Natal, Brazil

Local Brazilians flock to the sweeping beaches at Natal. As the capital of Rio Grande do Norte state, Natal has developed quickly to cater for this style of tourism. However, it has history. In 1598 the Portuguese constructed Fortaleza dos Reis Magos. The fort’s strategic location is at the mouth of the Rio Potengi, and near the easternmost and thus closest point of South America to Europe and Africa. Beyond the modern tourism strip is an older Natal with the governor’s palace, mayor's office and André Albuquerque Square. American architectural influences persist from the time the city was a base during World War II. The city encircles a natural park of urban forest and sand dunes.

The 16th century Portuguese Fort Reis Magos contains details of battles among the Portuguese, Dutch, and French. The craft centre demonstrates lace tatting and Capoeira, the Afro-Brazilian martial art developed by slaves in the 16th century. Capoeira combines dance, acrobatics and music, and often involves hands on the ground and inverted kicks. Try it on land, not the ship. Dramatic windswept bare sand dunes lie in and around Natal. The dunes at Genipabú are ever changing as the winds alter direction and speed. Dunes transform and are never in the same place for long. Amongst the dunes are clear lakes and pockets of flora. Dune buggies allow you to explore the dunes in either a ‘unemotional’ sedate style or an ‘emotional’ (read, scary adrenaline rush) style. Pitangui Lagoon allows the survivors to swim or calm down.

tour 1 Bilro's Experience

Immerse yourself into Brazilian cultural traditions on this roving half-day tour. Board your coach and drive 30 minutes to Ribeira, the historic part of town. Your guide tells you the historic spots to look for; keep an eye out for the Governor's Palace, mayor's office and the old cathedral. Enjoy some time for handcraft shopping before reboarding the coach. Then drive (15 minutes) through the modern parts of the city until you reach Ponta Negra beach, where you can view of Morro do Careca, the city's most famous view featured on many postcards. At Ponta Negra, learn about the culture of a fishing village where lace has become the main activity of the region's matriarchs. From the beach, return via costeira to the historic 16th-century Portuguese Fort Reis Magos, which marks the foundation of Natal. Pause at this scenic spot for photos before transferring (15 minutes) to the Tourism Centre, where you can explore all kinds of Northeast Brazilian handcraft and hear more about the Bilro´s technique for lacemaking. This craft is a handmade activity of extreme skill and concentration; the bobbin lace is one of the main patrimonies of Natal. Take a workshop with the matriarch lace makers and see firsthand the intricate techniques and elements of the lace. After your workshop it is time to enjoy classic Brazilian snacks served at the patio of historical building. Drive 15 minutes to return to the ship.

tour 2 Parque Das Dunas Trial

Discover the brilliant nature surrounding Natal with a hike in Parque das Dunas and an exciting dune buggy ride through the Dunes of Genipabu on this full-day tour that also includes a delicious lunch and some leisure time for swimming. Drive thirty minutes to the Parque das Dunas, which is located in Natal and has an area of 1,172 hectares and is recognized by UNESCO (United Nations Educational Organization, Science and Culture) as an integral part of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest Biosphere Reserve. Parque das Dunas is considered the largest urban park on dunes in Brazil, holding fundamental importance for the quality of life of the population thanks to the air purification and water table preservation it provides. Meet your expert guide and take a hike that is 2.4km (1.5 miles) in each direction as you learn about the geology, fauna and flora of the park (hike is 90 minutes round trip).

After your hike and some refreshing coconut water, reboard your air-conditioned coach and travel 30 minutes to Santa Rita Beach to meet your dune buggy. Your adventure starts at the Genipabu beach, where you begin your ride into the Dunes of Genipabu. Natal is known for its 4,000 acres of dramatic wind-swept dunes filled with many natural, clear lakes. People from all over the world come to Natal for this unique dune-buggy adventure. You can choose a relaxing or exciting dune buggy ride through the soft dunes, all the while having spectacular views over the ocean. After your ride through the dunes, cross a small winding over on a private-poled raft. Stop at the Pitangui Lagoon for a relaxing swim with a refreshing local fruit drink to cool you down. Enjoy a fantastic drive through the golden Dunes of Jacumã. Your final stop is Jacumã Beach, where you dine upon a typical lunch by the sea followed by some time to swim once again. Return 1 hour back to the pier aboard your coach after this full day.

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