Exploring the Botanical Garden & Rainforest, Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro never really gets cold but the slightly cooler, overcast days are best for energetic exploring! A lot of the major tourist attractions such as Christ the Redeemer or Sugarloaf Mountain aren’t worth visiting if it’s cloudy and you want a good view (which is kind of the point), so we decided to save the sights & sunbathing for a clear day and hopped on a bus to the Botanical Garden. After a white knuckle ride, careering around winding cliffside roads overlooking the South Atlantic, we (literally) jumped off at our stop.

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Grounds

The Botanical Garden was founded by King John VI of Portugal in 1808. It was originally used to introduce and acclimatise plants and spices, such as nutmeg and cinnamon, imported from other tropical regions. The garden was opened to the public in 1822, and is now used for both recreation and research.

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Cacti

You’re welcomed to the garden by every size and shape of Cactus! 🌵

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Spiral cactus

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Cactus / Cacti

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Cactus / Cacti

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Cactus / Cacti

After the Cactus garden, the path leads you up into the rainforest…

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - entrance to atlantic forest

The Botanical Garden covers over 345 acres but only 40% of it is cultivated. The rest is wild Atlantic Forest, and they’ve put a convenient little path through a small section so you can enjoy it without disturbing the critters. Just be aware that there are a couple of very sneaky security guards who will suddenly appear if you try and channel your inner Tarzan and swing from the vines…

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Atlantic Forest

Trees laden with Jack fruit – the largest tree fruit in the world.

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Jack fruit tree

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - View up to Atlantic Forest

Over 2,200 species of birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals live in the Atlantic Forest, including some that are endangered and many that aren’t found anywhere else on earth. Only part of the Atlantic Forest falls within the Botanical Garden, the other 1.3million square km stretches along Brazil’s Atlantic coast and inland to Paraguay and Argentina. Among dozens of beautiful birds that I couldn’t name, we saw Argentine black and white Tegu (4.5ft lizards that made mummy run!), monkeys and coatis. The monkeys were expectedly cheeky and stole someone’s food before bounding off into the forest shrieking and looking way too pleased with themselves! If you get a chance to spend more time in the rainforest, you might also see tamarins, spider monkeys, parrots and sloths.

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - aqueduct

Emerging from the forest and passing this working aqueduct, suddenly the air filled with an intoxicating, rich floral scent. We followed our noses and found a forest of Frangipani trees.

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Frangipani / Plumeria trees

Different coloured flowers give off different fragrances. My favourite flowers on earth!

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Frangipani / Plumeria flowers

After mum got chased by a giant lizard, we reluctantly left this scent soaked paradise-patch to continue exploring. Spotted: Christ the Redeemer watching over Rio.

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Christ the Redeemer

The Botanical Garden just keeps on going! We thought we’d reached the end so many times only to find another path. This particular path led us past….

…trees draped with jewels

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Beautiful seeds

…nature’s fashion accessory – strands of beautiful seeds

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Seed strands

… past this pond covered in giant lily pads

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - pond

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Giant lily pads

and down to a statue of this little poser! Ossanha, the spirit who watches over the medicinal plants.

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Ossanha

Meandering on, we stumbled into a bamboo forest where I found where I’m going to live when I’m reincarnated as a tiny mouse…

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Bamboo

…that one at the bottom right with the nice doorway!

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Bamboo mouse house The scale of these trees is unbelievable! Here they’d formed a circle which felt a bit eerie; like some sort of secret spell casting spot used by the local witches.

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Bamboo

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Tall bamboo

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Bamboo arch

Aqueducts and streams carry rainwater around the centuries old garden using dams to divert the flow where it’s needed most.

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Dams irrigation system

And the cool water attracts some of the garden’s most exciting residents like this White Necked Heron.

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - White Necked Heron Brazil Botanical Garden

And this White Monjita which was busy catching flies.

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - White-Monjita Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - White Monjita Flycatcher Peace-Lily

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Stream

The more we walked, the more the landscape changed until we were strolling down palm tree lined paths.

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Ancient Palm Trees

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Palm lined path

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Gates

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - palm lined path

We were led to the beautiful Fountain of the Muses, which happens to have been made in England.

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - The Fountain of the Muses Rio Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Fountain of the Muses

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Pergola

Leaving the formal grandeur behind, we were transported to Giant’s Country where some of the tree roots were taller than me!

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - tree roots

We continued through swamps…

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Swamp

past old garden buildings…

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Buildings and mill stones

past lazy palm trees bending towards the water…

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de JaneiroBotanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Bending palm trees

past the laziest palm tree of them all…

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Lazy palm tree

through a magical gnarled forest…

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Path through ancient treesBotanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Ancient Gnarled Trees… through an Orchid House

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Orchid House

…before arriving in Japan.

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Japanese Garden Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Japanese Garden BridgeBotanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Bamboo canopyBefore leaving, we stopped to sit under the shady bamboo and take in the view, when this little chap ran over and posed up a storm!

Botanical Garden Rio de Janeiro - Jardim Botanico do RIo de Janeiro - Bird life Brazil

The Jardim Botanico do Rio is an oasis of serenity. We spent at least five hours wandering around the tropical sanctuary, which is amazing value as it costs less than £2 to get in! Next time I go, I’m taking a picnic and a yoga mat to while away the hours amongst the flowers.

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