By Brazil Nuts Director ADAM CARTER
There are few Brazilian destinations that are so hyped, so lauded with praise, than Fernando de Noronha In fact, it was in part this very hype, the never-ending raves from Brazilians and international travelers alike, that seemed to me to be too good to be true. How, I asked myself, could it possibly be worth all the effort (must first take a flight to the Northeast – to Recife or Natal – THEN take another flight to the island) and all the expense (flights are $450pp – no Brazil Airpass segment allowed- and the simplest pousadas charge an arm and a leg) just to go to an island with nice beaches? Being an island connoisseur of sorts myself, I just could not fathom how any one island would merit the sacrifices and investment necessary to laze on another beach. Especially when one considers how BIG Brazil is and how LITTLE TIME most visitors have to explore its many fantastic destinations. Well, I just returned form “Noronha” and I can tell you: This place delivers – and perhaps exceeds – the hype… It IS worth the time and the money to get there, and it is well worth making it part of your Brazilian itinerary An almost two hour flight from the mainland, and for many years a restricted area for military or other reasons (think a bucolic Devil’s Island), Noronha has managed to develop in its own unique eco/social system, kind of like its Pacific counterpart the Galapagos. A $25pp/ day visitor tax and a strict limit of 350 tourists allowed on the island for any one overnight period make the island even more restrictive (shall we say exclusive?).
Add to all this strict regulations on who can own property (only long time residents) and what NEW constructions can be built (virtually nothing!) and you have a formula for a destination almost frozen in time and protected from over development and anything resembling mass tourism. In fact, it is this air of exclusivity and privacy that makes this place so attractive. One really feels “privileged” just to be here, and part of a private club of fortunate and savvy visitors. And the island’s petite dimensions (it is only a few miles wide and just a few more long) only enhance that feeling Now, for the attractions:
* Stunning physical beauty. I will not waste words here, but will tell you this: Noronha is one of the few places in the world where the reality is much more beautiful than the tourist brochures. Pictures just do not do justice to the pristine beauty of the island
* Incredible beaches: Not only beautiful (the world has many) but the virtually empty stretches of virgin beach really evoke comparisons with the famous Leonardo DeCaprio film “The Beach”. The choice of hide away – be they calm bays or surf-washed stretches – really overawe
* A very mellow vibe, from sunrise to sunset and into the evening, the pace is slow but soothing. A special end to the day is the sunset bar where a crowd assembles daily to watch the sunset to the sounds of jazz, MPB and more. I imagine what Montego Bay was like 30 years ago
* Nice selection of restaurants and cafes, mostly in the Village of Remdios, the so-called capital of the island.
* Cool activities to enjoy, top among them a full day “all-around-the-island beach safari” by van or jeep. It’s cheap and a must-do in order to see all the different beaches – choose the ones you like and come back later to spend more time! Same with the boat trip (half days in the morning) that takes you to other beaches for swimming and chilling. And of course you can do a great “baptism” dive course in a half day, or just snorkel to your heart’s content. Fernando is a diver’s paradise, just an extra bonus point!