And just to calm you all down, the locals told us that the anacondas are peaceful and do not bother you (as long as you do not bother them…). Alas, we did not get to see one, which half of the Say HI team was happy and relieved with, while the other half was disappointed.
In the area close to Balneário Municipal you can also go on guided snorkeling tours. Have a look at the video made by the participants in 2017 to get a first-hand account on how it is to be snorkeling down the river; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CeTRif0gyKc&feature=youtu.be.
Some of the other activities you can do close to Balneário Municipal are Arvorismo and Boia Cross. Arvorismo is a outdoors climbing park, where you are secured with climbing equipment through different obstacles that you have to go and climb through. At the end of the trail there are two zip-lines, the last one down to the water, which felt amazing after an hour of exercise in the Bonito heat! Boia Cross is tubing down the river. Both of these activities were really fun, and for both of them we had to leave our cameras behind, so what it looked like when we ventured out on these activities is left to your imagination.
Waterfalls, waterfalls, waterfalls
One of the many things we have enjoyed a lot during our year in Brazil is waterfalls! In many of the tourist destinations around the country, lovely waterfalls are found, and Bonito is no exception. We got to visit Parque das Cachoeiras (Waterfall Park), where we in addition to enjoying the views and the lovely waters, we learned several interesting facts about the area. The guide told us that the biome that is found in Bonito and its surroundings, is a mix of Mata Atlântica (Atlantic Forest) and Cerrado (a tropical savanna ecoregion, which among many other areas covers Brasília and its surroundings). During our tour through the waterfall park, we also learned about the limestone formations in the area. Limestone is a sedimentary rock, which forms organic, chemical or detrital material into rock formations, because the water is rich in calcium carbonate. No one is allowed to climb on these formations that are found at the waterfalls, in order not to ruin the local nature.
Another thing we noted in the Waterfall Park, was that all the trails have wooden structures for the tourists to walk on. These constructions are made in order not to harm the ground and the local nature by letting tourists step directly on it.
The house of glass
On our way back from the Waterfall Park, we passed by yet another one of Bonito´s sustainable pearls – Casa do Vidro (House of glass), which is also described in the blogpost from 2017. Casa do Vidro is a private initiative that uses recycled glass to create new, beautiful items (like glasses, cups, lamps, ornaments, etc.). The fabric and store receives the used glass from the local population in Bonito and from different partners, like Bonito Hostel. You can leave your used glass bottles and other glass items in a box outside the store. Casa do Vidro has been working since 2014 in Bonito, and at the moment they reuse about 60 % of the city´s glass. The staff members at Casa do Vidro also offer courses about what they do.
Beautiful Bonito Hostel
Last, but not least, we want to recommend a stay the lovely Bonito Hostel. Here, we immediately felt welcome and taken care of in the real HI spirit! The hostel has a spacious indoor- and outdoor area and has capacity to host 114 people, in addition to a camping area. Staff members in Bonito Hostel are very friendly and helpful, and conveniently, the hostel also offers tours in the area. We booked all our tours at the hostel, and our experiences were great.
Staying true to the Hostelling International spirit, Bonito Hostel has several sustainable actions implemented. Among these, we can mention that trash is separated into five different categories, rainwater is collected and then used in the pool, and the water from the air conditioners is used to water plants. From each of the air conditioners a small tube is installed, so that the water generated by the air-condition is directed towards plants and grass. What a simple way to take advantage of the water that is generated! In addition to this, the air-condition is only turned on in the rooms from 10PM to 6AM, in order to save energy. Way to go, Bonito Hostel!
The continuation of a partnership
During the second year of the Say HI to Sustainability-project, Eirin and Hannah initiated a partnership with World Animal Protection (WAP). World Animal Protection is an international non-profit animal welfare organization. The organization aims to protect animals and create a better world for animals. WAP has offices in 14 countries all over the world, and one of these offices is located in São Paulo. As part of our partnership, the WAP office in São Paulo has developed an information material for the HI hostels that are located in areas close to wild animals. HI Hostel Bonito proved a perfect place to start the implementation of raising the awareness among the hostel guests concerning tours where you get to see wild animals. When choosing a tour, make sure to choose an attraction that respects animal welfare and supports the conservation of wildlife. Such places will follow these rules:
- Wild animals are always in the wild, never in captive, chains or cages
- Animals are not used in shows to entertain tourists
- Animals are kept at a minimum safe distance, and touching animals is not allowed
- Offering food to animals is not permitted
- The tour does not cause negative impacts on the habitat of the wild animals
Thank you to Eirin and Hannah for initiating this partnership and thank you Bonito Hostel and WAP for continuing it! As Say HI to Sustainability participants we are very happy to contribute to the continuation of the partnership between Hostelling International and World Animal Protection.
Be on time
It is clear that Bonito knows how to take care of its nature – and of its tourists. Even though we were only in Bonito for a few days, we got to experience the great vibe and see first-hand how well planned the area is and how well the nature is being taken care of here! One last curiosity about Bonito, is that this is the only place we have been to in Brazil where people show up early. After almost a year in this country, we have gotten used to people, buses, tours, etc. being late, and we have learned not to always expect a Nordic punctuality. However, when you book a tour in Bonito, make sure to be ready 10-15 minutes before the pick-up time. In our experience, the transportation that is going to take you to the attraction WILL show up early!
A visit (or several) to Bonito and Bonito Hostel is highly recommendable. We wish that we would have more time at Bonito Hostel, and we hope that we will be back to explore more of what this amazing place has to offer.
Written by: Ane Omland