Close your eyes and imagine crystal clear waters teeming with wildlife, long sandy beaches, and barely a tourist in sight. There are no high-rise condos, no hotels, and no clubs. Does this sound too good to be true?
Believe it or not, such a place does exist, and can be found in Brazil. Fernando de Noronha is an archipelago of 21 small islands, located 220 miles off of the Brazilian coast.
National Marine Park
The Brazilian government tightly regulates the type of construction that can take place on Fernando de Noronha, and over half of the island chain has been designated a National Marine Park. The total number of visitors is limited, and tourists are charged an environmental preservation tax that increases based on length of stay.
Amazing scuba diving
One of Fernando de Noronha’s biggest draws is the incredible diving, with visibilities often reaching 120 feet or more. Given the environmental protections in place, the marine life is abundant. The coral, however, can be a bit disappointing, as the rocky outcroppings that envelop most areas give off little color.
Divers are virtually guaranteed to see large numbers of sea turtles, along with spotted eagle rays, sting rays, and the occasional nurse or reef shark. Some bays are home to thousands of spinner dolphins that come in the early morning to feed, though it is forbidden to dive with them. Lucky divers, however, may encounter smaller pods while in the outer reefs.
There are currently only three dive operators on Noronha – Aguas Claras, Atlantis Divers, and Noronha Divers. Prices are regulated and are all the same, though Aguas Claras and Atlantis Divers are the largest and most established, usually visiting more sites each day.
The islands of Fernando de Noronha can only be reached by air and are serviced by TAM, Varig, and Trip Airlines. Flights leave daily from the Brazilian coastal cities of Natal and Recife.