Editor’s note: This article was published before the coronavirus pandemic, and may not reflect the current situation on the ground.

In Brazil’s ‘other rainforest’, John Malathronas finds—among other things—one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet, potentially Brazil’s best beach, and black flies that cannot be killed.

“The first expedition to arrive here on 20th January 1602 was Amerigo Vespucci’s,” says Marcelo, our gregarious and knowledgeable driver, as we inch through the jungle in an open jeep.

Our party—two Brazilian families and me—nod knowingly. We are on the island of Ilhabela, Brazil’s fourth largest, and we’ve just left Vila, the main tourist hotspot, to traverse the rainforest to Castelhanos, one of Brazil’s most legendary beaches.

The narrow dirt road is puckered with stony ridges and sometimes water-clogged by the odd stream that’s capriciously decided to flow our way. Marcelo is navigating at crawling speed, avoiding potholes and sharp rocks with the same concentration a video gamer commits to dodging asteroids.