Immortalised in the mid sixties Bossa Nova hit, “The Girl from Ipanema” by Antõnio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes, Ipanema Beach has been drawing crowds from around the world ever since. Sister beach Copacaba is arguably just as famous, and the quintessential model for a city beach.
Personally, when I think of a beautiful beach, the image conjured up is usually of a gently curving bay, with turquoise waters silently lapping on a crescent of fine white powdery sand, disappearing into a dense green forest, and most of all, quiet and secluded. I knew not to expect that prior to visiting Ipanema and Copacabana, (it is afterall, in Rio de Janeiro and not an isolated Caribbean island) but I guess it took a while to fully comprehend the number of people on the beach. A great equaliser, the beach is loved and frequented by Cariocas of all social classes in Rio de Janeiro, a city of stark contrasts between the haves and have-nots. Everywhere you look, there are parasols and flags flying, with thousands of Cariocas and tourists occupying every square foot of sand, despite it being a weekday afternoon. Most are to be found lounging on the sand, people watching, others playing beach volleyball, football and footvolley, a unique Carioca hybrid of football and volleyball.
The surf was also surprisingly strong, breaking along the long coastline with significant force and aplomb. ‘Swimming’ on the beach usually involved getting into the water, being hit by a couple of waves, and retreating back to the safety of the beach to soak in the sun and the atmosphere.
Whilst the beaches were certainly beautiful in their own way, I guess with the case of many things or places with such a huge reputation preceding it, the reality sometimes struggles to measure up.
I left my job as an advertising Creative Director in August 2012 to travel Africa and South America for a year with my wife, documenting these beautiful places with my Fuji X-Pro1. View the rest of my RTW adventures on Handcarry Only and follow me on my journey by subscribing/following/bookmarking.