Human Journey

Expedition Diaries: Salvador de Bahia

This post is the latest in the series  Kike Calvo’s visual diary as a National Geographic Expert on the Buenos Aires, Rio and Brazil´s Wild Coast National Geographic Explorer. 


A perfect cacophony of drums and Afro-Brazilian percussion instruments seem to infuse every corner as we go up narrow streets to find our hotel in the pastel-hued historic district of Salvador de Bahia. Well-preserved baroque architecture dating from the 16th and 17th centuries and a palette of brightly-colored facades set the scene for a vibrant display of art, music, crafts and martial arts as the town goes about its day.

Walking around the cobblestone streets of Pelourinho, you can feel the rhythm that history has impregnated on these UNESCO World Heritage walls. If I had to choose something that triggered my senses, it would be the sounds of berimbau –a bow-like local instrument– playing capoeira music. Capoeira, a testament to Brazil’s African heritage, is a martial art originally disguised as a dance, and the closest thing I have ever seen to dancers flying while keeping up with the beat and rhythm of drums.


With a largely Afro-descendent population, African cultural roots are alive and part of daily life in Salvador. “You don’t have to be a professional to play music. Everyone plays and not just in preparation for carnival. There is music everyday. It is a community activity that brings people together,” said Jacob Edgar, musicologist and cultural expert aboard this Lindblad-National Geographic expedition. For a more stylized representation of popular traditions, we visited the Balé Folclórico da Bahia, a nationally and internationally acclaimed ballet company. The performance, a blast of energy and passion, showcased elements of Afro-Brazilian religion, history and culture.





Pelourinho’s effervescent setting gave me an idea that I felt compelled to carry out before starting our expedition aboard the National Geographic Explorer, the expedition ship that would take us down the Atlantic Coast of Brazil all the way to Buenos Aires. I decided to arrange a photo shoot with local classic ballerinas. As part of an ongoing project, I have been capturing the beauty of ballet, choosing landmarks across Latin America and history-rich places. The outcome was astonishing and I will be including it in my collection of which a photograph was recently included in the new National Geographic book entitled “Stunning Photographs”.





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Learn More About Brazil:

Brazil: National Geographic: Adventure Map (National Geographic: Adventure Map (3401))

National Geographic Traveler: Brazil

National Geographic Countries of the World: Brazil

National Geographic Traveler: Rio de Janeiro

Brazil Executive [Tubed] (National Geographic Reference Map)

Capoeira: A Brazilian Art Form: History, Philosophy, and Practice

Capoeira: Roots of the Dance-Fight-Game

Award-winning photographer, journalist, and author Kike Calvo (pronounced key-keh) specializes in culture and environment. He has been on assignment in more than 90 countries, working on stories ranging from belugas in the Arctic to traditional Hmong costumes in Laos. Kike is pioneering in using small unmanned aerial systems to produce aerial photography as art, and as a tool for research and conservation. He is also known for his iconic photographic project, World of Dances, on the intersection of dance, nature, and architecture. His work has been published in National Geographic, New York Times, Time, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair, among others. Kike teaches photography workshops and has been a guest lecturer at leading institutions like the School of Visual Arts and Yale University. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic blog Voices. He has authored nine books, including Drones for Conservation; So You Want to Create Maps Using Drones?; Staten Island: A Visual Journey to the Lighthouse at the End of the World; and Habitats, with forewords by David Doubilet and Jean-Michel Cousteau. Kike’s images have been exhibited around the world, and are represented by the National Geographic Image Collection. Kike was born in Spain and is based in New York. When he is not on assignment, he is making gazpacho following his grandmother’s Andalusian recipe. You can travel to Colombia with Kike:

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