Fernando de Noronha: Tropical Island Getaway

In Brazil
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BAÍA DO SANCHO

The archipelago of  Fernando de Noronha is a volcanic formation located 350 km from Brasil’s coast in the Atlantic. It was a Brazilian territory until a few years back when it became a part of the state of Pernambuco. It is composed of 21 islands in which only the main and biggest one is inhabited, the rest are part of the Marine National Park and protected. They can only be visited with an official license from IBAMA (Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis.)

Its 26 km² is a pure natural beauty. They promote a sustainable tourism, where man and nature has a balanced interaction in this ecological sanctuary. I recommend this trip to those who love nature and don’t mind its rustic roots. Because of its preservation policies (which I personally LOVE and really support), it’s a humble place with a simple ‘tourism’ structure.

Noronha is for sure my favorite place on earth. It has crystal clear water, warm sea (one of my favorites), rich ecosystem, the most beautiful marine life variety, golden sand and a spectacular sunset to close a perfect day. I can’t quite put into words how amazing and magic this place is. To everyone about to experience all this beauty and anywhere else, be respectful with the environment, preserve and protect it.

How to get there:

  • By plane: It has two daily flights from Recife and another two from Natal City. The best part is a really short flight, about 30 minutes!
  • By sea: From October to February you’re able to reach the island by taking an amazing cruise.

When to visit:

Noronha is a warm and sunny place all year round (average temp. 28°C), although it has two seasons: rainy (April to August – sporadic rain with intense sunshine in between) and dry (September to March).

PS: rainy season might get the land/trails pretty soaked and muddy for those who like to track.

Another important factor is the sea. It depends a lot on your interest to choose the best time to visit this amazing place. From December to March is time for the biggest swells on the island, highlighting January and February when the surfers hit the nicknamed “Brazillian Hawaii” to enjoy the waves. In another hand, September and October is the best time to enjoy a calm sea and it’s when snorkeling and scuba diving hit their season where the visibility reaches up to 50 meters.

Accommodations:

I’m here to say: do not expect something fancy! Unless you’re ok with paying a lot of money on it. Accommodations, as well as the others services on the island, are pretty expensive. I would recommend early research on this topic, read previous visitors comments and recommendations so you know what to expect. In addition, about VACANCY, pay attention because in vacation seasons the island usually gets booked pretty fast. So, again, early research.

How to get around:

  • By foot: The island is quite small. To reach some beaches you’re going to have to walk. It also has many trails for those who like to track. In another hand, it would be impossible to get to know everything by foot, it will consume too much of your time.
  • Bike: You can rent a bike or even find some for free. Although Noronha has some hills, you can enjoy the ride and the moments you would miss by car.
  • Buggy: Rent a Buggy. My family rented a Buggy to save us time and get the liberty to know the island faster by our own. The price can be quite salty for those on a budget or to pay alone.
  • Bus: The option I would probably choose if we hadn’t had the Buggy. There’s a bus every 30 minutes from 5 am to 10 pm. The ticket costs R$3,10 anywhere you’re headed. A fast and cheap option to get around the place.
  • Taxi: They are expensive, but if you choose to use a cab, I would recommend pre-arranging the place and time to be picked up.

Fees:

  • Environmental Preservation Tax (TPA): That’s an obligatory tourism fee. The price depends on the duration of your visit. Although you are able to pay it when you arrive, the best option is paying it in advance to avoid the airport line. You can do it on their official website (www.noronha.pe.gov.br).
  • Marine National Park ticket: Half of Noronha is part of the Marine National Park, including Atalaia, Sueste Bay, Mirante dos Golfinhos and Baía do Sancho (voted the most beautiful beach in the world for the last few years). You can also acquire this ticket on their website (www.noronha.pe.gov.br) or buy it in 4 different locations along the island.

SHARK AT ATALAIA

My testimony:

I love this place. I’d been there twice and have my third visit booked for later this year. The view from the plane window as you arrive is incredible, both times it had a rainbow over the island welcoming me. PS: the left side of the plane gets the best view of Noronha. It looks like the “Jurassic Park” island. It has that heavy humid tropical air and all you can feel is the warmness on your skin. Paradise.

I went with my family. So when we rented a Buggy to get around the island and previously arranged to pick it up in our arrival at the airport. I stayed at a simple ‘pousada’ (hostel), only a place to sleep, get back to at night and have that good tropical breakfast. You’ll probably stay out exploring the whole day, so basically, that’s all you need.

The last both times I spent 5 days there. To be honest that’s the minimum amount of time to get to know and enjoy the basic in the island. Here some of you can’t miss:

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Baía do Sancho

Voted the most beautiful beach in the world several times and the main attraction of the island, Baía do Sancho, can be reached by both a trail (lots of stairs because of the cliff) or by boat. I did both, but because I always get seasickness I prefer the option I am on the steady land. As a side note, don’t forget your snorkel. It’s a place full of life and the turtles might show up if you are lucky, so don’t miss it.

BAÍA DO SANCHO

From the trail that takes you to Baía do Sancho, you can also visit the Mirante dos Golfinhos, if you go in the sunrise or early in the morning, you might see the dolphins swimming around. Another part of the trail takes you to a view of Morro Dois Irmãos and Baía dos Porcos, one of the most famous on the island and the hotspot for pictures.

BAÍA DOS PORCOS and MORRO DOIS IRMÃOS

Baía dos Porcos

As shown in the picture above, Baía dos Porcos is a much smaller bay you can visit and has the view to Morro Dois Irmãos. This is one of my parent’s favorite place on the island. Besides, the only way to reach it by foot is through another beach, Cacimba do Padre, which is where most surfers choose to catch their waves.

Praia da Conceição

Another beach that you can find some surfers, Praia da Conceição, has nice waves and is one of my personal favorites. It is one of the only that has some structure – bathroom and beach bar, which is only possible because the beach is out of the natural reservation.

As I tried to take the wave picture below, a turtle swam by me and got me really spooked. It was a good surprise though, as well as the rays I got to see that day.

WAVE AT CONCEIÇÃO BEACH

Conceição Beach has an incredible sunset view you can enjoy while listening to some acoustic gig live. The vibe is incredible. Peaceful.

Praia do Porto

In addition to the list of beaches out of the Marine National Park, we can mention the best spot for Stand Up Paddle practice, Praia do Porto (tip: in the sunset is even prettier).

Porto is usually where your scheduled boat ride will begin or even schedule the boat ride (last time I went there were dolphins and a shark).

Not quite at the beach, but up the hill next to Porto there’s a little chapel with an awesome view of Porto Bay below, most people go up there to watch the sunset.

SUNSET AT THE CHAPEL

Sueste Bay

Sueste Bay is a natural shark reproduction area and where turtles feed. Because of that, it is part of the Marine National Park and has its visitation controlled by IBAMA (to protect the area).

It is a beach known for snorkeling to see turtles and many times sharks (as I saw every time I went there). You’ll have to use lifejackets and the obligatory company of a guide for safety reasons (yours and the animal’s).

Atalaia

At last, there’s Atalaia, a natural pool used as a nursery by the marine animals, open for visitation in the low tide.

It requires previous reservation because of limited spots and the few visitation times based on the low tide. It has a trail of about 1,3 KM to reach the pool and 30 minutes to enjoy (supervised by a volunteer).

My previous experience at Atalaia provided me a great encounter with a newborn shark, octopus, eel… and many fishes. You won’t be able to use sunscreen there, so to avoid contaminating the area with chemicals, for this reason, remember to bring a blouse to protect yourself from the sun (while swimming as well).

Ps: I have a little sister and she didn’t go. I wouldn’t recommend this for small children, because of the strict rules, the trail and limited fun for them.

OCTOPUS AT ATALAIA

Tip:

Noronha has much more to offer, plan your trip based on your interests and have fun. Cheers.

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