Last week I made the journey from Sao Paulo to Chapada Diamantina in Bahia State, Brazil. I had always been told that this is one of Brazil’s top wild destinations and a stunning place for photos. Full of waterfalls, canyons and stunning landscapes. It is about a 2 hours plus flight to Bahia’s capital Salvador from Sao Paulo. From there you can take a 6 hour long coach ride to Lencois in Chapada Diamantina. Alternatively there are infrequent flights approx 50mins- 1hour flight time on Sundays and Thursdays with Azul.
Chapada Diamantina – the Lencois section
Chapada Diamantina is a MASSIVE area and you really need to divide the trip up into sections. As we flew into Lencois, we decided to start our exploration in this area. Lencois itself is a beautiful little town full of character and with some very tasty restaurants. Easily the best town in Chapada Diamantina. The main areas for photos I wanted to see here were Pai Inácio and the Cachoeira (waterall) Mixila. Unfortunately due to time restrictions we couldn’t make the 3 day hike to this stunning waterfall. It was replaced with Cachoeira Mosquito, which happened to be quite a pleasant surprise.
We started by visiting Morro do Pai Inácio for sunset. Pai Inacio is a 1.7 billion year old mountain around 17 km from Lencois. You might be told you need a guide, but in reality you don’t. We took a short drive to the start of the trail halfway up the mountain. You pay I think 20 reals to enter the steep trail to the top. It is only a 20-30 mins hike to the top. From the top there are amazing views of the surrounding valleys and landscapes of this section of Chapada Diamantina. The best time to visit IMO is sunset, where you get the glorious golden light setting on multitude of mountain tops of the Valleys in the distance. I took quite a few photos up here from all sides of the mountain. There are some interesting features up on the top to give you some foreground interest in your photos, such as an array of Cacti and other interesting plant species. Once the sun had set we made our way down the mountain in the dark, and on the way home I managed to take a few night photos of Pai Inacio.
The next day we made the 1.5 hour trip to Cachoeira Mosquito. Again it is suggested you need a guide for this, but after a quick web search we found that someone had kindly posted how to navigate to this waterfall ourselves. For the most part of the journey you drive along a very bumpy dirt track through farmland until you reach the start of the trail. Again this was a short 30mins walk down to the waterfall. The waterfall itself is stunning and very photogenic. It has carved out a kind of bowl in the surrounding rock and really is a very pretty waterfall. We even had this magical setting to ourselves for a short time.
Chapada Diamantina – the Vale do Capão section
It is a 1.5 hour – 2 hour drive to Vale do Capão along part paved part unpaved roads. Here the main attractions are long treks through the Vale do Capão and a trek to the second tallest waterfall in Brazil, Cachoeira Fumaça (353m). We opted for Cachoeira Fumaça from the top. Again you don’t IMO need a guide for this. You have to do a check-in at the trail start and offer a small donation.
This was a long 3 -3.5 hour walk, starting off by hiking up a steep mountain trail. This levels off onto a plateau until you reach the other side where Cachoeira Fumaça drops off. I have to say I was a little disappointed in the actual waterfall itself, especially after a pretty hard hike. It was a bit a of a struggle to get any great photos of this fall. There are 2 viewing angles of the fall, one of which its a protruding slab of granite hanging over the fall. Here during mid afternoon you can see rainbows in the waterfall spray. All in all if you are looking to get stunning photos of Chapada Diamantina, this isnt the place to be.
Chapada Diamantina – the Ibicoara section
In our final section of the trip, and the part I was looking forward most photographically, we made the long drive from Vale do Capao to Ibicoara, a town at the bottom of Chapada Diamantina. We stayed in a lovely pousada called Kabana de Pedra. The lady who owns this really does look after you, and certainly knows how to cook real Brazilian home cooked food. Ibicoara is the starting place for treks to 2 of the most stunning waterfalls – Cachoeira Fumacinha and Cachoeira Buracão. Both of these need a guide really, especially Cachoeira Fumacinha. This trek was HARD. In total it was 12 hours door to door. You drive from Ibicoara for around 1.5 hours through stunning farmland and mountains. From here you leave the car and trek for 3.5-4hours. This isn’t easy trekking as the vast majority of it is climbing and jumping over rocks in the river leading up to the fall. We had a fantastic guide called Bidula, who our hotel arranged for us for these treks. The long trek is certainly worth it when you reach the fall. For me this is the most stunning and dramatic waterfall in Chapada Diamantina, and certainly a great location for photos in Chapada Diamantina.
Lastly we made the somewhat shorter trek to Cachoeira Buracão. This waterfall requires you to either rock climb through the sides of a canyon, or to swim through the river that runs between. Again this was well worth the effort and a stunning sight once you arrive. If you are taking your camera here, you might want to have some waterproofing as there is alot of spray.
Taking photos in Chapada Diamantina
From my trip to Chapada Diamantina I would suggest the following.
- Take a tripod for some silky waterfall shots and photos at night
- Take a ND photo filter
- I made great use of my ultra wide angle Canon 14mm
- IMO no massive zooms are needed, I didnt see much wildlife to photograph
- Take waterproofing for camera – one of my cameras died on the trip from water
- Hire a car – freedom to roam about on your own is the key here
See the rest of the photos of Chapada Diamantina