Baía de Todos os Santos, the second largest bay in the world, is the largest bay on the Brazilian coast.
Todos os Santos Bay was discovered on November 1, 1501. This is where its name comes from, as “All Saints’ Day” is celebrated on this date.
Todos os Santos Bay is an indentation in the Brazilian coastline located in the state of Bahia. It is the second largest bay in the world after the Gulf of Bengal and the largest in Brazil.
To give you an idea of the size of this bay, it is roughly the size of the municipality of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s second largest metropolis.
The wide and deep bay enchanted navigators, pirates and colonizers, as well as arousing the interest of the Portuguese government because it was an excellent natural anchorage, a strategic defensive site, with pristine waters and fertile land.
Salvador, the cradle of Portuguese colonial civilization in the Americas, the Baia de Todos os Santos was home to the largest export port in the Southern Hemisphere, from where Bolivian silver and Brazilian sugar were sent to European metropolises, with the port of Salvador receiving the most African slaves from the New World.
Penetrating 80 km into the continent, Baía de Todos os Santos has a 300 km coastline and is actually a small gulf made up of three bays, including Baía de Aratu, which is currently home to the Port of Aratu and the Landulfo Alves Refinery.
Its shores have one of the largest oil reserves on continental land in Brazil.
From one end of the bay to the other it is 14 meters wide, and from Ponta da Penha to Ponta de Itaparica it is approximately 9 km long.
The eastern edge of Todos os Santos Bay is marked by a straight, steep tectonic escarpment, the Salvador escarpment, the most beautiful example of an ancient crystalline edge of a coastal tectonic trench in all of South America.
Because it has many panoramic views from the top of the escarpment, the city of Salvador is also known as the Belvedere.
Baía de Todos os Santos has 56 islands, the main ones being Ilha de Itaparica (the largest), Ilha da Maré, Ilha dos Frades, Ilha Cajaíba, Ilha da Bimbarra, Ilha das Vacas, Ilha das Canas, Ilha de Bom Jesus and Ilha do Medo.
Main islands in Todos os Santos Bay
1. Bimbarras Island
A mix of paradisiacal beaches, mangroves, preserved Atlantic forest, pastures and, as an extra show, daily flocks of multicolored birds. Such is the exuberant landscape of this island which, thanks to its beauty and biodiversity, has been transformed into a preservation area by Ibama.
Low-intensity tourism is combined with the routine of a productive farm, located right in the center of the island.
As it is privately owned, visitors must book in advance to enjoy the unspoiled beauty of the bucolic and deserted beaches. Access only by private boats and schooners. Romantic, good for diving, water sports and children.
2. Bom Jesus dos Passos Island
Ilha de Bom Jesus dos Passos lies between the islands of Madre de Deus and Frades. Covered by forest and mangroves, Ilha de Bom Jesus dos Passos has a calm, blue sea, suitable for swimming, fishing and water sports.
A large camping area welcomes bathers who mainly go to the Pontinha and Ponta do Padre beaches.
The Church of Bom Jesus dos Passos, which gives the island its name, was built in 1776 and is one of the local attractions. Romantic, good for diving, water sports and children.
With 1,465 inhabitants, it has the smallest population of the three islands that belong to Salvador.
Bom Jesus dos Passos stands out for its religiosity.
The sea is calm and ideal for fishing and water sports.
Bom Jesus dos Passos can be reached by boat from the municipality of Madre de Deus, 65 kilometers from Salvador.
The local church was built in 1766 and is currently under the care of the Brotherhood of Senhor Bom Jesus dos Passos, founded in 1815. Every January, the local population holds a big festival in honor of the island’s patron saint.
The praise of Bom Jesus dos Passos lasts 20 days.
The island’s inhabitants generally live off subsistence farming and fishing for fish and shellfish.
For those who want to stay longer, Bom Jesus dos Passos has a large camping area.
3. Ilha dos Frades
The Frades Island is one of the smallest in Todos os Santos Bay, and at the same time, one of the most important, due to its biodiversity and preserved Atlantic forest. Its first inhabitants were the Tupinambás Indians.
The story goes that, after a shipwreck, the religious who managed to reach the island were devoured by them, giving rise to the name. The coastline stretches for 8 km and has beaches with calm seas and clear waters.
The most popular are Loreto, home to the Church of Loreto and great for swimming; Paramana, home to a fishing village; Tobar, deserted and with reefs; and Ponta de Nossa Senhora de Guadalupe, famous for its lobster as an appetizer. Bustling, romantic, good for diving, water sports and children.
From the top of the church of Nossa Senhora de Guadalupe you can see the calm waters surrounding Ilha dos Frades. Surrounded by Atlantic Forest, the small paradise, which is eight kilometers long, occupies a territory that resembles the shape of a 15-pointed star. On each of them is a beach.
The historical, tourist and architectural monument of Bahia has an almost circular shape. In the 19th century, the fort was where General Bento Gonçalves was imprisoned during the Farroupilha Revolution.
Those departing from the Terminal Náutico do Comércio arrive at Ilha dos Frades via Nossa Senhora de Guadalupe beach. The island also has three other beaches that are very popular with tourists: Loreto, Viração and Paramana.
Loreto beach has calm seas and transparent waters, in the middle of a vast forest, where the church of the same name stands. Viração beach also has clear waters. It is surrounded by dense vegetation, but the highlight is the reefs.
In Paramana, the main attraction is the small fishing village.
Nossa Senhora de Guadalupe beach is well known for its cuisine, especially its fish, lobster and prawns. Other attractions on Ilha dos Frades are two churches: Nossa Senhora do Loreto and Nossa Senhora de Guadalupe, both from the 17th century.
There are also small inns on the island, which offer breakfast for those who want to stay longer.
4. Itaparica Island
The Ilha de Itaparica is the largest island in the Bay of All Saints and has around 246 km2 of lush vegetation, mangroves and beautiful beaches. The shore, which stretches for 40 km, is 14 km from Salvador and is connected to the mainland by the Funil Bridge, which gives access to the town of Itaparica.
Other alternatives are sea transportation from Salvador. Due to the reefs that surround the island, its waters are calm throughout. The beaches, with their crystal-clear waters, are surrounded by native forest and coconut groves.
In the center of the island there are several historic mansions, as well as fishing villages, remnants of the Indians, the natives of the region.
The most recommended beaches are Ponta de Areia, the most structured on the island and the starting point for trips to other islands in the region; Ponta do Mocambo, a difficult-to-access cove used as an unofficial nudist beach; Penha, a luxurious condominium frequented by the owners themselves; and Cacha Pregos, from where boats leave for the so-called Pantanal Baiano.
Bustling, romantic, good for diving, water sports and children.
5. Madre de Deus Island
In 1989, the Isla de Madre de Deus, then a district of Salvador, gained emancipation and became a municipality.
With the installation of Petrobras oil bases, the population has increased, which has contributed to the development process. The beaches, almost all urbanized, have calm seas and crystal-clear water.
Only Ponta do Suapé is unsuitable for swimming because of the dangerous sea. Busy, good for surfing, diving, water sports and children.
6. Ilha da Maré
The Ilha da Maré is located in the center of Todos os Santos Bay, is part of the municipality of Salvador and has around 14 km2 of Atlantic forest, mangroves, coconut trees and beaches. Still primitive, it is divided into several villages, which live mainly from fishing and handicrafts.
Handicrafts, in fact, are well known for their bobbin lace pieces.
Among the beaches, the most popular are: Itamoabo, where the “jeguetour” takes visitors for a stroll; Neves, where the historic 16th century Church of Nossa Senhora das Neves is located; and Botelho, with an excellent view of the Baia de Todos os Santos. Romantic, good for diving, water sports and children.
The island is an old fishing village, famous for peguarí, a mollusc found in abundance there. Peguarí moqueca is one of the island’s culinary specialties.
The ferry to the island departs from the São Tomé de Paripe Waterway Terminal, in the suburbs of Salvador, and takes around 45 minutes.
Another attraction on Ilha de Maré are the bobbin lace makers, who produce cloths, table runners and lace vests. The products are a hit with tourists.
A curious fact about Ilha de Maré is that it has the highest percentage of black people in the whole of Salvador.
According to Joilson Rodrigues Souza, IBGE’s information dissemination coordinator, approximately 93% of the inhabitants of Ilha de Maré are black. In all, 4,236 people live there.
If you want to extend your view of the island, there are inns on site with a privileged view of Todos os Santos Bay.
7. Matarantiba Island
The best-known attraction is the Tororó Fountain.
It is a waterfall between the rocks which, at high tide, practically flows into the sea. At low tide, it forms a freshwater spring right on the beach and amid dense vegetation in the mangrove swamp.
Barra Falsa Beach has white sand dunes and crystal-clear green water.
Ideal for swimming. It is also popular with surfers and bodyboarders. Ecological walks around the island also attract many visitors. Romantic, good for surfing, diving, water sports and children.
8. Ilha do Medo
Shrouded in legend, its name lives up to its reputation. In the 19th century, the Island of Fear was used for military purposes and as a refuge for lepers who were quarantined.
Because of this, one of the local legends most often told by the locals is that the souls of these inmates still haunt the island. Another version has a priest as a character, condemned to wander in the darkness for refusing to celebrate a mass he had received.
There is also another notorious one: that of a fisherman who allegedly saw a Miler spewing fire out of its mouth and, on telling the story, the poor man was struck dumb forever.
But with or without hauntings, the island is an Environmental Protection Area and, because it has no fresh water sources, it is not inhabited.
Its predominant vegetation is restinga and it has lush mangrove trees. Bathing in the sea is more advisable at high tide, due to the sand banks. Good for surfing, diving, water sports and children.
9. Ilha das Vacas
A private island, practically uninhabited, with a single colonial-style house and many cows scattered in pens. That’s why it’s called “Cow Island”.
10. Ilha das Canas
Ilha das Canas is practically uninhabited.
Main islands in Todos os Santos Bay
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