Fernando de Noronha is a near mirror-image of the Galapagos, with a unique appeal
NEED TO KNOW
LOCATION This island in the Atlantic Ocean is south of the Equator and 216 miles (360 km) east of Natal
VISITORS PER YEAR 70,000
Jan: 81°F (27°C); Apr: 81°F (27°C); Jul: 79°F (26°C); Oct: 79°F (26°C)
The Atlantic twin to the Pacific Ocean’s world- famous Galapagos, the Fernando de Noronha archipelago of 21 volcanic islands and islets lies just south of the Equator, some 216 miles (360 km) from mainland Brazil. Like the Galapagos, this lesser-known island enclave is famous for its fabulous wildlife encounters.
Fernando de Noronha, however, offers a far more robust experience, with wonderful accommodations, fine restaurants, fortress ruins, and other historic attractions, plus active adventures from biking and hiking to sea-kayaking and surfing.
While the Galapagos are best visited on cruises that last at least a week, Fernando de Noronha is a great place to settle into a pousada (hotel) on the main island and make daily forays by boat to neighboring isles. This is easy to do on organized excursions or aboard chartered fishing boats.
The islands are gloriously scenic, with rugged pinnacles piercing the sky, and sheer-faced cliffs spilling onto snowy beaches such as Praia do Leáo, where marine turtles crawl ashore to lay their eggs.
Migratory birds flock in their teeming thousands, joining permanent residents, including the magnificent frigatebird, red-billed tropicbirds, and the endearing brown, masked, red-footed, and blue-footed boobies. In fact, Fernando de Noronha is home to the largest concentration of tropical seabirds in the western Atlantic.
It’s no wonder that the entire chain is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Baía dos Golfinhos has the highest concentration of resident dolphins in the world. Post-dawn, spinner dolphins can be seen leaping and frolicking in the morning sunshine. Whales are also often seen close to shore. And the enthralling underwater world is considered the best in Brazil.
The main island, Ilha Fernando de Noronha, is graced by the lovely colonial village of Vila Remédios, with its pretty yellow-and-white Baroque Nossa Senhora dos Remédios church, built in 1772, overlooking a quiet cobblestone plaza. You can clamber the crumbling remains of Forte dos Remédios, completed in 1737, and admire the panoramic views. The Memorial Noronhense serves as a charming history museum.
And the island is dotted with romantic pousadas where you might chance upon Brazil’s hottest models and movie glitterati, for whom little-visited Fernando de Noronha is becoming hip.
The trails and dirt roads that lace the island are good for horse-riding and mountain-biking. And, unlike the Galapagos, you can even rent cars, which means a dune-buggy here, for exhilarating off-road rides to pristine beaches.
FORGET THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS?
THE BUILD-UP These volcanic isles in the Pacific Ocean 600 miles (1,000 km) west of Ecuador, are renowned for their remarkable island ecosystems. Nowhere in the world would one have quite the same up-close-and-personal encounters with wildlife, with the intimacy of traveling between islands by boat.
THE LETDOWN The number of visitors to the islands has increased tenfold since 1980. Many of the popular trails are overcrowded, pollution is on the rise, implementation of regulations is lax, and visits are increasingly costly.
GOING ANYWAY? The best way to explore the Galapagos is on an organized boat charter with a licensed guide. Preservation of this ecosystem is every traveler’s responsibility. When hiking, stick to established trails and don’t touch or, worse, feed the wildlife! Take only photographs, leave only footprints.
Getting There and Around The Aeroporto Fernando de Noronha, in the center of the island, is served by flights from Natal and Recife. Dune-buggy taxis run around the island at bargain prices. You can also explore the main island on rented buggies. Budget hounds can take a public bus that runs along the main highway.
Where to Eat For lobster and other seafood of mouthwatering quality, visit Ecologiku’s Restaurante .
Where to Stay Eco-sensitive resort, Pousada Maravilha has eight bungalows which offer comfort and superb vistas.
When to Go Visit during the low season between Aug and Nov, when prices are reduced.
Budget per Day for Two
US$250 per day for accommodations, food, and travel.