Rio de Janeiro and South East
Santuario do Caraca
The Santuario do Caraca monastery was built in 1773 and has an educational as well as religious past: at one time it was used as a boarding school for boys where past Brazilian presidents once studied. There is a wealth of history about the site in the ruin of the old school where an interesting museum and library are found.
Today its emphasis is on environmental education and the monastery sits within its own private reserve. The protected area is about 43 square miles and is a natural ecotone where the two habitats of cerrado (tropical savannah) and Atlantic rainforest meet. The reserve is also within the one billion years-old Serra Do Mar mountain range which stretches along the eastern edge of Brazil and is home to many endemics. The monastery is situated amidst the mountains at an altitude of 1,250 metres.
The highlight of a stay at the monastery are the nightly visits from wild maned wolves to the monastery patio.
There are 42 rooms and most have private bathrooms. The rooms are simple but comfortable and, due to the high altitude, can be cold on some nights. There is a fridge, cupboard and basic seating and storage in the rooms.
The unique atmosphere of the gothic monastery and the wildlife attractions more than make up for the basic accommodation.
Breakfasts at the monastery are still practiced in a traditional way with eggs cooked over a hot stone. Other meals are in the main dining hall and a generous buffet selection of typical regional food is offered. There is a bar serving an assortment of drinks, and hot tea or soup and popcorn is usually freely available for patient wolf watchers.
Restaurant, bar, gift shop, library, museum and good network of trails.
Maned wolves visit the monastery patio each night to feed on chicken scraps, and a striped hog-nosed skunk also visits but less frequently. Black-fronted titi monkeys and black-tufted ear marmosets are frequently seen in the mornings along the Tanque Grande trail near to the monastery and Guianan squirrel and Brazilian cavy are common around the allotments. There are 70 species of mammal in the reserve but most are rarely seen. Tapirs are infrequently seen at night, and can sometimes be found at a wallow site. A mixture of Atlantic rainforest and cerrado bird life can be seen including local specialities such as the beautiful hyacinth visorbearer hummingbird, gilt-edged tanager, serra antwren and rufous gnateater. Dusky-legged guans and blackish rails are common sightings around the allotments.
Day hikes on trails through both Atlantic rainforest and cerrado ecosystems and longer trails to higher elevation. A guided tour of the museum and monastery is available to learn more about the varied history of the site.
Try to time a visit mid-week to for a quieter experience watching the wolves. The weekends and national holiday periods can get quite busy. Caraca can be visited year round, but can be wet from December to May and cold between June and October. After seeing the maned wolves, perhaps try a night walk or drive.
If you have any questions regarding our Brazil tours, please feel free to contact me on +44 (0)1803 866965
I love the Santaurio. The accommodation was simple but the atmosphere of the whole place was truly wonderful. Food was also very good and I enjoyed the DIY breakfast arrangement.