Naked Ambition – Praia de Tambaba

24 May

Wanderlust, literally translates as the desire to roam, to travel, to explore every inch of this beautiful planet. But what happens when strict conditions are imposed on your exploration that make you question your longing to wander? Praia de Tambaba is a stretch of Brazilian coastline often deemed to be one of the Country’s most beautiful and enchanting spots so it was high on our travel itinerary. However, to reach said location, we discovered it was necessary to remove all traces of clothing!! Travelling for us meant a chance to be completely free, to cast aside daily worries and to embrace new adventures. But could we really enjoy something that pushed us so far from our traditional beach-going-norm?

Naked.  Stripped.  Starkers.  The thought of baring all in public struck fear into our hearts.  Those anxiety dreams about walking into a crowded room and realising we had no clothes on could suddenly become a reality.  But curiosity had already set in.  We asked ourselves what were those fearless beachgoers who bared all getting out of their experience?  We wondered what it was like to feel the sun on our skin and the embrace of the sea without the restrictions of clothes?  So with our hearts racing, we stepped forth to discover what no fully clothed person had discovered before.

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Located in the municipality of Conde, Praia de Tambaba is the only official nudist beach in Brazil’s northeast region and by enforcing strict rules of entry it promotes itself as a safe, relaxing and carefree place for its bathers to be at one with nature.

A good base to explore the area is the fishing village of Jacumã, located around 35 kilometers south of the state capital, Joao Pesso. Jacumã has a good selection of accommodation, restaurants and nightlife. It’s a laid back and friendly village with a stretch of golden sand scattered with fishing boats and rows of barracas (stalls) selling regional food and drink. Conveniently, Praia de Tambaba is a short 4 kilometre drive from the village on decent paved roads.

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Tambaba beach is actually divided into two areas.  The northern part is open to those who prefer to keep swimwear on, with the southern part for naturists only.  Both sections are equally stunning.  Tall, multi-coloured cliffs with bush covered headlands and swaying palm trees make for a dramatic backdrop. The broad stretch of fine white sand is splattered by petrified sandstone forming natural tidal pools along the shoreline. The sea in Tambaba is tranquil, with small waves and warm waters. The waves have also carved out a distinctive solitary rock, on which a single coconut tree has grown.

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The entrance to the nude section of the beach is marked by a huge notice board forming an archway through the trees. The board welcomes visitors to the beach and a list at the side of the path sets out rules which should be respected by all the visitors.  Families, couples and women in groups are welcomed but men must be accompanied by a partner. Sexual behaviour and photographing of beachgoers is strictly prohibited.

Once on the other side of a small hill, there is a changing area where all clothes must be removed before moving onto the beach. As we quickly found out, the area is patrolled by members of the Tambaba Naturism Association and in one of our most bizarre travel encounters, we were actively encouraged by a naked patrol man to stop being hesitant and remove all clothing.  I resisted my urge to shout obscenities at him and to turn around and run. Dan and I looked each other in the eyes, swallowed hard and started pulling our clothes off before we could change our minds.

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Such strict monitoring may seem unnecessary in a nation with a reputation for liberal sexual values and where nudity is enthusiastically embraced during Carnival parades. Images of the Brazilian beach are synonymous with tiny bikinis that leave little or nothing to the imagination so what’s the problem with some nakedness right? Wrong! Even though Praia de Tambaba has welcomed liberal, carefree naked people for nearly two decades, the naturist movement in Brazil is very much in its infancy. Brazilians on the whole can be very conservative. Female toplessness is illegal at the majority of the Country’s beaches and Brazil’s nude beaches can be counted on one hand. Tambaba’s beach ‘wardens’ are a necessary evil to stop the gawkers and voyeurs from ruining the easy-going, community feeling we soon discovered.

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As we stepped onto the open beach a million thoughts shot through our minds. Hold this in, push that out, walk normally, remember to breath. After a few steps, we realised no-one was looking at us and, after a few more steps, that being naked was a great equaliser. The vibe was relaxed and people of all ages, shapes and sizes seemed very comfortable in their own skin. There was nothing seedy or sexual about the set up as people sunbathed, swam and even played beach games without a second thought. When we did catch someone’s eye, a nod or a smile were the limits of our exchange before they respectfully carried on with their day.

Hiking trails meander across the beach and into the hills for those who want to exercise but we headed for a secluded inlet where we could become accustomed to our new naturist state.

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The beach was very natural looking and spotlessly clean. Beautiful sun bleached driftwood looked like sculptures from a gallery and at the waters edge tidal pools were heated by the sun’s rays. Facilities were limited so a cool bag with supplies (especially cold beers) is recommended. There is a small ‘nude’ café which was a step too far for us but many beachgoers enjoyed a coffee or an ice-cream in the buff. Strangely, the waiting staff were fully clothed but we suspected the protection of sensitive areas from hot food and beverages were high on their priority list!

As the day progressed we enjoyed feeling the sun and breeze on our skin. We didn’t completely forget that we were naked but it became much more comfortable. So much so that when it was time to leave, putting clothes back on felt very strange. We weren’t quite ready to partake in Tambaba’s yearly nude surfing festival (Open de Surf Naturista) but strolling between our bathing position and the sea for a swim became really quite enjoyable.

We’d challenged our traditional beach-going-norm, embraced naturism and had fun in the process. As with many travelling experiences, we’d questioned our preconceptions and stepped out of our comfort zone to learn something about others and ourselves. We witnessed the special beauty of Tambaba and discovered that daring to bare all can be liberating and pleasurable.

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