Increased Tourism to Dois Irmãos Trail Raises Concerns in Vidigal

View from Dois Irmãos

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Dois Irmãos, the iconic “two brothers” mountains of Rio de Janeiro which can be viewed from Ipanema beach and upon which the Vidigal favela is built, are a popular tourist attraction. The panoramic views of the South Zone beaches, Christ the Redeemer, and the neighboring favela Rocinha have made the Dois Irmãos trail a frequently visited and photographed location. Before the police pacification of Vidigal in 2012, Dois Irmãos was a local treasure frequented and cared for by community residents. The few outsiders that visited the trail were generally known guests of residents. But since the installation of the Pacifying Police Unit (UPP), Vidigal has experienced intense gentrification and increases in favela tourism. As a result, Dois Irmãos has become one of the most frequented trails in Rio de Janeiro.

With increasing numbers of visitors in Rio for the Olympic Games, Dois Irmãos has had even more tourist traffic than usual, and the trail is suffering from the impact. There have been increases in littering, off-trail hiking that damages residents’ reforestation project of 20 years, dangerous night hiking that threatens the safety of the visitors and the reputation of the community, and generally disrespectful behavior including drug use and nudity.

 Vidigal Trails guide Russo Morais brings trash down from Dois Irmãos (Photo from Vidigal Trilhas / Morro Dois Irmãos RJ facebook page)

An additional concern is the way in which visitors pass through the community. Often tourists come to do the trail and leave without contributing to the community or trying to engage with it. Even when visitors come on a guided tour, many of these agencies are run by groups outside of the community, and therefore don’t benefit the residents themselves.

“The World Cup was one thing, just that the Olympics involves more countries. There are many more people coming and many of them come with tour guides [from outside Vidigal] who don’t have this responsibility to the community. [Dois Irmãos] will be one of the itineraries,” says Marcelo da Silva, President of the Vidigal Neighborhood Association.

Russo Morais, resident of Vidigal and guide with Vidigal Trails, considers the history of Vidigal and Dois Irmãos to be inseparable and his tour is oriented around showing the community as a whole, including other spots of interest such as the Sitiê Ecological Park.

Russo Morais leads Dois Irmãos hike. Photo courtesy of Favela Experience

“I began this work because I think it’s important. There are guides outside of the community and also people who come by themselves. The people come by themselves, do the trail and come back down. They don’t do anything with the community. They don’t have contact with anyone,” says Russo.

The influx of tourist traffic to Dois Irmãos via moto-taxis means that residents who rely on the moto-taxis to return home have to wait in line and sometimes cannot afford the increased prices. Da Silva was quick to say he thinks this is not the fault of tourism, but should be the role of the moto-taxi driver to serve the community first.

Mototaxi takes passenger up Vidigal street. Photo courtesy of Favela Experience

Vidigal saw huge increases in traffic during the World Cup in 2014 and Marcelo estimates an unprecedented number of tourists from all over the world will visit Dois Irmaos during the Olympics, necessitating a collaboration between residents and local officials. The Vidigal Neighborhood Association is looking into a possible partnership with the UPP to limit access to Dois Irmãos. Marcelo hopes that other public agencies will step up and help with the maintenance of the trail.

“This is not the neighborhood association’s responsibility. The authorities have to be here. The tourism secretariat, the environment secretariat, they should see, make a limit, and put up signposts,” says Marcelo. “The trail has become kind of scary, kind of problematic.”

Russo and Marcelo in Vidigal

In the meantime, there are simple things visitors can do to decrease the negative impact on the trail and make a positive impact on the community. This includes visiting the trail during daylight hours (before 5pm) and reducing litter by collecting trash one sees on the trail. Visitors can support the community by using a local tour guide, making a donation to the numerous cultural programs in the community or by simply stopping for a bite to eat at a local snack bar or restaurant and supporting the community’s economy.

“I want visitors to come and respect the trail, respect the space, respect our community,” says Marcelo.

To learn more about Vidigal’s local tour guides and to schedule a tour, contact Russo Morais with Vidigal Trails/Mountain Dois Irmãos RJ or Ana Lima with Trilha Dois Irmãos.