Fernando de Noronha is a volcanic archipelago about 350 kilometers off Brazil’s northeast coast. It’s named after its largest island, a protected national marine park and ecological sanctuary with a jagged coastline and diverse ecosystems.
It’s renowned for its undeveloped beaches, as well as scuba diving and snorkeling. Sea turtles, rays, dolphins and reef sharks swim in its warm, clear waters.
The idea of going to this wonderful island come during our trip to Brazil recently. We spoke with many locals who confirmed that Fernando de Noronha was worth a visit, so we decide to pack our stuff, catch a ride and went to this wonderful volcanic island.
Get in there and get around Fernando De Noronha
Flight times are 1:40 from Recife (540 km) and 1:10 from Natal (350 km). Flights by Azul Airlines and Gol Airlines operate daily. There are also charters and full packages available from major Brazilian cities, available from most Brazilian travel agents.
During the high season travel operator CVC has 4-6 days cruises from Fortaleza, Natal and Recife
The archipelago comprises of 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 $35 – 40 a day depending from whom and how long you rent. The easiest way to get around is by bus (R$ 3.20) 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.
Things to Do in Fernando De Noronha
Hundreds of dolphins congregate every morning at the same sheltered bay, and can be watched from the cliffs above. The waters around the island are evidently the most important dolphin breeding ground in the world. The bay is officially known as the Baía dos Porcos (Bay of Pigs), but over time it has come to be known as Baía dos Golfinhos (Dolphin Bay). After feeding in the open ocean at night, the dolphins come here during the day for R&R.
Porto de Santo Antonio
This village at the easternmost tip of Fernando de Noronha is the island’s only harbour and the site of its only petrol station. From here, small boats take visitors on tours of the island’s coastline. The boats take you all the way along the north coast towards the Ponta da Sapata, past a succession of beaches, and around the island into the Mar de Fora.
Hitting the Beaches
Baía do Sueste is a pretty crescent beach with some good snorkeling. It’s perfect for children, thanks to its large shallow areas and complete absence of waves. The beach has a snack stand and bathrooms.
Baía do Sancho is one of the prettiest beaches in all of Brazil. Access is via a series of precarious-looking iron ladders bolted into crevasses that somehow make it down through 30m (100 ft.) of sheer red cliffs. The beach features lovely red-tinged sand, cliffs with nesting seabirds, and crystal-clear blue water perfect for snorkeling.
Praia do Atalaia is a unique beach on the outer shore of Noronha. A thick shelf of volcanic rock extends halfway through the surf line, providing a bulwark for some quiet natural pools where tropical fish get trapped at low tide. Only 30 people are allowed in per day, and no suntan lotion can be worn when you swim in the pools. Access is through checkpoints monitored by IBAMA (Brazil’s environmental agency), either on the trail from Vila do Trinta or the road from Baía do Sueste. If you don’t know any better, you can also come in (as I did) on the uncontrolled trail from Enseada da Caieira. Arrive when the tide’s coming in, and you can stand immersed to your waist by the outer edge of the rock shelf as huge waves come rolling in, only to smash themselves to harmlessness on the thick volcanic rock. It’s reckless but a lot of fun.
There are also many different trails to choose from, but some restrictions apply. Trails in the National Marine Reserve (Parnamar/FN) can only be visited with authorization and with accredited guides. Trails inside the Environment Preservation Area (Apa/FN) have free access.