Anonymously reviewed by Lisa Goldapple (Latina bon viveur) for Mr and Mrs Smith, March 2011.
“We’re kinda like Keith Richards, right?!”
I can see where Mrs Smith II is going with that. We’re high – 4000ft high – and feeling pretty rock and roll. That’s because Kiaroa’s airport transfer happens to be a 35 minute trip in their none-too-shabby private plane. They’re transporting us a world away from Brazil’s carnival Mecca of Salvador, right into the ecological wonderland that is Bahia’s Maraú Peninsula. She’s having a sensory overload malfunction, hollering over the propellers: “I promise I’m loving this, but I forgot to say bye to my family”. The Ralph Laurens, an elderly couple dressed top-to-toe in the designer’s gear, tell her, “make a happy smile”.
The Jungle Barbies have arrived.
By the time we’ve come back down to Earth on the private runway, just 100m from the resort’s reception, we’ve ticked off all the hallmarks of paradise: palms and mangroves, dunes and lagoons, waterways and falls, deserted white beaches and coral reefs.
‘Transfer included’ – first understatement. This bodes well for the rest of the weekend. All we need now is to be fanned and grapes peeled into our mouths.
Cue satyrs with icy flannels and fruit slices. Next wish – some bubbly please. And there it is, the first of many. Kiaroa has got the vibe right, blending into its jungle setting with tastefully modern Asian touches, from the thatched roofs and softly-lit lanterns to the collarless shirts of the beautiful Bahian boys on hand. We become slightly obsessed and want one (shirt, not Bahian boy).
With that in mind, I imagine a Brasilero stud, caipirinha in hand, showing us round the hotel. Instead we get Rodrigo, “Call me Rod”, our very patient guide. He talks us through options of tennis, volleyball, fishing trips and snorkelling in the natural pools. Obviously we ask him all the important questions:
“Is it safe to drink-cycle back from the nearby Barra Grande village?”
“Why are Brazilian bikinis so itsy bitsy teenie weenie?”
“If a coconut falls and there is nobody around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
Not to be put off, he continues the tour.
Kiaroa doesn’t seem preachy, but just eco-warrior enough, with subtle credentials from solar energy to a water treatment station. 14 rooms and 14 standalone bungalows are set around its massive doughnut-shaped pool, which is perfect as anywhere you sit feels private, not like you’re perving the loved-up Brazilian couples. Beware – South Americans are known for their public displays of affection. They’re at it all over the shop – on the sun loungers, by the swim-up bar, on the beach, on a horse. There’s heavy petting everywhere. OK, I lied about the horse.
Eventually we reach our aptly-named (but not for us) ‘bangalo’. It’s huge, with enough room to swing an anaconda and there’s definitely an elephant in the room – in the form of a giant bed taking centre-stage with another bottle of Chandon and fruit platter at its feet. A mosquito net gives that come thither oh-so-sexy four-poster look, hiding its real functionality. After being bitten 63 times on one of my pasty white Gringa ass cheeks in the Amazon many moons ago, I’m over-zealous with the repellent provided.
High on deet, we stick champagne glasses in the fridge for later and head out through the jungle, laughing in the face of the little bichos. We head to the beachside bar for a detox-friendly agua de coco and octopus fresh from the grill as we’ve heard this is the place to eat seafood. Smothered in molho de pimenta, a Bahian hot salsa, it’s a proper oral sensation. Beware though, it’s not for the weak, I have a spice vice. Mrs Smith II had to walk back to the zen comfort of our bangalo trying not to squish lizards because her eyelids were sweating. (Don’t worry, eco-warriors. She didn’t. They have eyes in the sides of their heads.)
Above us a plane makes white trails in the sky. I half expect it to be a marriage proposal and lose myself in the fantasy, forgetting I’m with Mrs Smith II. Intentions of riding a bike along the coastline fade after a hot-tub on our verandah turns into some accidental zeds in our matching Mrs and Mrs robes in the hammock. We stupidly miss dinner and awake prepared to eat as much as humanly possible to make up for it.
The following day, at breakfast we do exactly that. The poolside restaurant has obviously been designed by Jesus. You can stroll right out from your table onto its dark blue ledge and seem to walk on water. Good trick, now please turn our orange juice into a Buck’s Fizz.
No sooner than it is thought, it is done. We gorge on the sensational smorgasboard of snackery – empanadas, fruits, meats, cheeses, eggs, cereals and juices. This is impressive, even before they bring the omelette and tapioca menu. Tapioca is a fried tortilla-like Bahian speciality, thankfully not rice pudding a la Ambrosia. They fill it with either doces (sweet) or salgados (salty). I smother 2 in the spicy stuff, not that I needed any more heat.
It’s boiling, so we scrap our rain contingency plan of threesomes in the resort’s Armonia spa (in the form of their signature 4 handed massage – you do the maths), in favour of quad-biking around the peninsula with Call me Rod, who gets renamed ‘Hot Rod’ after stopping to point out hawks (gotta love a twitcher). He takes us to the natural pools to snorkel, teaches us about the jungle’s flora and fauna and finally up to the lighthouse for a 360 degree view over the coastline at sunset. We manage to convince him to let us drive the quads on the 27 kilometres of empty beach, which isn’t strictly allowed, but hey, he’s Hot Rod, he doesn’t play by the rules. At least we didn’t drive off road, roll down a ditch and slam into a wire fence like the honeymooners on the other quad. However, I do get nicknamed Jungle Barbie after managing to fall ‘up’ a tree.
We ask Rod how we can get to the fishing village of Barra Grande tonight and he replies “you can walk, run, bike, quad or go by horse”. We take a taxi.
Our driver and man-about-town, Sapo, shows us around the cute village, on foot – its sand roads, friendly locals and centre full of bars and restaurants with ‘energia boa’. As for what we get up to on our last night, what goes on tour stays on tour. What I will say is, it started very well-behaved with the best fish I’ve ever eaten (passion fruit and sesame crust) in the most beautiful setting on the beach, sandwiched between coconut palms. Then a local girl called Karma (yes, really) recommended a party. Cut to flailing about to a band with birds of paradise in their hair, with hippies dressed as Adam Ant. The stars were so bright Mrs Smith II kept trying to light her cigarette off them. Before we knew what was going on it was daylight and we were being transported into the resort on the back of a truck with the local musos. We tell them they can drop us at our plane. Rock and roll indeed.
In the Maraú Peninsula there’s definitely something in the water that’s giving the locals the horn – and it’s contagious. Being situated smack bang in the middle, Kiaroa Luxury Eco-Resort is in the most romantic natural location in the world. Legend even has it that before the god Maraú died he asked that all couples that visit the place where he lived with his beloved Saquaíra never separate.
It doesn’t look like this is going to hold true for my Mrs Smith and I. As she put it, “Is this how you’re going to behave on your honeymoon? Wow, I’d ask for a divorce.”