The Tiny Island of Ihla Do Mel (by Nathan)
Time for a vacation from this vacation. Traveling is hard work. Every few days we pack our rucksacks and transport ourselves to a new destination. Each place is an adventure and every city requires planning for places to eat, sights to see and activities to entertain. To us, this is the fun of traveling, an adventure wherever we go.
We try to spend an afternoon here and there reading or napping, but then we get to the point where we need a few days to really relax. We grabbed our swim suits and headed to the tiny Ilha do Mel (Honey Island).
Originally it was a colonial fort, but now it has less than 1000 residents, no cars, no roads, just sandy paths, lush forests and pristine beaches. I’m relaxing just writing about it!
The only way to get to the island is by ferry from Paraguaná or Ponta do Sol. Before departing we grabbed lunch at a per kilo restaurant. The variety and quality of food at these places is wonderful. We filled our plates with feijão (black beans) and salads and then waddled our way onto the boat. Then we chugged along through the calm blue waters to the island.
There are two villages on the island. We stayed on the southern edge in Encantadas. Our hostel was adorable with its own wooden balcony and two hammocks overlooking the beach. A five minute walk and we were in the water watching the sun disappear behind the mountains.
We had several options for dinner that night. We walked along the beach with our sandals in our hands until we found a place that offered everything we wanted. The owner suckered us in first complimenting our Portuguese then questioning us if we were Argentinean. We gorged on fish shrimp, fries, salad, rice and feijão. With our feet in the sand we quenched our thirst with a caipirinha or two.
Travel around the island is by foot along winding sandy trails through the forest that emerge on picturesque beaches. We traveled here mid-week and the island was empty. Supposedly the island is packed with thousands of people in January, but we were only aware of fifteen or so tourists during our stay.
We would swim at a beach, bathing in the sun for a few hours, then grab our day pack and hike to another part of the island. The other village is called Nova Brasilia and there is about an hour and a half walk between there and Encantadas. There is also a ferry that is about twenty minutes that runs every 1-2 hours. For lunch we plopped our sandy bodies down on the bench seats of Mar e Sol. They grilled us a delicious fish, heaped high with capers the size of small grapes, bursting with salty brine in every bite.
A few hours more in the sun, and miles of beaches later, we arrived at the northern tip. Here we found the remains of the historic fort with thick ornate white-washed walls and canons to protect the island from the Spanish.
Our little beach in Encantadas has this special sand bar. The tide would recede in the evenings abandoning the fishing boats in the sand. It was a challenge to become fully submerged. We walked 300-400 feet from the shore and the water was still knee deep!
In the morning the water would return and wipe away the foot traffic of the previous day. The revived boats bobbed happily in the water.
Our hostel served us a particularly wonderful breakfast of fresh papaya, mango, watermelon, bananas, bread and jam. On the last morning the quiet young woman that ran the hostel made us these delicious banana fritters (if you know the name please comment). Crispy and sweet on the outside and gooey oozing banana on the inside. Perfect dumplings of joy from the perfect and beautiful little Isla do Mel.