A woman - Vera Martins

Photo © Michael Sommers.

Da Boca do Brasileiro means “Out of the Mouth of a Brazilian” and is the title I’ve chosen for a regular monthly feature of this blog. The idea is to let Brazilians do the talking by recommending their favorite things to see, eat, and do while also providing some insider dicas (tips) they think might be useful for visitors.

Vera Martins has lived for years in Morro de São Paulo, a former fishing village turned mega tourist magnet that – due to its remote location on the Ilha de Tinharé, an island lined with splendid reef-protected beaches – is one of Bahia’s most popular beach destinations. Below she shares a few of the things that made her fall in love with Morro years ago when she arrived from the south of Brazil and found herself unable to leave. Vera has witnessed many changes in the last couple of decades as tourism – and its attendant trappings – have descended upon Morro. And yet, she still finds much to love about the place, from its natural attractions and laid-back lifestyle to the swirling mix of people from different walks of life who get together to forget their troubles by donning the unofficial island uniform of t-shirt and flip flops and partying the nights away.

Name: Vera Lúcia Martins

Birth Place: Torres, Rio Grando do Sul

Current Address: Morro de São Paulo, Bahia

Profession: Receptionist at the Vila Guaiamú, a hotel located on a former coconut plantation on Morro’s Terceira Praia.

What to Do: Walk along the beaches – Primeira, Segunda, Terceira, and Quarta (First, Second, Third, and Fourth). It’s peaceful to be surrounded by nature and it’s good for your health as well.

What to Eat: The bobó de camarão [a thick and fragrant Bahian stew featuring shrimp cooked in a puree of manioc seasoned with coconut milk, palm oil, ginger, and cilantro] at Club do Balanço, on Segunda Praia, is simply splendid.

Place You Can’t Miss: The Forte de Morro de São Paulo, [constructed in 1630, it was one of Brazil’s largest defensive fortresses before falling into ruins]. Watching the sunset from here is extremely beautiful. The fort and surrounding area give off a very special energy. Moreover, if you go during the summer months [December to March], you can see schools of dolphins frolicking in the sea below.

Insider Hint: Come and visit the guaiamús here at the Vila Guaiamú. Guaiamús are blue crabs that live in the sandy soil of mangroves. There used to be so many in Morro, but the locals hunt them and their eggs (they’re a great delicacy). The most amazing spectacle occurs during hatching season, which takes place in February. When the moon is full, hundreds of females emerge from their homes in the sand and, in a mass procession, advance towards the sea to lay their eggs. Vila Guaiamú is one of the only places in Morro that preserves these crabs. I love to eat them, but when I get a craving to do so I go to the bars on the Quarta Praia, where they serve guaiamús farmed in captivity.

Insider Warning: Don’t bring a lot of luggage. First of all, you’ll get tired from lugging it around on all the beaches [there are no paved roads or vehicles in Morro de São Paulo]. And secondly, there’s no use in bringing a lot of clothes; you’ll never use them.

Recommended Sound Track: It would have to be Ivete Sangalo. Her music is Bahian and so festive. Its spirit of alegria perfectly reflects the personality of Morro.