Fernando de Noronha
The archipelago has never been linked to the mainland. Geologically, it is the tip of a submarine volcanic formation which rises out of the deep seabed and consists of one main island and several rocks and islets. The rocks form many natural aquaria and the underwater life is diverse. Because the reefs of the South Atlantic are isolated from the Caribbean by the outflow of the Orinoco and Amazon rivers, the reef communities are very different with many endemic species.
Bathed by currents coming from Africa the waters around the islands are very clear with very good visibility even at 50 meters and have great year-round warm temperatures. Of course, you can also see the large “global” species such as manta rays, sharks, moray eels, goliath groupers, sea turtles and dolphins.
The island is also home to one of the largest sea bird breeding colonies in the South Atlantic.
Discovered by Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512), Italian merchant and cartographer in 1503, the archipelago is 4 degrees south of the Equator, around 200 miles off the northeastern coast of Brazil, north east to the city of Natal.
During its 500 years history, Fernando de Noronha has been temporarily occupied by the Dutch (17th century), French (18th century) before Portugal established dominion in 1737. They built an extensive defense system of 10 forts. The largest and best conserved fortress is Nossa Senhora dos Remédios de Fernando de Noronha.
The island also served as a prison and a US Army base. Today the population is around 3.500 and the main industry is tourism.
As an unique ecological sanctuary, Fernando de Noronha is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a large part of the area is a National Marine Park. And it has the most wonderful beaches. Three (Sancho, Porcos and Leão) regularly feature in Brazil's top beaches list.
Being a small island with limited water resources and a fragile ecosystem, there is a maximum number of 460 visitors allowed on the island. Visitors also pay an Environmental Preservation Tax that increases progressively with the length of the visit.
The relative isolation from the mainland, the limits on visitors and the preservation make Fernando de Noronha an expensive destination. But the "happy few" will be well rewarded by the delights of this island paradise and its fascinating underwater world.
The archipelago comprises 21 islands. Only the largest of them is inhabited (pop. 2100), and visiting the other islands requires special authorization from the environmental authority, as they are protected areas of a National Maritime Park.
There is one road that circles the main island and connects many of its attractions. It is possible to rent a car or a buggy for about US $50 - 70 a day depending from whom you rent. The easiest way to get around is by bus (R$ 2.85) which goes back and forth along the main road from the Port on one end of the island to Praia de Sueste on the other. Another option is to hitchhike as almost all the local people and sometimes the odd taxi or dive truck will be happy to pick you up and give you a ride if you are going in their direction. If you choose to hitchhike, try and learn at least some Portuguese so you can tell them where you want to go and say thank you at the end of the ride.
There is not much to buy that is unique to the island. If you are desperate for a souvenir from the island, you could consider purchasing a souvenir to support the TAMAR/IBAMA project which is focused on turtle conservation.
After a long morning of diving, nothing beats a bowl of açaí with granola and bananas in the port
The island has about 70 inns or pousadas, often private residences more or less adapted for this type of service, similar to B&B. The quality of the lodgings are indicated by the number of dolphins. There are 3 categories :
Most inns have a website and can be booked online. A full listing can be seen at the official website for Fernando de Noronha(http://www.noronha.pe.gov.br/) under Turismo - Hospedagem.