The State Park of Ilha Grande (see statellite map) is only a part (5,594 hectares) of the entire island (19,300 hectares) which is located off the south coast of Rio de Janeiro state, between the cities of Mangaratiba and Angra dos Reis (see localization map).
Approximately half of the Park area (47%) is covered by dense Atlantic Rainforest. Many local fauna and flora representative species are found in the area, including parrots, woodpeckers, Brazilian thrushs, saracuras etc. There are also different kinds of monkeys, squirrels, armadillos, pacas, hedgehogs and snakes. From Pico do Papagaio (959 m), there are fantastic views over the island.
The islands first reports came from the German adventurer Hans Staden, who in the middle of the 16th century under Portuguese services was traveling along the Brazilian coast in order to rescue Portuguese out of Indian prison ship.
Near Santos, the preferred landing zone of Portuguese and Jesuit Missionaries he shipwrecked in 1554 and was taken prisoner by the Tupinamba Indians for 22 month. Already condemned to death by cannibalism he achieved to escape in 1555 and to publish in 1557 in Marburg his chronicle The true story and description of wild, naked and furious man-eating people. Stadens reports are considered as the first description of Indian customs in the New World.
Due to unlimited sweet water reserves, tropical fruits, large quantities of brazilwood but mainly because of the proximity to the port of Paraty, the principle shipping point of the Brazilian gold to Europe, Ilha Grande after Stadens visit became the favorite shelter for European pirates and corsairs. Approximately 50 shipwrecks between A ngra dos Reis and Ilha Grande are testimonies of the battles that during the 16th and 17th century occurred between Portuguese, Pirates and Tamoios Indians.
In the 18th and 19th century the island developed to one of the regions most important slave trading center. In one of the darkest chapter of Brazilian history, over 200 years, men, women and children from Africa landed at Ilha Grande on the beaches of Palmas and Dois Rios condemned to do the hard work on sugar plantations all over the country.
In order to attend the increasing labor demand after the abolishment of slavery in 1850, Brazil opened its doors predominately for European and Asiatic immigrants. As some of those countries at that time suffered from cholera epidemics, D. Pedro I ordered to construct a quarantine hospital at Ilha Grande where immigrants had to stay some time before entering officially Brazil. Today tropical rainforest covers the ruins of that hospital.
The whole Ilha Grande is in a Tamoios Environmental Protection Area and subdivided in 3 more especific areas: State Park, Marine State Park and Biologial Reserve of Praia do Sul (see Ilha Grande – Topographic Map).