Butterfly House Bahia, Brazil

Spread your wings for a Brazilian retreat

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The Independent Travel

As we bumped along a bone-jangling dirt road on the Marau Peninsula, the colours were elemental: copper-red earth set against a cobalt-blue sky.

This remote sliver of land off the coast of Bahia in north-east Brazil is difficult to reach, even for Brazilians. It feels as far from the hurly burly of Rio and Sao Paulo as it's possible to be. Sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and Camamu Bay, this wild and beautiful place is flanked by deserted palm-lined beaches and dotted with diminutive islands, a handful of fishing villages and patches of Atlantic Forest.

My destination was the secluded Butterfly House Bahia, a newly opened pousada in perfect harmony with its surroundings. The eight bungalows and suites are built from sustainably grown bamboo and salvaged nut wood, topped with thatched grass roofs and set amid towering palms and tangles of tropical blooms.

It's been a labour of love for British owner Chloe Gibbs. In 2007, she was a nurse in London. She threw a peanut at the world map, it hit Bahia and within weeks she'd booked her flight, reinvented her life and hasn't looked back.

room_service1.jpg
One of the bedrooms

The main lodge houses the bar and Anna Banana restaurant, where breakfast is a leisurely affair. I was served an array of Brazilian treats, such as pao de queijo (cheese bread), pineapple cakes, guava biscuits, papaya juice and more.

Elias, the London-trained chef, conjures up dishes that are both healthy and delicious. The papaya and lobster salad was irresistible; so was the acai ice-cream. After dinner, I'd join fellow guests for caipirinhas in the gazebo.

You can spend your time in unashamed idleness here, flitting from day bed to hammock. Cool off with a swim in the pool, or the reed-fringed, freshwater lake behind Butterfly House, and think about kayaking or learning to surf.

The easiest – and most thrilling – way to get around is by quad bike. Fifteen kilometres away on the peninsula's northern tip sits Barra Grande, a laid-back fishing village where music wafts from chilled bars and restaurants along its sandy streets.

Swinging in a hammock at the beach-front Macunaima Bar, the "Anti-stress" cocktail – a mix of vodka, lemongrass, lime and sugar – was no longer necessary. As the setting sun streaked the sky, I'd never felt further from the city or more relaxed.

Location

Around 200km south of Salvador da Bahia. From the nearest airport, Ilheus, it's a two-hour transfer, first by road (paved and unpaved) to Camamu, then by boat to Porto Jobel, a short drive from Butterfly House.

Everything on the peninsula is within easy reach by quad bike, taxi or bicycle. Head to Taipu de Fora – one of Brazil's most beautiful beaches – to snorkel. Clamber up the hill to Taipu Lighthouse to try and spot breeding humpback whales offshore (October-November), or cruise to Tremembe Waterfall.

Comfort

There are five villas on stilts, all with terraces, and three sea-view suites in the main lodge. In the largest bungalow, Almirante, an enormous bed is encased in a net cocoon, and locally made furniture and vintage finds from a farm in Minas Gerais are artfully mixed with French antiques and Moroccan textiles. In the bathroom, the blue-and-white basin and tiles were imported from Morocco and you can shower inside or al fresco. There's free Wi-Fi and all the villas and suites come with air-conditioning, a TV and a mini-fridge stocked with water and beer.

The writer flew to Salvador with American Airlines (aa.com/miamiandbrazil) from Heathrow via Miami.

Travel essentials

Butterfly House Bahia, Marau, Brazil (00 55 7332 584 113; butterflyhousebahia.com)

Rooms *****

Value ****

Service ****

Doubles start at £150, including breakfast.

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