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 Recife.
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 5,000 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 situated in Pernambuco. 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.
English is not widely spoken on the island, even among those working in the hospitality industry, likely because Fernando de Noronha is popular among Brazilian elite, but little known outside of the country. Although there is 4G LTE service and WiFi at hotels and restaurants, connectivity is slow as of March 2020; some areas offer free public WiFi.
Flight times are 1:40 from Recife (540 km) and 1:10 from Natal (350 km). Flights by Azul Airlines and Gol Airlinesoperate daily. There are also charters and full packages available from major Brazilian cities, available from most Brazilian travel agents.
The archipelago comprises 21 islands. Only the largest of them is inhabited (pop. 5,000), 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 or a motorbike for $35 - 40 a day depending from whom and how long you rent . The easiest way to get around is by bus (R$ 5.00 as of March 2020) 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.
Time zone is UTC-02:00 hours year-round, meaning that for most of the year it is one hour ahead of the standard time zone of coastal and most of central Brazil, and from mid-October through mid-February (Daylight Saving Time in all except the more northern Brazilian states), the same time zone.
Please note: Access to many of the top locations on Fernando de Noronha require a pass to the Parque Nacional Marinho, which you can purchase at the ICMbio, near Projeto Tamar. As of March 2020, passes cost around R$200 for foreigners and R$100 for Brazilians. Passes are valid for 10 days. More information is available at the park's website.
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 (exotic sweet and fatty dark purple-colored Northern Brazilian fruit, usually eaten as a mashed pulp) with granola and bananas at 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 pousadas have a website and can be booked online. A full listing can be seen at the [official website for Fernando de Noronha http://www.ilhadenoronha.com.br/] under Turismo - Hospedagem. or at [ http://www.fernando-de-noronha.info] under Accommodations. Some pousadas are:
You should always have a bottle of water, sunscreen, a hat and a bug repellent in you bag to enjoy the island. Besides the amusement of fantastic beaches, the waves can be tricky and so strong that they can cause accidents. Beware about beach condition postings and warnings and each water rule such as to wear life jackets at Sueste beach, for example, to protect corral growth on the bottom of the ocean water and maritime life.