Atlantic Forest South-East Reserves, Brazil

Twenty-five protected areas on the doorstep of São Paulo, one of the biggest cities in the world

Cardoso Island State Park (1999) by Atlantic Forest South-East ReservesUNESCO World Heritage

The Atlantic Forest is a rich tropical rainforest which extends along the coast of Brazil and inland to Paraguay and Argentina. Some of the best examples of the forest can be found in the Atlantic Forest South-East Reserves, in the Brazilian states of Paraná and São Paulo.

My God Falling Waterfall (1999) by Atlantic Forest South-East ReservesUNESCO World Heritage

Twenty-five protected areas make up this World Heritage site, occupying some 4,700 km2 of land. From mountains, dense forests, rivers, waterfalls and karst phenomena, to wetlands, coastal islands and dunes, the area comprises a rich natural environment of great scenic beauty.

Cardoso Island State Park (1999) by Atlantic Forest South-East ReservesUNESCO World Heritage

The property has many outstanding features:

Located in the coastal municipality of Cananéia, in the state of São Paolo, around 272 km south of São Paolo city, the protected area of Parque Estadual da Ilha do Cardoso (Cardoso Island State Park) covers an expanse of 136 km2.

Created in 1962, the park boasts a great diversity of Atlantic Forest vegetation, and is a natural habitat for rare species such as the red-tailed parrot and the broad-snouted caiman. The area is home to six traditional communities, including the Marujá. 

Devil's Cave State Park (1999) by Atlantic Forest South-East ReservesUNESCO World Heritage

The cave which gives the Parque Estadual Caverna do Diabo (Devil's Cave State Park) its name measures a length of approximately 9 km. Despite its ominous name, the Caverna do Diabo reveals captivating natural landscapes of towering calcite columns and an array of speleothems. 

Calcite columns in the Caverna do Diabo (1999) by Atlantic Forest South-East ReservesUNESCO World Heritage

One of the largest caves in the state of São Paulo, visitors can explore its majestic chambers along 1.8 km of walkways, stairs and ramps. The Parque lies within the almost 90,000 km² of the Mata Atlântica Biosphere Reserve.

Alto Ribeira State and Tourist Park (PETAR) (1999) by Atlantic Forest South-East ReservesUNESCO World Heritage

The Parque Estadual Turístico do Alto Ribeira (Alto Ribeira State and Tourist Park) stands as a global conservation beacon, preserving Brazil's largest portion of Atlantic Forest. Within it, the remarkable Caverna da Água Suja (Dirty Water Cave) stretches for almost 3 km.

Trilha do Portal da Caverna Casa de Pedra (Stone House Trail) (1999) by Atlantic Forest South-East ReservesUNESCO World Heritage

Another of the Alto Ribeira’s more than 350 caves is the Casa da Pedra (House of Stone). With a height of 215m, it is the largest cave portal in the world.

Tea Route in Registro (1999) by Atlantic Forest South-East ReservesUNESCO World Heritage

In the 20th century, Japanese settlers hid Chinese tea seeds inside bread loaves to smuggle them into the country. This marked the start of tea cultivation in the region. The Rota do Chá (Tea Route) in Registro looks at Japanese immigration and the history of tea in Brazil. 

Betari Trail in Iporanga (1999) by Atlantic Forest South-East ReservesUNESCO World Heritage

The Trilha Betari (Betari Trail) in Iporanga follows the Betari River Valley. Nestled amongst the mountains, it provides breathtaking views of the variations in elevation throughout the region.

Mandira Waterfall in Cananéia (1999) by Atlantic Forest South-East ReservesUNESCO World Heritage

The Cachoeira Mandira (Mandira Waterfall) is located near the settlement of the Mandira community, which is recognized as a quilombo community (meaning it was formed by descendants of former slaves).

Temimina Cave in Apiaí (1999) by Atlantic Forest South-East ReservesUNESCO World Heritage

Surrounded by numerous caves and waterfalls, the town of Apiaí (meaning “river of the Indians” or “river boy”) is enveloped by the largest remaining area of Atlantic Forest in the country. 1,050 meters above sea level, it is known as the "Gateway to the Atlantic Forest".

Cananéia (1999) by Atlantic Forest South-East ReservesUNESCO World Heritage

The town of Cananéia is surrounded by the Atlantic Forest and edged by mangroves and sandy beaches. The meticulously restored buildings of the town’s historic centre showcase its rich maritime heritage.

My God Falling Waterfall (1999) by Atlantic Forest South-East ReservesUNESCO World Heritage

Cachoeira Queda do Meu Deus (My God Falling Waterfall) is the largest of the twelve waterfalls to be found in the municipality of Eldorado, standing approximately 53m tall. 

São Paulo Forest Gardens (1999) by Atlantic Forest South-East ReservesUNESCO World Heritage

The gateway to both the state of the same name and to the Atlantic Forest, São Paulo is the most populous city in Latin America. It is a melting pot of ethnicities which shape its rich culture, economy and gastronomy.  

The Horto Florestal and Botanical Gardens within the city house the state's Botanical Institute, which plays an invaluable role in the study and preservation of the Atlantic Forest South East Reserves World Heritage site. 

My God Falling Waterfall (1999) by Atlantic Forest South-East ReservesUNESCO World Heritage

The Atlantic Forest South-East Reserves was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1999 under the following criteria:

(vii) The property offers a natural environment of great beauty with tremendous terrestrial and marine biodiversity.

Betari Trail (1999) by Atlantic Forest South-East ReservesUNESCO World Heritage

(ix) Historically partly isolated, the Atlantic Forest has evolved into a complex biome with a multitude of endemic species, comprising around 70% of the tree species, 85% of the primates and 39% of the mammals.

Exploring the Devil's Cave State Park (1999) by Atlantic Forest South-East ReservesUNESCO World Heritage

(x) The flora and fauna are extremely diverse and very rich. The flora is among the most diverse in the world, and in some areas one can encounter over 450 species of trees per hectare. As for mammals, they number 120 species, probably the largest in Brazil.

Credits: Story

This exhibit is created by São Paulo Convention & Visitors Bureau, ABEAR  and Secretary of Tourism of the State of São Paulo: visitesaopaulo.com

More on Atlantic Forest South-East Reserves and World Heritage:  whc.unesco.org/en/list/893/

Photos: Secretary of Tourism of the State of São Paulo

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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