Rocinha Favela Tour was one of two tours we took whilst in Rio de Janeiro. Would you be a little nervous spending the morning in a Rio de Janeiro Favela? We did, but we need not have worried. We were in the best of hands with our tour guide from www.bealocal.com. Love their tagline – ‘Don’t be a gringo be a local’.
Rio de Janeiro Rocinha Tour Starts:
We were collected from our hotel at 9am and did the rounds of a few more hotels before arriving at the Rocinha Favela for a 10am start.
The Rocinha Favela is the largest Favela in Rio de Janeiro spreading over 355 acres. Houses are dangerously perched on the steep mountain side where landslides are common after heavy rain storms.
Just one kilometre away lies the ocean and the richest suburbs of Rio de Janeiro. Houses are built of concrete and brick and some are as high as four stories tall. Families tend to build another level as they expand. Almost all have proper sanitation, plumbing and electricity. Looking up as we walk through the alleyways we see electrical wires everywhere, some legal some illegal.
We wandered through a maze of alleyways that were barely wide enough to walk two abreast. The pathways are a mix of dirt and concrete, gutters overflow and in some areas the steps are quite steep to handle. Good walking shoes are a must on this tour.
We visited a local art gallery where we were able to purchase the vibrant and colourful paintings created by the children and the adults living in the Favela. For some this is their only source of income.
Half way down we stopped at the local bakery and purchased freshly baked pastries for lunch.
Jutting out of various doorways children watched our group go by, older residents sat and chatted with their neighbours and a band played local reggae music. The atmosphere is one of togetherness, everyone very friendly shouting out to us Ola or Bom Dia. We did not feel afraid.
Initially, I had concerns about how the residents of the favela felt, with so many tourists descending on their home territory watching them go about their daily business. Our guide explained to us the locals welcome this intrusion, their small businesses generate income from visits and a % of our tour costs goes back to the children’s day care centre that we were just about to visit. The day care centre is an important part of the favela, as this enables both parents to seek work outside the favela. The majority of the residents are employed in hotels, restaurants, public service and civil service jobs. Within the favela there are many businesses springing up such as banks, doctors, dentists, barbers, supermarkets, the local post office and there are even ATMs now.
A census taken in 2010 had 69,161 residents living in the favela, unofficial sources stated the number to be as high as 180,000 and as of last year estimates are putting the number now at 300,000.
To Travel Too Tip:
If you are interested in taking a tour to one of the Favelas in Rio de Janeiro, ensure that the Tour Company is reputable and that they give back to the community.
Wear sensible walking shoes.
Do not enter the Favelas after 5 on your own.
For two people Brazilian Real 140.00 = Australian dollars AUD70.00 (based on 2013 prices)