Jenni Avins

Brazil’s Fazenda da Lagoa, Mr and Mrs

‘Welcome to Jurassic Park,’ says Mr Smith dryly as our Land Rover bumps through an arid forest of coconut palms in Bahia, Brazil. Indeed, it seems another place and time when we arrive at the road’s end to find a boat with a rainbow-striped awning awaiting us. We feel happily miles from nowhere and plop down on soda pop-coloured cushions for the short ride across the lake Fazenda da Lagoa is named after.

Upon arrival, white-clad staff member Claudia walks us around the grounds, explaining the Fazenda’s philosophy of leaving the natural setting as untouched as possible. No dissent here. Bahia’s coast provides the perfect landscape for an exclusive escape. ‘Fazenda’ is the word Brazilians use for romantic ranches and impressive estates. Fazenda da Lagoa is both.

We weave a path from the lake between private stone bungalows with white shutters and wooden decks to the lodge – a sprawling indoor/outdoor version of the cottages serving as the restaurant, bar and communal lounging space. The simple natural decor is accented with vibrant upholstery and objects reflecting a distinctly Brazilian blend of African art and Iberian culture. In the alcove library, carefully curated floor-to-ceiling titles are interrupted only by wooden sculpture of a white bird surrounded by flowers and a cobalt plexi-glass version of Bahia’s most ubiquitous souvenir: a lembrança ribbon that Bahians ritually tie around visitors’ wrists, promising a granted wish when they fall off.

‘Would you like to see your bungalow?’ asks Claudia, snapping me out of a fantasy in which this library, complete with zebra rug, exists in my home. Winding along another sandy path, I hear only the ocean’s quiet roar, and comment I feel as if we are the only guests. ‘That’s because you are,’ says Claudia. ‘Brazil’s holidays just ended.’ Mr Smith winks at me.

Inside Bungalow Seven, we are greeted by a clean, white, open room with turquoise and lime-green accents. On the bottom shelf of a table holding a flatscreen TV and DVD player are stacks of vintage international copies of Vogue. Mr Smith and I resolve to indulge in the afternoon sun and the reading material, respectively. Opening our baggage, I immediately lament not buying a skimpy Brazilian bikini in Rio. My modest black swimsuit feels square in this secluded, sexy setting.

Anxiety dissipates to the tune of an expertly made Caipirinha and a dip in the emerald-tiled swimming pool just steps from our bungalow. As I pile octopus and squid vinaigrette on a fresh sweet potato chip, Mr Smith wonders aloud whether it would be uncouth to request a second drink before finishing his first. One round later, it’s time to explore the beach.

Arriving on an expanse of endless white sand, we again feel deliciously isolated. As it turns out, we are not completely alone. Cacau and Joaquim, two Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs who reside at the Fazenda, accompany us into the warm salty waves as the sun sinks behind the coconut palms.

Back at the bungalow we find a gecko guarding the fresh flower petals in our stone foot-rinsing basin, and a cotton gauze curtain drawn around our bed. Inviting white terrycloth bathrobes and a chilled bottle of champagne await our indulgence. We promptly make use of both, capped off by a hot shower under the stars. By the time our stomachs call us back to the lodge for dinner, the path is alight with candles.

At the bar, Mr Smith and I are feeling a bit Bond with the resort all to ourselves and we decide that a dirty martini would be just the ticket. Upon realising the cocktail is not part of the traditional Brazilian repertoire, Mr Smith takes over. The young bartender steps aside with a giggle for Senhor Smith to shake some deliciously dirty libations. We then dine on outstanding Moqueca de Peixe: a rich Bahian stew of coconut milk, palm oil, fish, onion and peppers over rice. After a day awash in waves and Caipirinhas, our crisp cotton sheets are calling.

The next morning, I rise to sip café com leite in the library while Mr Smith snoozes. When he joins me for breakfast, the highlight is a coconut cake that practically becomes pudding in our mouths. The day is dazzling, and I leave Mr Smith poolside to peruse the gift shop. There, I find tiny bright bikinis, including a tangerine dream. I try it on and walk to the pool for a second opinion. Mr Smith puts down his magazine as I spin, demonstrating the tiny barely-there bottom that distinguishes Brazil’s national costume. ‘Sold,’ he says.

Throughout the day, I sun my under-exposed bum in a variety of stunning locales beginning with a secluded beach and followed by the crystalline lagoa. Determined to work up seafood-worthy appetites, Mr Smith takes out a kayak while I opt for a private surf lesson. Conditions are choppy, but barely a bother as my instructor Miguel pushes me into waves, patiently critiquing my stance and timing. In case we weren’t relaxed enough, we end the day with massages. Ordinary rubdowns are made extraordinary by the ocean breeze and flickering candles.

That night after dinner, we have dessert delivered to our room. Lying in bed with Mr Smith and a chocolate brownie, I couldn’t be happier. The next day, back in the Land Rover, Mr Smith ties a turquoise lembrança ribbon around my wrist, telling me to make a wish. I’m afraid if I tell, it may not come true, but all I can think of is returning to Fazenda da Lagoa.