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.
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.
You’re welcomed to the garden by every size and shape of Cactus! ?
After the Cactus garden, the path leads you up into the rainforest…
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…
Trees laden with Jack fruit – the largest tree fruit in the world.
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.
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.
Different coloured flowers give off different fragrances. My favourite flowers on earth!
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.
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
…nature’s fashion accessory – strands of beautiful seeds
… past this pond covered in giant lily pads
and down to a statue of this little poser! Ossanha, the spirit who watches over the medicinal plants.
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…
…that one at the bottom right with the nice doorway!
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.
Aqueducts and streams carry rainwater around the centuries old garden using dams to divert the flow where it’s needed most.
And the cool water attracts some of the garden’s most exciting residents like this White Necked Heron.
And this White Monjita which was busy catching flies.
The more we walked, the more the landscape changed until we were strolling down palm tree lined paths.
We were led to the beautiful Fountain of the Muses, which happens to have been made in England.
Leaving the formal grandeur behind, we were transported to Giant’s Country where some of the tree roots were taller than me!
We continued through swamps…
past old garden buildings…
past lazy palm trees bending towards the water…
past the laziest palm tree of them all…
through a magical gnarled forest…
… through an Orchid House
…before arriving in Japan.
Before 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!
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.