As some of our readers may know, Dale’s father is visiting us in Brazil for the next several weeks and we have a lot of fun travels planned. He’s already fitting in like he was born here! We’ve attended two Brazilian BBQ parties and visited several beaches. We spent his first weekend in Brazil whale watching and had a fabulous time!
We heard about whale watching in Brazil last year and we knew we had to do it. We decided what better time than while Dale’s dad is visiting. So we did a little research and off we went for a long holiday weekend to whale watch.
The whales we saw are called Southern Right Whales (Eubalaena Australis) and in Portuguese, Baleia Franca. Between the months of July to November they leave the cold Antarctic waters to mate, give birth, and nurse their calves just off the shores of southern Brazil. The best time to see them is between the months of September and October. We were lucky enough to spot them as close as 100 feet from the shore!
A baby Southern Right Whale at play
Southern Right Whales are a dark grey or black color, and some have white bellies. They have two separate blow holes and an enormous head. The calves appear to enjoy breaching the water and doing headstands waving their tails in the air. These whales are humongous. Adult Southern Right Whales can be between 14 and 18 meters long and the calves are between 5 and 6 meters long at birth. The adults can weigh up to 80 tons and the calves weigh between 1 and 1.5 tons at birth.
There reportedly were once over 100,000 Southern Right Whales, but due to hunting over the years their population dwindled. It is estimated that there are around 12,000 of these giants spread across the southern hemisphere. Whale hunting wasn’t made illegal in Brazil until 1987 thanks to environmentalists. They almost disappeared altogether from the coast of Brazil. Just a few years ago Brazilian tours were running whale watching boats, but currently whale watching boat tours are not allowed. Luckily you can see them up close from the many beaches and cliffs in the area.
You can find the Southern Right Whales about 56 miles (90 kilometers) south of the Capital city of Florianopolis in the state of Santa Catarina, Brazil. Dale was able to use a whale spotting map that showed us exactly where whales were spotted the day before. The best whale sightings are in Garopaba. The first day we saw two whales from the sand dunes above the beach, Praia de Ibiraquera. They were off in the distance and it was difficult to get good photos but it was still cool nonetheless!
The second day we were in for a treat! We were able to see the whales up close from the cliffs and beach of Praia da Gamboa. The road into Praia da Gamboa was a long, rough dirt road but it was worth it. You think that you are in the middle of nowhere until the road turns into a paved road and there is a cute little beach town with a few restaurants and places to stay. We saw 10 whales and their calves at this beach. We sat up on the cliffs for what seemed only a few minutes but was more like hours, watching the mother whales with their calves.
A mother and her calf
The calves were frisky and delighted us with their jumps and headstands. It was an amazing experience. At one point a mother and her calf swam right up to about 100 feet of the cliff we were sitting on. The calf swam beside its mother the entire time. It was an experience none of us will ever forget.
We could watch these guys play all day!
How to get there
From Florianopolis drive about 56 miles or 90 kilometers south. Take the exit for Praia do Rosa. There are several other beach towns you can stay at but we loved Praia do Rosa. It is charming surf town and has great places to eat and many things to do.
Praia do Rosa
Where to Stay
There are plenty of accommodations, restaurants, and nightlife at Praia do Rosa. We stayed in a two bedroom cabin with a full kitchen. This allowed us to save a little money because we could fix breakfast and not have to pay for the extra meal. There are a lot of bungalows, small cabins, and rooms for rent in the area. Most of them are called “pousadas”. That is the Brazilian version of a bed and breakfast. They are privately owned and many are nice. Some include breakfast and some do not. We could have paid to eat breakfast at our pousada but we are simple when it comes to breakfast so we brought our own food.
Sunset from the pool deck at Vale Verde
We stayed at a pousada called Vale Verde (check out their website – we have no financial ties, it was just a truly great place to stay). The bungalow we stayed in was a bit rustic. It reminded me of summer camp as a child. It was convenient to everything and nice to have a place where the three of us could cook breakfast together, have plenty of room and privacy, and even a hammock outside our front door.
Dale Sr. found the hammock!
The owner of the Pousada, Julio was wonderful. His family was visiting for the holiday weekend (Brazil’s Independence Day) and he invited us to his party. They cooked traditional Brazilian BBQ called Churrasco. The beer and wine flowed all night as well as the beef, sausage, ham, rib meat, and other delicious treats. You see Julio and his family are from the state Rio Grande do Sul. This state is the southernmost state in Brazil and is famous for having the best Brazilian BBQ. After that party and meal, we can’t disagree!
Churrasco Gaúcho style
Then they brought out the guitar. Dale, his father, and another Brazilian sang and played guitar for everyone until the early hours of the morning. A Uruguayan couple staying at the pousada asked Julio if they have live music every night. We all thought that was funny. We had a blast!
Julio and his family and friends made us feel welcome. He also told us where to find the best whale watching spots, restaurants, and beaches. We recommend his Pousada if you want to stay someplace where you will be treated like a close friend.
Friends and family around a bbq – quintessential Brazil!
Where to eat
Our favorite place to eat turned out to be Julio’s kitchen where his family was cooking up some great BBQ. However we got lucky and you may not have that option. We found an excellent pizza place near the Pousada called Pizza na Pedra. They had several artisanal beers available and the food was wonderful. If you want seafood, almost all the restaurants in the area serve fresh seafood. You can’t go wrong in Praia do Rosa!
What to do
We of course went whale watching but if you tire of watching whales there are a lot of options. From horseback riding, to surfing, stand up paddle board, kite boarding, sandboarding the dunes, four wheeling, hiking, or just people watching and sunbathing, you will never get bored. There are also several surf schools in the area if you are new to surfing and want to give it a try!