The next stop on our round the world travel journey took us to Praia do Forte, an ecological village about two hours north of Salvador de Bahia. The village is uniquely situated inside a national park and is centered around preservation of the surrounding land and animals.
Built on the motto “enjoy but don’t destroy,” the town of Praia do Forte has an interesting history. In the 1960’s a German-Brazilian built a resort in the south of Brazil and upon completion, an oil company decided to put in an oil refinery right near where the hotel stood. To ensure his next endeavor didn’t go awry, the man by the name of Klaus Peters purchased a 25,000-acre coconut plantation sitting along eight miles of beautiful beaches. The purchase gave him ownership of the fishing village of Praia, a 16th century Portuguese castle on the property and the surrounding rainforest.
The vision was to create a wildlife reserve. To achieve this, he established strict zoning laws. All buildings must be constructed out of native materials, like colonial tiles and palm trees, and can’t be more than two stories high. No streets can be paved and no walls – only fences – can be built. As a way of ensuring real estate prices don’t oust any of the native villagers (as is common in many other coastal resort towns), no outsiders are allowed to buy homes. Houses can only be passed down from family member to family member.
What I’m slowly, but surely, getting to is that the town of Praia do Forte is a real gem. There is an array of adventure sport activities offered to visitors, including canoeing, hiking, biking, snorkeling, horseback riding and beach buggy trips, that give you a chance to explore the thousands of acres of rainforest surrounding the town. The village is also home to Tamar, the world’s largest project to conserve endangered sea turtles. Albeit mildly disappointed with the offerings at the sea turtle reserve (consisted mainly of a few turtles in tanks seemed mainly geared towards kids), we were impressed with the efforts.
We spent our days exploring the sea turtle reserve, renting bikes to take a look at the ruins of the Portuguese castle, hiking through the rainforest and walking the miles of undisturbed beaches lined with forests of palm trees. An absolute highlight was enjoying the clear, natural swimming pools in the ocean, created by the way the coral reef forms along the ocean floor.
Rarely do you see a place that so well preserves the natural wildlife while simultaneously preserving the character of a small town. For those visiting Bahia, put Praia do Forte on your map.