Fernando de Noronha: One of Brazil’s Most Treasured Destinations for Brazil Scuba Diving
Looking for Brazil Scuba Diving? Hidden way offshore in the Atlantic, nearly two-hours by plane, is the small, gorgeous and nearly uninhabited island of Fernando de Noronha. I had never heard of it before I got here and I expect that few foreigners and even many Brazilians have never heard of it, either. Let me share the basics.
Fernando de Noronha is simply stunning. Due to the careful preservation of this island, there are only 3500 inhabitants and only they and their families are permitted to live there. Not even Brazilians can simply up and move there. The island contains 17 square kilometers of land. Tourism is restricted to about 1000 tourists at a time. In order to discourage tourists from staying long, a daily tax is paid that doubles in value each week. For example, when I was there the daily tax was R$14. Let’s guess that today, five years later, it’s about R$20. So, for your first week there you’d pay R$140 in the occupation tax. If you stay an extra week, you’d pay R$280 (R$40 per day). For a third week you’d pay R$560 and so on, doubling every week.
The Features of Fernando de Noronha
Let me list here for you in a series of bullet points some of the awesome features of this island.
- The marine life is spectacular. Loads of gorgeous fish, large and small, sharks (docile), dolphins, manta rays, moray eels, angel fish, sea turtles and so much more.
- Crystal clear visibility, often at distances of 60 meters. Usually, for half the year one side of the island has amazing visibility, and then this changes to the other side of the island the other half of the year.
- Fernando de Noronha is home to the world’s largest spinner dolphin colony, numbering in the thousands or possibly in excess of 10,000. One of the best day trips is to get up before sunrise to be shuttled from your pousada to the cliffs above the beach where the dolphins return from feeding all night in the open sea. As the sun rises, you see the dolphins return in great numbers, leaping about and spinning playfully. Binoculars will be provided, but they may not be of great quality and you may have to share, so consider bringing your own.
- Though not a regular thing, we saw a large whale, a humpback I think, but I could have it wrong, and our small scuba diving boat drifted to with about 30 feet of it. We all dove in with our snorkel gear, but we startled it and it took off quickly in descent.
- The snorkeling is as good or better than the scuba. This is because there is incredible marine life very close to shore on many of the beaches. Unlike scuba diving, you are not limited by time due to the air in your tank, nor are you obligated to follow the leader, even if you’d like to stay and observe something for a while longer. Also, colors are much more brilliant in shallow water.
- Though there is very limited nightlife, there is one popular gathering place called Praia do Cachorro, where there is a bar, restaurant and live forró music every night.
- The beaches are gorgeous and often deserted due to the restrictions on how many people can be on this island at a time. Because I live in Florianópolis and have daily access to equally gorgeous and often deserted beaches, when I was in Noronha I focused on the Marine life, scuba diving and snorkeling every day. We don’t have that kind of marine life and visibility here.
- Fernando de Noronha is home to Brazil’s largest sea turtle colony. There is an important project on-going to restore and grow the sea turtle population. They are very heavily concentrated on one beach, Praia do Sueste, where you can snorkel with them, see dozens of them and swim alongside of them.
- Take the all-day full island jeep tour. You’ll likely be in a caravan of jeeps with one to three dozen people, touring the full island and stopping at many of the beaches with time to snorkel and time for a great seafood lunch.
- During the summer months of January through March, there is world class surfing, with waves of 3-4 meters.
How to Arrange Your Trip
You will likely fly to Noronho out of the cities of either Natal or Recife. Both of these cities are also great places to visit so you can combine visits to several places if you have the time. The trip to Noronha is most often bought as a package that includes your pousada (bed and breakfast) and airfare. Once there, I noted that the pousada where I stayed had a daily rate half that of what I was charged through the tourist agency, and next time I will book directly with them.
I encourage you to jump into Google Images and Youtube and to search for “Fernando de Noronha” to see photos and videos of this marvelous place. I’ll leave you with a few videos to wet your appetite. Enjoy!
About the Author
Joe Naab is the author of Brazil for Life, a how-to living guide for those who want to start a new life or have a second home in Brazil. He offers a two-hour private phone consultation for those who want more specialized information to suit their specific needs. He also coaches people through the entire expatriation process and can help those interested to obtain Brazil’s Business Investor Permanent Visa.