Rio´s numerous seductions can be pretty toxic: caipirinha-soaked nights, sedentary beach days and picanha, steak and more picanha barbeques fuel much of the city´s loud and proud hedonism. An absolute joy they may be, but like urban merry-go-rounds the world over, even Rio has a tendency to once in a while leave you feeling chewed up and spat out.
Just four hours from Rio yet worlds away from the city hustle, on the majestic wonder island Ilha Grande, a group of friendly wellbeing enthusiasts with a lust for life offer a truly life-changing escape from all that toxicity, noise and grind.
Nestled in a cove of luscious green and aquamarine waters on the north side of the island, The Island Experience lodge is the stunning site of a week-long program of fitness activities, yoga, healthy food and positive encouragement. Arriving at the lodge by private boat from Angra, the welcome consists of cold coconut water and smiles to draw guests into a week quite out of the ordinary.
Everything begins with yoga. The ancient Indian practice of meditative stretching forms an integral part of the Island Experience, inkeeping with the core philosophy of facilitating healthy, organic personal growth. In a giant glass-walled yoga studio overlooking the ocean, teacher and musician Adam leads classes through warm up positions at sunrise and unwinding stretching at sunset to the soothing sounds of the waves.
After 6.30am yoga, breakfast. The first of three creatively conceived daily meals by qualified nutritionist Adriane, whose menu is a surprising source of delight with dishes like tropical fruit salads with homemade granola, ricotta-filled spinach crepes with tomato and basil sauce, and roasted vegetables on homemade granary bread. Her cheery advice and tips such as the cleansing advantages of a squeeze of lime in your drinking water, are a feel-good food education.
Stretched and fed, the day´s activities are based in and around the dense Atlantic rainforest, tropical lagoons and breathtaking mountainous peaks of Ilha Grande. The Island Experience team lead kayaking round the coastline, snorkeling in tropical fish-filled waters and hiking through jungles of infinite greens, finding hidden beaches and climbing imposing mountains, all with a commentary on the nature and history of the former penal colony.
As the sun sets, thorough massages, hot tub sessions and restorative yoga fully uncoil the energy tension built up through the day before a two-course dinner in the main lodge. The wood and glass-built, open plan space blends into the forest surround, filled with giant cushions and littered with books, musical instruments and art materials to satisfy any waves of creativity that the unique environment may inspire.
Indeed such a place is inspirational, much like most of Brazil´s ludicrously beautiful coastline, but he true inspiration of The Island Experience are the people who make it happen, the philosophy that life is for living and the commitment to helping people find out what that really means. As programme director Martin Marpegan, a former corporate lawyer from Buenos Aires who started the Island Experience in 2006 says, ¨We´ve created an escape which enables you to reconnect with the simple yet important things in life. Here you can take time to focus on your health and begin or continue a journey in personal growth. Invigorated, refreshed and relaxed, you return to your world completely rejuvenated."