I used to have a newspaper clipping in my cubicle at work that said "I'd love to, but I'll be in Bora Bora...," hoping that it would ward off requests for more work. Let's cross that out and write Fernando de Noronha instead. I doubt that the Tahitian island could be more like Paradise, when you add Brazilian hospitality to extraordinary natural beauty and respect for the environment. Also, no one locks their doors or cars. If you are a diver, this island, 500 kilometers off the northeastern coast of Brazil, should be your Mecca...if you just love pristine beaches, snorkeling, watching hundreds and hundreds of dolphins do whatever dolphins do without being disturbed by humans, and thousands of baby turtles (same thing)...well, Noronha should be your destination, too.
Other activities include surfing (during the months of December-March, when the winds change direction and, apparently, create superb waves), nightly lectures on the marine environment, and dancing forró. Since I was too exhausted at night to look for different restaurants, I ate simple food at a buffet or a sandwich at the Chelonia Café which is part of Projeto Tamar (meaning all the proceeds go to the Save the Turtles Project). They also have the best place to shop, especially when you think where the money is going.
Fernando de Noronha does have a history of predatory human presence, but that all seems to be in the past. As part of their preservation policies, only a certain number of people are allowed on the island at a time and every visitor must pay an Environmental Preservation Tax. You receive an ID card which is valid for the exact amount of days you're going to stay on the island.
I can't imagine why it took me so long to get there, since I have old friends who live on the island. I stayed at their home/inn (every home on the island seems to double as an inn); it was nice to sit down and chat about the island with people who know it so well...including the problems...(even in Paradise there was a snake). Here are some photos I took while driving, walking, and boating around. The Quonset huts are relics of a World War II American base. The boat is named after my friends' daughter, who in turn was named after my daughter.
For travel tips and information in Portuguese, access the Fernando de Noronha online guide on Férias Brasil. These guys are as much in love with the island as we are!
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