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Wild Swimming Spot – Waterfall Trail Brazil

Sylvia Knight explored the waterfall trail in the Reserva Ecológica de Guapiaçu nature reserve in Brazil

This year, we were lucky enough to swim in a number of amazing places while on a family holiday to Brazil, and the best by far was the ‘waterfall trail’ in the Reserva Ecológica de Guapiaçu nature reserve, a couple of hours inland from Rio de Janeiro. The reserve was set up to preserve and extend one of the last remnants of Atlantic Rainforest (not to be confused with Amazonian Rainforest). The easily accessible trails which are maintained through it allow visitors to see some of the amazing natural beauty and biodiversity that the reserve protects. However, it also contains a number of small rivers and these tumble down the mountainsides, forming plunge pools which are perfect swimming spots.

Colossal trees, insects and birds

Our favourite spot was close to our accommodation and a gentle climb along a well-marked trail through the forest. Along the path, we spotted an incredibly cute sleepy creature in a tree, which turned out to be an orange-spined hairy dwarf porcupine. Everything, from the colossal trees with buttressed roots and epiphytes, to the insects and birds, was completely fascinating for the whole family.

We didn’t see anyone else all day and, in early June, the temperature was perfect for exploring and swimming. What made this spot the best place to swim in? Partly it was the size of the pool, which was relatively large and deep (no danger of knocking toes on rocks). But mostly it was the fact that the speed of the water coming in to the pool was just right to swim against in a fairly leisurely fashion. The water was crystal clear, so you could see the small fish flitting about in the depths. Later, we climbed further through the forest to the spectacular waterfall after which the trail is named (another great swimming spot, but we’d run out of time). Apparently there are woolly spider monkeys past the waterfall, and the reserve’s camera traps have photographed ocelots and pumas there too recently.

Orange Spined Hairy Dwarf Porcupine

Orange-spined hairy dwarf porcupine

Orchids and spectacular views

We loved the place so much that we decided to give ourselves another day, paying for one of the reserve staff to drive us back to Rio airport rather than returning by public buses in the way that we had arrived. I stayed with our children in our favourite pool, on the surrounding rocks and mini-rapids all day, while my husband climbed up to the top of the ‘red’ trail, to stunted Elfin forest, with orchids and spectacular views.

Daytrip from Rio

We stayed at the reserve for four nights, sharing our meals with the extremely welcoming staff and volunteers, but it’s just about possible to visit on a daytrip from Rio if you have your own transport. The reserve also has a lodge, catering mainly for high-end bird tours. We would love to return!

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Outdoor Swimmer is the magazine for outdoor swimmers by outdoor swimmers. We write about fabulous wild swimming locations, amazing swim challenges, swim training advice and swimming gear reviews.