The buzz from Brazil
The FIFA World Cup is just around the corner and for ball-mad fams, the timing couldn’t be better to board a plane for the spiritual home of football, writes Madeline Hoskin.
To put it simply, Brazil is BIG. It’s the world’s fifth largest country with a population over 200 million, crammed with everything including music, dance, sunshine, coffee, cocoa, ancient culture, avant-garde architecture, rainforests, beaches, the Amazon, exotic wildlife and more. It’s as though they’ve managed to perfect the art of fun and adventure. To top it off it’s renowned for being totally sports-mad, especially when it comes to the darling of the nation, football, aka soccer.
This nation has pumped out a stellar line of World Cup superstars with factory-like efficiency, boasting legendary names such as Ronaldinho, Kaká and the new Emirates’ Global Ambassador, Pelé. So if there’s a would-be Beckham in your tribe, here are our tips for a memorable football-inspired extravaganza. Note: it’ll be grand, with or without a stint inside the stadiums.
Families need to take into account that due to its size Brazil is one remarkably varied country. Make sure to do your research and really know what you’re expecting from your South American escape.
The 12 stadiums and host cities for the World Cup are speckled right across the nation, spanning from Manaus on the brink of the tropical Amazon up north to the milder temperatures and converging rivers of Porto Alegre in the south. As such, looking at the stadium locations is a great starting point for holiday planning.
Rio de Janeiro, home to the Estádio do Maracană which will hold the World Cup final on 13 July, is often high on the priority list. No surprise here... it’s beautiful! Fringed by white sand and sheltered by the picture-perfect peaks of Sugarloaf Mountain and Corcovado where the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue stands, it’s bustling with kid-friendly fun. For beaching, Copacabana and Ipanema are must-dos, however those with smaller kids should head to Leblon where there is the great Baixo Baby playground area – to find it simply follow the prams. These three beaches are even livelier on Sundays when stilt-walkers, fire-eaters and magicians come out to street party in true Brazilian style. If this sounds like your scene more so than a football field, scheduling a holiday in February could see you soaking up the atmosphere of Carnival.
The game plan
Tackling all that’s on offer can seem overwhelming, especially when adding the extra stresses of childcare and kiddie entertainment. Some families opt to avoid the Amazon for logistic reasons, or boycott Rio due to its size, however joining a family tour group is a great option for making sure you see as much as possible as safely as possible, and there are several offering great World Cup packages.
For those headed to host cities Rio de Janeiro or Salvador for their football fix, Abercrombie & Kent’s ‘Best of Brazil’ private tour is a perfect way to see the sights in ultimate style. The nine-day route will see you trekking and beaching your way from the hub of Rio to the country’s oldest, colonial-style town, Salvador da Bahia, then onto Iguassu Falls – a complex of 275 falls, wider than Victoria Falls and higher than Niagara!
World Expeditions has a fantastic four-day ‘Wildlife of the Pantanal’ tour, which caters for small groups of just two to six people. Families will find themselves splashing, 4WDriving, canoeing, walking and horse-riding their way through the beautiful Pantanal wetlands, guided by a local who will point out all forms of amazing creatures like capybaras, cormorants, alligators, otters, monkeys and toucans.
Intrepid offers a longer nine-day ‘Argentina & Brazil Family Adventure’ option which starts in Buenos Aires and culminates in Rio. In this samba-filled tour you’ll visit a colourful Carnival costume and float workshop, ride cable cars, marvel at the Iguassu Falls, relax beachside, snorkel in Ilha Grande and more, taking in all the virgin rainforest and city vibrancy on offer. Intrepid travellers must be at least five years old, with at least one person under 18 in each family booking group.
Older families can look into offerings from G Adventures which have packages catering for travellers 12 and older. They have many tours ranging from nine to 13 days, showcasing the best of Brazil in a non-stop action way.
So whether you’re going to Brazil to scream your lungs out with ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie’, or simply to bask in the colour and liveliness of the country, there is surely no shortage of things to do and see for families of all ages.