Diving Sao Paulo

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Sao Paulo, Brazil

Sao PaoloBrazil
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Country: Brazil  Area: Brazil

Water Temp: 13 - 20°C (55 - 68°F)

Visibility: 10 - 20m (33 - 66 ft)

Depth Range: 6 - 42m (20 - 138 ft)

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Set in the Brazilian highlands, Sao Paulo sits on a plateau about 800m (2,625ft.) about sea level and 70km (43miles) from the Atlantic Ocean. 

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This city of close to 12 million people, one of the world’s largest in terms of population, is part of the wealthiest state in Brazil and one of the wealthiest cities in the southern hemisphere.  

 The city is named after Saint Paul of Tarsus, an apostle who is considered one of the most influential figures in the Apostolic Age.   The demographic is over fifty per cent Catholic and boasts a significant diversity, with strong Italian, Arab, and Japanese ethnic neighbourhoods. 

Em Morro de São Paulo, Credit

Sao Paulo is known for its skyscrapers, architecture, art, museums and luxurious lifestyles.  It is also  world renowned for its regional and international gourmet cuisine with establishments like D.O.M. topping The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.  The city is the birthplace of the modern Churrascarias, Brazilian Steak houses that have become famous around the world.

Many famous events take place in Sao Paulo, among them Carnaval, the Brazilian Grand Prix, Sao Paulo Fashion Week, Sao Paulo Art Biennial, the ATP Brazil Open, the Sao Paulo International Film Festival, and the world’s largest gay pride parade.

Marine Conservation

The Environmental Department of Sao Paulo State Government, along with the non-governmental organization, CEMAR-Marine Conservation Research Center lead the effort to balance the needs of the diving public and the health of the ecosystems within MPAs (marine protected areas).  Along with dive tourism management, these organizations also conduct research that supports conservation policies in the waters around Sao Paulo.

Lajie Viva Institute, a non-governmental research organization, is dedicated to protecting Laje de Santos Marine State Park.

Diving in Sao Paulo, Credit

Climate

Sao Paulo is known for its unreliable and rapidly changing weather.  Winds in the morning hours can make it quite cold.  During the middle of the day, when the winds subside, the temperatures rise quickly.  In the center of the city, the temperatures can reach 102 F.  In the afternoon, the thermostat drops quickly. 

Boasting a humid subtropical climate, the region is heavily influenced by monsoons during the summer months.  In the summer (Jan – March), expect lows of approximately 17°C (63°F) and highs near 28°C (82°F).  In winter, the temperatures range from 11°-23°C (52°-73°F).  Winters are typically cool and dry; summers are wet.

 
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The Diving

Sao Paulo is 60km (32miles) from the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, making logistics an issue for divers.  It is recommended that divers stay in one of the small villages, with very modest accommodations, on the coast or in luxurious accommodations on Ilhabela (beautiful island).  Ilhabela is the largest island off the coast of Brazil and part of an archipelago of islands that host some of the areas best dive sites.

Cold ocean currents flow from the Antarctic to the coast of Brazil.  Called the resurgence phenomenon, these currents bring along with them an abundance of rich nutrients.  Much larger sea life follows this trail of nutrients.  Pelagic fish species, sea turtles, giant stingrays, and whales are frequently seen.  Unfortunately, the abundance of nutrients makes for poor visibility, as little as 5m (16ft.).   The best visibility (25m / 82ft.) occurs during the summer months.  When visibility is good, the diver is rewarded with interesting rock formations, colourful hard corals, sandy bottoms, fascinating shipwrecks, and a rich diversity of sea life.  Currents are often strong, making drift dives common. Dive sites are reached by boat.    

Clownfish, Sao Paulo, Credit

The entire coast of Ilha de Buzios, a neighbouring island of Ilhabela, is rich in marine life.  Dive sites range from  3–15m (10-49ft.) in depth, making this area available for all levels of experience.  Large rays, dolphin, and sea turtles are common sites.  More rare are huge sunfish.  Ilha de Cabras, near Buzios, become a marine park in 1992.  Because of the protections offered these waters, the fish have become quite tame.  Divers are likely to see scorpion fish, snapper, wrasses, pirajacas, sea bass, and grouper.  The Prince of Asturia shipwreck lies in 50m (164ft.) of cold water.  This advanced dive site is a mature artificial reef rich in marine life and close to 100 years in the making.  In 1916, the ship struck the rocks of Punta de Boi during a storm, sinking in under fifteen minutes.

Tavolara Island is home to the L’area The Tavolara-Punta-Coda Covello Marine Reserve where some of the best diving in Brazil is found.  The Bank of the Pope is a stone ridge with variable depths from 17–40m (56-132ft.).  Best reserved for intermediate and advanced divers, the site had strong currents necessitating a drift dive.  Rainbow wrasses, blue damselfish, groupers, octopus, nudibranches, gorgonians, granceola and galatea crabs, and mechanical prawn are among the sea life found amongst the rock formations and corals.  The Teddja Liscia dive point boasts a smooth, vertical wall with numerous platforms.  The first platform is at a depth of 12-15m (39-49ft.).  Mushroom shaped stones and short passages provide refuge for groupers, moray and conger eels, and octopus.  The Windjammer, Omega, Crisso, and KT shipwrecks are also located in this area, providing a nice alternative to the rock formations.

Queimada Grande, just a few miles off Sao Paolo’s coast, is a group of ocean rocks that make up four of the popular dive sites in the region.  At Saco da Bananeira the rocks form fissures that shelter a number of different fish, lobsters, and other invertebrates.  The Tocantins is a cargo ship that sank in 1944 and lies between 8–23m (26-75ft.).  This artificial reef is covered with sponges and corals and inundated by teams of fish.  Angle fish, stingrays, and moray eels inhabit the remains of the steam ship Rio Negro while the rocks of Funil form various passageways and overgrown caverns that make excellent night dives.

Laje de Santos Marine Park is famous for the populations of giant manta rays that visit the area between May and September.  Dive sites in the park have hard coral formations on a sandy bottom with depths from 6–45m (10-148ft.).  Dolphin and whales are commonly seen.

A hundred and thirteen kilometres (70miles) from the coast is Calhaus , a large rock formation with a U-shaped tunnel and an arch that reaches above the water.  Depths range from 14-40m (46-132ft.), visibility from 15-25m (49-82ft.).  A small trawler wreck adds interest and a home for starfish, octopus, parrotfish, and angelfish.  Manta rays frequent the site.

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How to Get there

Most major airlines service Guarulhos International Airport in Sao Paulo, 40km (21.6miles) from the city’s center.   

The Sao Paulo metropolitan area has an extensive bus transport system, an easy way to travel from the outlying areas to the city.  The best way to travel in the city is by subway/metro trains, trolley buses, and taxis.

Sao Paulo boasts the largest helicopter fleet in the world, making over 2,000 flights daily in the city’s central business district.  The helicopters are company-owned, leased or part of helicopter taxi service.

São Paulo Subway, Credit

 

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Where to Eat & Drink

Food tents at outdoor markets, simple restaurants serving regional fare, Brazilian and international fast food chains, world famous churrascarias, ethnic restaurants, and high-end internationally recognized restaurants make Sao Paulo the ultimate “foodie” destination.

True to its name, Templo De Carne Marcos Bassi is a meat lovers delight.  This “churrascaria” (Brazilian steak house) prepares a wide variety of succulent meats, including some unusual cuts.  For the vegetarians, Gopala Hari serves wonderfully fresh dishes with a hint of Indian cuisine.  This small, inexpensive restaurant is a favourite of locals.

Due Cuochi Cucina serves a wide range of Italian and Mediterranean dishes featuring homemade pastas, meats, chicken, and seafood.  Try the black prawn ravioli with mango chutney and curry cream sauce.  Choose a wine from their extensive collection.

City view at night, Credit

For sushi and other Japanese cuisine, try By Koji.  Their chefs take the freshest fish from the nearby Atlantic Ocean and create traditional and innovative dishes.  With a beautiful view of the Morumbi Stadium, you may be able to watch a game while dining.

Farabbud serves traditional Lebanese cuisine.  This small restaurant has a warm ambiance and attentive service.  Try the Arab sausage or the vegetable esfihas, but be sure to leave room for the chocolamour dessert.

Many credit chef Alex Atala of D.O.M. restaurant with revolutionizing Brazilian cuisine.  Traditional Brazilian flavours combine for a contemporary flair that tantalizes the taste buds.   The distinguished British magazine ‘Restaurant’ ranks D.O.M. #6 among the top 50 restaurants in the world.  Reservations must be made months in advance.

Sao Paulo has a vibrant, liberal, and abundant nightlife scene that doesn’t get cranked up until midnight.   The Vila Madena district is well known as a trendy Bohemian nightspot.  Other districts supporting a thriving nightlife scene include Jardins (for the jet-setters), August Street (for its underground clubs), and Vila Olimpia (for the dance clubs).

Brazilians know how to party well into the night, but consume alcohol more moderately than their European, Canadian, and North American counterparts.  Drinking to excess is frowned upon and dangerous.

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Other Activities

Sao Paulo is an intimidating city because of its size and congestion.  The best way to conquer the city is by private tours, many of which are available. 

Tours focus on a variety of interests including:  food and food markets (a must for foodies), the city’s architecture, art and art enclaves, theatre, culture, the Atlantic rainforest, and Capoava Farm (a centuries old Brazilian farm).

Parque do Ibirapuera, Credit

The metropolitan area is generously sprinkled with 36 parks and green spaces.  Ibirapuera Park, in the middle of the city, is the most well known.  Large green spaces and forested areas, along with a lake, complete with swans, makes the perfect setting for sports facilities, running trails, bike paths, and yoga sessions.  Also within the park, you can enjoy a Japanese garden, planetarium, one of the city’s best theatres, and several museums and galleries. 

To avoid the crowds, visit the park during the week.  Inside Estado park, on the south side of the city, you will find Jardim Botanica de Sao Paulo, the city’s botanical garden and research center.  Beautifully landscaped gardens surrounded by large green spaces and virgin Atlantic rainforest are home to over 1,200 species of flora including old growth trees, bamboo, orchids and water lilies. 

Stone pathways meander past bamboo walls, ponds, and waterfalls and into forested areas.  Several species of monkeys, sloths,  and toucans are among the abundant wildlife that makes this park their home.  The park has many open green spaces, perfect for a picnic, and a large children’s playground.

Bandeirantes Monument, Credit

The Sao Paulo Zoo is Brazil’s largest, spreading over 900 hectares (2,224 acres), including much old-growth Atlantic rainforest.  The zoo is home to 3,200 species of mammals, birds, and reptiles including those indigenous to South America.

Sao Paulo’s 138 museums offer a great diversity of educational and cultural experiences.  Art museums and galleries; specialty, history, science, and military museums; observatories and planetariums are abundant throughout the city. 

Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo Assis Chateaubriand – MASP is famous, not only for its impressive collection of impressionist art but also for its architecture.  The modern box structure is suspended by concrete supports, the area underneath utilized for an antique fair every Sunday.  Along with the masters such as  Picasso, Goya, and Van Gogh, the museum houses the largest collection of Latin American and Brazilian artists found anywhere on the continent. 

Because of smog, traffic congestion, and unpredictable weather, much of the shopping is found in indoor malls.  Spread throughout the city, each mall has its own character and customer base.  For the ultra-wealthy, Cidade Jardin, on the west side, offers luxury designer brands from Louis Vuitton, Brunello Cucinelli, Chanel, Dior, Tiffany & Co., and many more.  In the downtown area, Frei Caneca caters to the LGBT community.

Family Friendly

There is no shortage of family friendly activities in Sao Paulo.  Parks, zoos, museums, and theme parks keep kids engaged, providing both fun and educational experiences.  Many of the hotels provide special children’s programs and play areas.

 

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Tips

• Avoid walking or waiting for a bus alone at night.  Guard your belongings and avoid wearing expensive jewellery and carrying a lot of cash with on crowded streets and public transport.

• Avoid all demonstrations and protests.

Sao Paulo City, Credit

• Severe drought has affected the quality of the water in Sao Paulo.  Drink only bottled water.

• Electrical voltages vary from 110V-220V, so always ask.  Carry a world-travel adapter kit, as electrical outlets also vary.

• Secure comprehensive travel and medical insurance prior to your trip.

• Consider a global rescue membership, particularly if you plan to engage in more advanced and dangerous dives.

 

 

 

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