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Fernando de Noronha

Even though Brazil is not known for it's islands per se, a marvelous group of them called Fernando de Noronha are spectacular and the only existing offshore archipelago in the country. Many islets and islands exist near the coast in Brazil, but Noronha actually resides 220 miles off the northeast coast of Recife, a few degrees below the equator. The archipelago is made up of 21 islands, islets and rocks of volcanic origin, although the main island is the only inhabited and comprises a mere 7 square miles of land. The island makes up part of the state of Pernambuco and the only small town on the island is Vila dos Remédios.

70% of Fernando de Noronha was declared a national park in 1988 and a preservation tax was implemented to help sustain the paradise. Life on the island is slow and sweet, with the main emphasis on tourism. The islands are part of a submerged volcanic mountain with its base sitting at the depth of 12480 ft. (4000 m) The islands have two distinct tropical seasons, a wet one between January and August and dry the rest of the year. The archipelago possesses a unique eco-system with an exuberant marine life.

One of the largest populations of spinner dolphins in the world makes the islands their home, returning every evening to the same bay (Baia dos Golfinhos) to rest and mate. The bay is protected and access is prohibited to only afar. Sea turtles nest on Praia Leao (Lion Beach), known as well for being one of the most beautiful beaches in Brazil. The other two are also located in Fernando de Noronha, Baia do Sancho and Baia dos Porcos, lying side-by-side on the north side of the island.

The infrastructure of Fernando de Noronha is basic, with includes a small bus that circles the island to dune buggy taxis. These buggies can also be rented, although the preferred transport is on foot. Trails crisscross the island and lead to all sights of interest. To arrive at some of the beaches, a guide may be necessary.

Tourist boats make daily runs to and from the port at the northeast corner to the northwestern tip, stopping for an opportunity to swim and snorkel in the Baia do Sancho. Generally you will get a chance to see the dolphins in the area. The visual is to die for and the beach can be reached on foot down some steep stairs cut in the hill as well. Lots of colorful fishes swim at your feet in the pristine waters.

Surfing in Fernando de Noronha is incredible as well. During the surf season of December through March, waves of up to 12 ft (4m) wrap onto the northern exposures. The waves provide warm water, Hawaiian-style tubes and offshore winds all day, making for some excellent surfing conditions. For such a small island, the place has a lot of good quality waves to choose from. Cacimba do Padre is the best in Brazil and has been the home to an annual competition for the professional world tour of surfing. The visual is as good as it gets and the waves break close to the shore on a sand bottom. Other good places to surf include Abras, Boldro, Conceicao, Meio and Cachorro. When the swell is big enough, Ilha da Rata just offshore from the port, has a long peeling wave comparable to Honalua Bay on Maui. The waves are very consistent during the surf season and you would be just about guaranteed to catch it good at this time.

Fernando de Noronha has some of the best diving in the world with visibility up to 60 meters/200 ft. The options vary for beginners to the advanced divers. Snorkeling is another excellent alternative.

The islands are a great place to get away from the more hectic city life on the mainland. We are talking some serious R and R, although there is some nightlife in a bar on the hill overlooking Praia do Cachorro, located in the Vila dos Remédios.

The cuisine in Noronha consists of lots of fresh fish and most of the restaurants have a complete buffet where they prepare your choice of entrée on the BBQ while you wait.

Accommodations are mostly simple pousadas, houses that have been redesigned to accommodate guests. Pousada Ze Maria is very nice and exclusive, with a super view over-looking the postcard peak of the island, the Morro do Pico.

A week-long voyage to Fernando de Noronha should suffice to thoroughly enjoy this unforgettable Brazilian paradise. This is one place that needs to be seen to be believed, so definitely put this destination on your Brazilian itinerary.





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