Fernando de Noronha, a UNESCO World Heritage site and a Marine National Park, is an unique archipelago about 350 km northeast of Natal. It has never been linked to the mainland. Geologically, it is the tip of a submarine volcanic formation which rises out of the deep seabed and consists of one main island and several rocks and islets. The rocks form many natural aquaria.

Noronha is one of the worlds top diving destinations. Bathed by currents coming from Africa the waters around the islands are very clear with excellent visibility even at 50 meters and have great year-round warm temperatures. The tropical South Atlantic is isolated from the Caribbean reefs by the outflow of the Orinoco and Amazon rivers and this has created a very distinct reef community. Of course, you can also see the large “global” species such as manta rays, sharks, moray eels, sea turtles and dolphins.

There are three diving operators on the island : Atlantis Divers (the best equipped and slightly more expensive), Aguas Claras (the pioneer operator) and Noronha Divers (run by locals). Those who do not want to scubadive, can opt for snorkeling or planasubbing (great fun). Other water-based activities include surfing, kayaking and boattours.

Above water the island is very beautiful with some of Brazil top beaches, secluded bays and striking rocks and viewpoints. It is home to one of the largest seabird breeding colonies. And famous for its large population of spinner dolphins, which congregate in the Bay of the Dolphins and for seaturtles (hawksbills feeding grounds and green turtles nesting beaches). There are several conservation programs on the island. The most wellknown is the TAMAR seaturtle project, which also organizes nightly talks by researchers (on Spinner Dolphins, Sharks, Sea Turtles, Fernando de Noronha and Atol das Rocas) at their Visitors Centre.

For those who want to explore the island’s natural beauty, there are a number of hiking trails and you can rent horses or bikes. You can get around on the main roads by buggy or bus.

Due to building restrictions, most of the places to stay are family pensions or small inns and these are rated by the number of dolphins. Only 4 inns have the top rating of 3 dolphins.

The island is served by two daily flights each from Recife and Natal. You can book your on trip online or use Brazilian tour operators in São Paulo,  Rio, Natal or Recife. There are also 7 incoming agencies on the island itself. The official site  is only in Portuguese, but has very good info and the listings of all hotels, restaurants, diving companies and travel agencies (look under Turismo - Hospedagem).

The number of visitors to the island is restricted (currently at 460), so you are one of the happy few seeing this natural paradise. However, due to its isolated location and the visitation limits, Fernando de Noronha is relatively pricey. You also pay a daily conservation fee.

Fernando de Noronha is well worth it, but make sure to plan your trip well to get the most out of your stay.