Ilha Grande, Brazil


Ilha Grande is a beautiful tropical island around 150 km from the bustling Brazilian capital of Rio de Janeiro. Beyond the white sand beaches, palm trees, and turquoise waters, the island’s spectacular mountainous landscape is home to one of the few remaining areas of pristine Atlantic Rainforest in Brazil. This forest supports a huge range of wildlife from marmosets to sloths and armadillos. Simply walking through the forest, whether you see any wildlife or not, is a  captivating experience. Everywhere you pass is alive with the sounds and smells of the animal kingdom. There’s a buzzing around every corner and always the chance that when you crest a hill you’ll see something incredible! You can read more about our trip to Ilha Grande on our blog.

Average rating: 5.0 (very good)

Average cost: you can hike along the trails which criss-cross the island for free. Check out this excellent guide for more info. If you want a local guide you can sign up to a number of different hiking and wildlife watching trips in the town of Vila do Abraao – where the streets are lined with tour operators. Boat trips around the island are a great way to see the Atlantic Rainforest and mangroves if you don’t feel up to a jungle walk. But your chances of seeing wildlife will be lower as you don’t really get out into the forest.

Best time to visit: the peak season is January, June, and July. The low season still provides fantastic weather and means fewer people and more wildlife. WildSide recommends a visit in April, September, or October to avoid the crowds.

How to get there: most people travel to Ilha Grande from Rio de Janeiro. The trip usually involves a local bus combined with a public ferry, or an organised transfer. There’s a useful guide to getting there here.

Typical activities: boat trip, hiking, jungle trek

Number of reports: 1

WILDLIFE IN ilha grande

According to reports submitted to WildSide, the most popular species that can be seen here are:


armadillo ilha grande wildside world wild web

The Atlantic Forest of Ilha Grande is home to the secretive and unusual nine-banded armadillo. A study of the wildlife in the area found that encounters were lower in the northern end of the island where the tourist and hunting pressure is higher. A further study also found that armadillos are one of the most hunted species in Ilha Grande. This means they are a difficult species to spot. Your best bet is to head out into the rainforest on one of the island’s many trails. To boost your chances, stick to small, quiet groups on the trails leading away from the main tourist routes.


sloth ilha grande wildside world wild webAnother secretive and unusual inhabitant of the Atlantic Forest on Isla Grande is the maned three-toed sloth. Sadly, they are one of the most threatened sloth species, as they are only found in the Atlantic Forest. While the forest in Ilha Grande is well preserved, in much of Brazil it has been cleared for logging, charcoal, and cattle grazing. Maned sloths are relaxed, slow-moving, mostly nocturnal animals. It’s estimated that they spend only 10% of their time moving at all. Most of their days are spent sleeping in the forks of trees or dangling upside down from branches with their heads tucked between their legs. This, together with their excellent camouflage, makes them look like a clump of dead leaves. Unsurprisingly they can be difficult to spot – so it may be worth getting a local guide to help you look for them.

Photo credit: WildSide team member Adam Eagle

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