Fernando de Noronha – Brazil
Two hundred some miles off Natal on Brazil’s northeastern coast, in waters untainted by sediment from Brazil’s major rivers, lies Fernando de Noronha, an archipelago looking today much like it did when it was discovered five hundred years ago. Its distance from shore and the limited tourist facilities aren’t a drawback to visitors who rave enthusiastically about these spectacular islands.
The archipelago is called Fernando de Noronha. The islands are the remains of volcanic mountains jutting up from the Atlantic. There are twenty small islands, one larger one, and scores of beautiful beaches where clean sand, pure water and fabulous marine life abound.
Claimed by Américo Vespúcio for the Portuguese in 1503, early settlers built a fortress, now in ruins, at Vila dos Remedios, the largest populated town. The islands were a prison, then a convenient stopover point for early flights to Europe, and the facilities used by one European airline gave the name AirFrance to a local community. There was also a WW II air base. Today, the Brazilian Air Force maintains a base there.
Although the islands support a large variety of wildlife species, they are relatively unpopulated and tourism is restricted to 420 visitors at a time. In fact, the longer you stay, the higher your permit fee will go. There is one paved road, Brazil’s shortest national highway, one hotel and many pousadas which fill to capacity in the summer season.
In the 1970′s almost three-quarters of the archipelgo was created into the National Marine Sanctuary of Fernando de Noronha, the PN Fernando de Noronha, to preserve both the land and marine environment. Of particular interest is the nature conservancy effort saving the sea turtles.
While Fernando de Noronha is now a model environmental protection area, it is also one of Brazil’s almost hidden treasure. The clarity and warmth of the water, on the equatorial stream, and the abundant underwater life makes these islands a mecca for divers and snorkelers. There are over two hundred species of fish, plus dolphins, sea turtles, and sharks to view and photograph.