Going off piste – There was no need for a map the following morning as Alex and I set off to explore the surrounding area in an open-sided buggy. We sped past farms that sat in the shadow of Monte Pascoal, the forested peak that rises 586m above the valley. We skirted through the national park of the same name – a wilderness of rainforest and swamps stalked by jaguars, sloths and spider monkeys – before cruising along the beach. Up ahead, like dark specks of vanilla in a bowl of custard, were dozens of strange shapes on the yellow sand: a gathering of black vultures feasting on an all-you-can-eat-buffet of dead turtle. Ditching the buggy, we hopped into a small boat to cross a stream so narrow and shallow I was convinced we could have waded over on foot.
On the other side of the water was the village of Corumbau, a place even more laid-back than Caraiva. Native arrocha music and the smell of barbecuing oysters filled the warm air. Hunched over hot coals, the chef tendered to the large stash of oysters he had collected that morning. “Delicious with a splash of lemon,” he beamed, offering one to me. We walked through the village and along the length of the deserted beach, spying vultures atop the concrete lighthouse. Ahead was a slither of a sandbank that jutted out into the cobalt water. “This place is packed every weekend,” said Alex. It seemed impossible. Today, it was just us, two buxom ladies with true Bahia booties and countless pale-grey seabirds.
The large flock suddenly took flight, soaring through the air in one impressive formation. Among them, darting around skittishly, was the source of their anxiety: a lone predator. The eagle selected its target and went in full pursuit, separating the bird from the rest of the flock. Swooping low, the raptor followed its prey relentlessly. I watched the drama while dipping my toes into the warm water; it was still unfolding as I ventured in deeper, wallowing happily and watching the rain clouds out at sea. The silence was broken by Alex. “Man, I love this place,” he said, not for the first or last time that day.