Located inside a protected ecological reserve and only a 15 minute walk away from the main port and centre of the island, Morro de São Paulo, Universo Pol Bamboo Hostel proudly holds the title for the literal meaning of ‘heaven on earth’. Green, peace and atmosphere are the three words which come to mind when attempting to sum up this nature retreat.
As soon as you pull up onto the port of Morro de São Paulo, it’s not hard to miss the strong presence of tourism which controls the island’s main income. Each and every corner is jam-packed with pousadas (guesthouses), hostels, hotels, villas, restaurants, supermarkets, galleries, travel agencies, clothes shops and many more. As you walk through the hustle and bustle and continue to head towards what looks like a jungle, is in fact a jungle indeed. A small wooden barrier provides a gateway to the path leading up to a 8 minute trail through an amazon-like area, finally ending up at the undisturbed bamboo hostel. This place would be almost impossible to just ‘stumble across’ unless you already know about it, making it that much safer and secluded.
As you approach the entrance and cross the wooden planks placed over the stream, expect to be mesmerised by the incredible infrastructure designed and built by the owners themselves, as well as the tranquility and nature which encapsulates this area. Surprisingly enough, from the accommodation itself to the beds inside, everything here is constructed from bamboo. Despite being located inside an isolated domain, this paradise provides it’s guests with very strong internet connection, plugs in each and every corner as well as a very modern and clean kitchen and bathroom.
Currently, there are three to four structures plotted side by side, close enough to feel connected with one another, yet providing enough space for privacy. The first is a little outdoor reception area with a raised hut above it where the wooden stairs lead up into the kitchen. Here, you can find a fully equipped marble island surrounded by plenty of seating (made from bamboo and wood of course) and a small corner with books and musical instruments.
Breakfast is served in the kitchen from 8 to 10:30 and is filled with both vegetarian and vegan options. Delicacies include sticky rice, granola, fresh fruits, egg-bread and omelettes, brownies and cakes (some vegan), homemade coconut milk and unlimited tea and coffee. I can guarantee that it will be the best hostel breakfast you can find. In addition to this, some nights there are also dinners which take place. These meals are made by two lovely girls who live and work on the property, who cook using fresh ingredients. These meals are sold for 25 reals per plate. During my time here, I was lucky enough to go through a vegan lasagne, bean burgers, boiled rice, a carrot puree, a cooked banana puree and a side salad topped with ‘vegan parmesan’, also known as ground nuts. Incredible! Even though some meals were not fully vegan, the girls are willing to work around the menu and cater for specific dietary requirements.
The bins under the sink are labelled and split into glass, plastic, paper and food waste. Well, we wouldn’t expect any different for the Universo Pol team, would we?
Positioned right behind the kitchen is the first accommodation area built upon two levels of dormitory style bedrooms, varying from 4 to 10 beds. Despite the number of beds, the rooms are very spacious and bright due to the natural sunlight that enters, however, due to the large tree leaves from above, a natural shade is provided. Each room is equipped with storage space with a lock handle and a functioning fan (you’d be surprised) which is extremely necessary for those hot Brazilian nights.
The final hut is home to the toilets and showers of the reserve. Here, you certainly wouldn’t expect to be faced with this modern and clean interior in the outskirts of an island jungle. There are four showers, one only providing cold water, and three toilets. Toilet paper and other products are thrown into paper bags to be decomposed and thrown separately. After all, it is an ecological reserve.
Other than it’s well designed infrastructure, Universo Pol also provides it’s guests with an entertaining ambience through it’s array of events. Varying from jam nights to yoga sessions, there is never a dull moment in the jungle. People from all over the island are invited to music nights where jewellery, drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and homemade bites are up for sale. The well equipped stage invites any willing musician to play a tune or two. The dim lighting which surrounds the bamboo stage certainly adds to the real jungle feel. As for the yoga classes, these consist mainly of ‘Kundalini Yoga‘ (also known as ‘Awareness Yoga’) which focuses more upon spirituality and exercising the mind rather than the physical body. Extremely relaxing and liberating.
To accompany this unique experience, the staff at Universo Pol undoubtedly add character through their smiles, willingness to help and bubbly personalities.
Thank you to the team for making my stay as comfortable as possible. If you are looking for a balance between nightlife and tourism mixed with nature and serenity, I would highly recommend a stay at this eco-lodge. Even if you (falsely) choose not to stay at this secret gem, don’t forget to pay a visit during your trip to the mesmerising island of Morro de São Paulo..who knows what surprises await behind that bamboo gateway..