Into the Deep

Natural wonders, empty beaches and underwater adventures in Fernando de Noronha

Ask any Brasilian which would be Brasil’s natural paradise, and nine out of ten would say Fernando de Noronha. Even though the majority have never been there, the island has become a symbol of national unanimity, a cause for pride and even inspiration for the campaign: “Noronha, one of the seven wonders of the world”.

Who would’ve thought that an island that receives biologists, surfers and holidaying couples alike – where the Lambada, as performed by the childlike dance couple, Chico and Roberta, was born – could be the most fantastic of places in a tropical paradise like Brasil?

Perhaps it’s due to the huge array of activities for nature-lovers, like swimming with turtles in Sueste, seeing schools of dolphins, experiencing one of the island’s unforgettable sunsets over the Dois Irmãos hill, or spotting the countless land and sea birds that populate its blue skies. Or maybe it’s because the island limits the number of visiting tourists to just 420 at any one time, so that even during high-season you can enjoy breathtaking deserted beaches.

So much to see | In 1988, 70% of the archipelago was declared a National Marine Sanctuary. The aim being to protect the island’s habitats, study bird migration and reproductive trends in dolphins and crustaceans, study shark behaviour and implement Project Tamar, for the protection of sea turtles. The sanctuary is run by IBAMA, the Brasilian Institute for the Environment, which has instilled a strong sense of environmental awareness in the almost two-thousand strong population. In 2009, the cable TV channel National Geographic made a documentary about sustainable tourism on the island.

Upon arrival, your first activity should be a trip around the island, known as the Ilha Tour, which lasts a whole afternoon. Those who dread the traditional tourist bus excursion, as found in European capital cities, complete with cameras and photoflashes, should leave their prejudices behind, since this excursion will provide you with useful information for your entire stay.

Of all the places to visit, Baía do Sancho, Praia do Leão and Baía dos Porcos are the finest of the island’s eighteen stunning beaches. Sueste and Praia do Atalaia are where the best natural swimming pools are found, but the most impressive location is underwater, and it’s not without reason that this is the number one dive site in all of Brasil.

Beneath the water too | Underwater visibility can exceed 40 metres, with an average temperature of 28°C. Add to this the incredible rock formations, the 230 different species of fish, the 15 varieties of coral, five species of shark and the rich and unique marine life, and it’s no wonder that let alone Brasil, Noronha is considered one of the world’s best dive sites. A spectacle of colours and fish, themselves quite accustomed to divers, make the experience one of perfect interaction with nature. You don’t need a huge amount of luck to come across friendly sharks resting in small caves or underneath rocks, as well as lobsters, eels, giant turtles and octopus.

A necessary prerequisite for anyone who wants to visit Fernando de Noronha is a basic diving course. Several companies offer courses locally, but you’re a better off doing one before you travel so you can head straight to the water upon arrival. Have a look at the London School of Diving, at Scuba Zone and the Big Squid shop for an idea of courses, products and prices in the UK. Give it a try and then prepare yourself for a unique and unforgettable adventure in one of the greatest paradises on earth.

This article has previously been published in Brazuca Magazine, Jungle’s ‘sister’ publication based in Paris. Check out more on brazucaonline.org

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