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Fernando de Noronha Archipelago
Native name: Arquipélago de Fernando de Noronha
Fernando de Noronha - dois Irmãos - praia do sancho.jpg
Sancho Bay and Dois Irmãos Island
Location Fernando de Noronha.png
Location Atlantic Ocean
Coordinates 3°51′13.71″S 32°25′25.63″W / 3.8538083°S 32.4237861°W / -3.8538083; -32.4237861Coordinates: 3°51′13.71″S 32°25′25.63″W / 3.8538083°S 32.4237861°W / -3.8538083; -32.4237861
Archipelago Arquipélago de Fernando de Noronha
Total islands 21
Major islands Fernando de Noronha; Ilha Rata; Ilha do Meio; Ilha Sela Gineta; Ilha Rasa
Area 26 km2 (10 sq mi)[1]
Length 10 km (6.2 mi) (Fernando de Noronha Island)
Width 3.5 km (2.2 mi) (Fernando de Noronha Island)
Highest point Morro do Pico[2] (323 m (1,060 ft))
Region Northeast
State Pernambuco
Largest city Vila dos Remedios
Population 3,012 (as of 2009)
Official website
Brazilian Atlantic Islands: Fernando de Noronha and Atol das Rocas Reserves*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

Fernando de Noronha Conceicao Beach.jpg
State Party  Brazil
Type Natural
Criteria vii, ix, x
Reference 1000
Region** Latin America and the Caribbean
Inscription history
Inscription 2001  (25th Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

Fernando de Noronha is an archipelago of 21 islands and islets in the Atlantic Ocean, around 354 km (220 miles) offshore from the Brazilian coast. The main island has an area of 18.4 square kilometres (7.1 sq mi) and had a population of 3,108 in the year 2009[3]. The area is a special municipality (distrito estadual) of the Brazilian state of Pernambuco[4] (despite being closer to the state of Rio Grande do Norte[5]) and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its timezone is UTC−2h. The local population and travellers can get to Noronha by plane or cruise from Recife[6] (545km) or by plane from Natal[7] (360km). A small environmental preservation fee is charged from tourists upon arrival by Ibama (Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources).



The climate is tropical, with two well-defined seasons. The rainy season lasts from March to September, the rest of the year sees little rain[8].


The islands of this archipelago are the visible parts of a range of submerged mountains. Consisting of 21 islands, islets and rocks of volcanic origin, the main island has an area of 18 km² (7.1 miles²), being 10 km (6.2 miles) long and 3.5 kilometres (2.170 mi) wide at its maximum. The base of this enormous volcanic formation is 756 m below the surface. The main island, from which the group gets its name, makes up 91% of the total area; the islands of Rata, Sela Gineta, Cabeluda and São Jose, together with the islets of Leão and Viúva make up the rest. The central upland of the main island is called the Quixaba.[9]


The island was covered in forest until the 19th century, when it was cleared to prevent prisoners on the island from building rafts. The islands are now predominantly covered by shrubs, with some areas of recently planted secondary forest. Many of the plants on the island today were introduced by people.

The United Nations Environment Programme lists 15 possible endemic plant species, including species of the genera Capparis, (2 species) Ceratosanthes (3 species), Cayaponias (2 species), Moriordica, Cereus, Palicourea, Guettarda, Bumelia, Physalis, and Ficus noronhae.[10] Combretum rupicola is also a likely endemic.


The islands have two endemic birds — the Noronha Elaenia (Elaenia ridleyana) and the Noronha Vireo (Vireo gracilirostris). Both are present on the main island; Noronha Vireo is also present on Ilha Rata. In addition there is an endemic race of Eared Dove Zenaida auriculata noronha. An endemic sigmodontine rodent, Noronhomys vespuccii, mentioned by Amerigo Vespucci, is now extinct.[11] The islands have two endemic reptiles, Amphisbaena ridleyi and Trachylepis atlantica.[12]

Marine life

The life above and below sea is the main attraction of the island. Sea tortoises, dolphins, albatrosses and many other species are frequently observed.


Many controversies mark the discovery of the archipelago by Europeans. From its original name, Ilha da Quaresma (Lent Island), it was sighted by expeditions in the years 1501, 1502 and 1503. The Viscount of Santarém, however, attributed the discovery to Gaspar de Lemos, captain of the supply ship of Pedro Álvares Cabral's fleet, sent back to Portugal with news of the discovery of Brazil. Modern historians, however, credit the 1501-1502 expedition led by Fernão de Noronha with the discovery of the archipelago. The main island appears in the logbook of Martim Afonso de Souza, 1530 as the Ilha de Fernando de Noronha.[13]

The first to actually describe the island was Amerigo Vespucci, who traveled with a Portuguese expedition of Gonçalo Coelho to Brazil in the year 1503.

In 1534, the Fernando de Noronha Archipelago was invaded by the English, and from 1556 until 1612, it was held by the French. In 1628, it was occupied by the Dutch, who were displaced two years later by a Spanish-Portuguese military expedition led by Rui Calaza Borges. The Dutch built a fort on the site of the present ruins of the Forte de Remedios. The Dutch occupied the island once again in 1635, making it a hospital for their troops who occupied northeastern Brazil (the Brazilian coast between Rio São Francisco and Maranhão). The island became known as Pavonia, in honor of Michiel de Pauw, one of the directors of the Dutch West Indies Company. It would remain under Dutch control for nearly twenty years, when it was reconquered by Portugal. In 1654, it was the last fort the Dutch surrendered to the Portuguese, marking the end of the Dutch era in north-east Brazil.

Finding it uninhabited and completely abandoned in 1736, the French East Indies Company took the island and renamed it Isle Dauphine.

Only from 1737 on, after the expulsion of the French, was Fernando de Noronha definitively occupied by Portugal. This time it was decided to fortify the island. For this purpose, ten forts were built in all strategic points where a possibility of disembarkation existed; nine in the main island and one in the Ilha de São José situated in front of the Saint Anthony harbor. The forts were connected by a network of stone roads. This defense system was planned by the Portuguese military engineer Diogo da Silveira Veloso. Around 1770, the first permanent settlement, Vila dos Remédios, was founded. The village was divided in two units (pátios); in the superior one were the administrative buildings, in the lower one the church and the associated religious buildings.

As Brazil became independent in 1822, very little changed for Fernando de Noronha.

In 1832, the island was visited by an expedition which included Charles Darwin. His experiences on Fernando de Noronha were recorded in his journal, later published as The Voyage of the Beagle.[14]

Island prisoners in 1930.

In the late 18th century, the first prisoners were sent to Fernando de Noronha. A prison was built. In 1897 the government of the state of Pernambuco took possession of the prison.[15] Between 1938 and 1945, Fernando de Noronha was a political prison. The former governor of Pernambuco, Miguel Arraes, was incarcerated there. In 1957 the prison was closed and the archipelago was visited by President Juscelino Kubitschek. [16]

At the beginning of the 20th century, the British arrived to provide technical cooperation in telegraphy (The South American Company). Later the French came with the French Cable [17] and the Italians with Italcable[18].

In 1942, during World War II, the archipelago was made a Federal Territory that also included Rocas Atoll and Saint Peter and Paul Rocks, and political and ordinary prisoners were sent to the local prison.

An airport was constructed in September 1942 by the United States Army Air Force Air Transport Command Natal-Dakar air route, which provided a transoceanic link between Brazil and French West Africa for cargo, transiting aircraft and personnel. It was transferred to the jurisdiction of the United States Navy on 5 September 1944.[19]

In 1988, approximately 70% of the archipelago was declared a maritime national park, with the goal of preserving the land and sea environment. On October 5, 1988, the Federal Territory was dissolved and added to the state of Pernambuco (except Rocas Atoll, which was added to the state of Rio Grande do Norte).

Nowadays, Fernando de Noronha's economy depends on tourism, restricted by the limitations of its delicate ecosystem. In addition to the historical interest noted above, the archipelago has been the subject of the attention of various scientists dedicated to the study of its flora, fauna, geology, etc. The jurisdiction is considered to be a separate "entity" for the DX Century Club, and so is visited rather often by amateur radio operators.

In 2001, UNESCO declared Fernando de Noronha, with Rocas Atoll, a World Heritage Site. The reasons for this were a) the island's importance as a feeding ground for several species, including tuna, billfish, cetaceans, sharks, and marine turtles, b) a high population of resident dolphins and c) protection for endangered species, such as the hawksbill turtle and various birds. [20]

Fernando de Noronha Airport is served by daily flights from Recife and Natal on the Brazilian coast.

Fernando de Noronha beaches

Praia Sancho. Beyond this beach, there's a reserve for some 600 spinner dolphins.
Morro Dois Irmaos - Two brothers Rocks

The main islands are the visible parts of a range of submerged mountains, islets and rocks. The Archipelago of Fernando de Noronha hosts ecological sites ideal for exuberant marine animal life, due to its geographic location far from the continent and well within the path of the Southern Equatorial Currents, as well as the nature of its climate.. Below, list of Noronha beaches [21] and/or bay.

  • Sancho beach

One of the main points for diving in Fernando de Noronha, the beach is surrounded by a natural wall which serves as a shelter for some species of seabirds. The locals, called as Sancho bay or beach.

  • Conceição beach

One of the best frequented in the islands. Offers good waves, beautiful landscape and has some bars.

  • Cacimba do Padre beach

One of the most famous of the islands, has two adjacents beaches (Americano and Bode beaches). This beach is ideal to practice surf due to its strong waves. Its part of the International and National calendar of surf every year. Also, from there is possible to see the famous Noronha postcard - Morro Dois Irmãos or two brothers rocks.

  • Golfinhos bay

Which means dolphins bay. Its a bay located behind Sancho beach, and it is an area of preservation by Ibama, banned for swimming and for access by boats, serves as shelter for spinner dolphins or golfinhos rotadores. Just one trail leads to the top of a natural wall where is possible to see the spinner dolphins.

  • Porcos bay

Or Pigs bay in English, is one of the main highlights of Fernando de Noronha. The bay is in front of two brothers rocks and has some natural pools formed between the rocks and reefs.

  • Santo Antonio Port bay

Its located adjacent to the main port of the archipelago. Local for loading and unloading vessels with goods supplies to the islands. Also, its the starting point for the local tours and cruises to Recife. Has a small beach with calm water and a very beautiful sunset.

  • Boldró beach

This beach has waters dominated by coral formation. Are ideal for scuba diving but dangerous, due to the violence of the water.

  • Americano beach, Bode, Biboca, Cachorro , Do Meio, Quixaba, Ponta da Sapata, Leão, Ponta das Caracas, Sueste bay, Atalaia, Enseada da Caeira, Buraco da Raquel, Caeira and Ponta da Air France beach.


Thanks to the deep clear water surrounding the island, Fernando de Noronha is a great location for scuba diving. Warm water and exuberant subaquatic fauna and flora can be found during dives from 25 to 40 m deep. A Brazilian warship, the corvette Nael Ipiranga, sank in 1987 and is lying in pristine condition at around 60 m (190 feet).

Conservation and environmental threats

Most of the original vegetation was cut down in the 19th century, when the island was used as a prison, to keep the prisoners from hiding and making rafts.

Also, invasive species have been introduced:

  • Linseed, intended for use as cattle feed.
  • Tegu lizards (Tupinambis merianae, locally known as teju) introduced in the 1950s to control a rat infestation. Ironically, that didn't work out, because Tegus are diurnal and rats, nocturnal. Now the lizards themselves are considered a plague, feeding mostly on bird eggs.[22]
  • Rock Cavies (Kerodon rupestris, locally known as mocó) introduced by the military in the 1960s as hunting game for soldiers.[23]

Economic Indicators


HDI (2000) Population (2009) GDP (2007)x1000 R$ % PE GDP pc R$ Hostels/pousadas beds (2006)
0.862 3.108 20.901 0.034% 7.462 1.492


  1. ^ Fernando de Noronha Embratur. Retrieved on 6 June 2009.
  2. ^ Fernando de Noronha Dolphins Communications. Retrieved on 6 June 2009.
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ [2]
  5. ^ [3]
  6. ^ [4]
  7. ^ [5]
  8. ^ [6]
  9. ^ Carlos Secchin, Clóvis Barreira e Castro, Arquipélago de Fernando de Noronha, 2nd ed. 1991.
  10. ^ Fernando de Noronha, Islands of Brazil, UN System-wide Earthwatch
  11. ^ Carleton, M.D. and Olson, S.L. 1999. Amerigo Vespucci and the rat of Fernando de Noronha: a new genus and species of Rodentia (Muridae, Sigmodontinae) from a volcanic island off Brazil's continental shelf. American Museum Novitates 3256:1–59.
  12. ^ Mausfeld, P., Schmitz, A., Böhme, W., Misof, B., Vrcibradic, D. and Duarte, C.F. 2002. Phylogenetic affinities of Mabuya atlantica Schmidt, 1945, endemic to the Atlantic Ocean archipelago of Fernando de Noronha (Brazil): Necessity of partitioning the genus Mabuya Fitzinger, 1826 (Scincidae: Lygosominae). Zoologischer Anzeiger 241:281–293.
  13. ^ Secchin and Barreira e Castro
  14. ^ A Naturalist's Voyage Round the World By Charles Darwin, ISBN 1603033149 URL:
  15. ^ Noronha História
  16. ^ Fernando de Noronha: História da ilha remete ao inferno e ao paraíso
  17. ^ History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications, French cable companies
  18. ^ History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications, Italcable
  19. ^ USAFHRA Document 00001957
  20. ^ World Heritage description
  21. ^
  22. ^ Tupinambis merianae, Instituto Hórus de Desenvolvimento e Conservação Ambiental (The Nature Conservancy), 2005
  23. ^ Kerodon rupestris, Instituto Hórus de Desenvolvimento e Conservação Ambiental (The Nature Conservancy), 2005
  24. ^ PE State site - City by city profile

External links



  • Video Fernando de Noronha National Park (EN)[7]
  • Video Noronha beaches and underwater [8]
  • Video Noronha Surf paradise [9]
  • Photo video Noronha [10]
  • Video Noronha scuba diving [11]

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

South America : Brazil : Northeast : Pernambuco : Fernando de Noronha
Fernando de Noronha
Fernando de Noronha

Fernando de Noronha [1] is an archipelago in Brazil and a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site. Its pristine beaches, landscapes and wildlife attract tourists worldwide.


The archipelago 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 and the underwater life is diverse. Because the reefs of the South Atlantic are isolated from the Caribbean by the outflow of the Orinoco and Amazon rivers, the reef communities are very different with many endemic species.

Bathed by currents coming from Africa the waters around the islands are very clear with very good visibility even at 50 meters and have great year-round warm temperatures. Of course, you can also see the large “global” species such as manta rays, sharks, moray eels, goliath groupers, sea turtles and dolphins.

The island is also home to one of the largest sea bird breeding colonies in the South Atlantic.

Discovered by Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512), Italian merchant and cartographer in 1503, the archipelago is 4 degrees south of the Equator, around 200 miles off the northeastern coast of Brazil, north east to the city of Natal.

During its 500 years history, Fernando de Noronha has been temporarily occupied by the Dutch (17th century), French (18th century) before Portugal established dominion in 1737. They built an extensive defense system of 10 forts. The largest and best conserved fortress is Nossa Senhora dos Remédios de Fernando de Noronha.

The island also served as a prison and a US Army base. Today the population is around 3.500 and the main industry is tourism.

As an unique ecological sanctuary, Fernando de Noronha is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a large part of the area is a National Marine Park. And it has the most wonderful beaches. Three (Sancho, Porcos and Leão) regularly feature in Brazil's top beaches list.

Being a small island with limited water resources and a fragile ecosystem, there is a maximum number of 460 visitors allowed on the island. Visitors also pay an Environmental Preservation Tax that increases progressively with the length of the visit.

The relative isolation from the mainland, the limits on visitors and the preservation make Fernando de Noronha an expensive destination. But the "happy few" will be well rewarded by the delights of this island paradise and its fascinating underwater world.

Get in

By Air

Flight times are 1:40 from Recife (540 km) and 1:10 from Natal (350 km). Flights by Trip Airlines, Varig and TAM operate daily.

  • Airport of Fernando de Noronha - phone (81) 3619-1311

By Sea

During high season travel operator CVC[2] has 4-6 days cruises from Fortaleza, Natal and Recife.

Get around

The archipelago comprises 21 islands. Only the largest of them is inhabited (pop. 2100), and visiting the other islands requires special authorization from the environmental authority, as they are protected areas of a National Maritime Park.

There is one road that circles the main island and connects many of its attractions. It is possible to rent a car or a buggy for about US $50 - 70 a day depending from whom you rent. The easiest way to get around is by bus (R$ 2.85) which goes back and forth along the main road from the Port on one end of the island to Praia de Sueste on the other. Another option is to hitchhike as almost all the local people and sometimes the odd taxi or dive truck will be happy to pick you up and give you a ride if you are going in their direction. If you choose to hitchhike, try and learn at least some Portuguese so you can tell them where you want to go and say thank you at the end of the ride.

This is considered the most beautiful beach on the island, although the Pig Bay is considered by many as the most beautiful one. Both are side by side, and you can see both in the same day.

  • The full moon rising from the ocean. In some areas you will be able to see the rocks under the water near the beachs at night because of the full moon.
  • Dolphins at the Dolphins Bay site
  • Sea turtles on Sueste bay ( baía do Sueste)
  • Pig bay(baía dos porcos)
  • The live underwater
  • Beaches - Fernando de Noronha is home to the top two beaches in Brazil - Praia do Leão and Baía do Sancho. Both beaches offer crystal clear blue water with areas for swimming and snorkeling. If you decide to visit, it is a good idea to bring along your own provisions as well as an umbrella as there is no shade at Praia de Leão and the shaded areas of Baia do Sancho quickly fill up with other visitors.
  • Boat tours
  • Buggy tours
  • Dolphin watching
  • Diving - with visibility up to 50 meters, Fernando de Noronha is a Mecca for divers and snorkelers at any level of expertise. It has more than two hundred species of fish, five shark species, sea turtles and dolphins.
  • Kayak tours
  • Snorkeling - Despite what several of the travel guide books say, snorkeling at Praia da Atalaia is no longer unrestricted. If you wish to visit to see the tide pool, it is recommended that you arrive early as the number of visitors is restricted to 100 per day. The tide pool itself is about 18-24 inches deep but contains a remarkable diversity of animals. Lobsters, octopuses and numerous fish species inhabit the pool and, if you are lucky, maybe a baby shark. The tidal pool is monitored by the government of the island. If you choose to go keep in mind a few things:
    • Visitors are not allowed to wear suntan lotion as the oils from the lotion will pollute the tidal pool (this is another good reason to go early in the morning when the sun isn't too hot)
    • You are only allowed to stand or put your knees down in a small sandy area in the middle of the pool. If you are not a confident snorkeler (i.e. capable of floating on the top of the water) then do some practice at another beach before you go. They will remove you from the pool and you could be fined if you violate this rule.
    • You will be limited to 25 minutes in the pool
  • Swimming
  • Trekking - there are also many different trails to choose from, but some restrictions apply. Trails in the National Marine Reserve (Parnamar/FN) can only be visited with authorization and with accredited guides. Trails inside the Environment Preservation Area (Apa/FN) have free access.


There is not much to buy that is unique to the island. If you are desperate for a souvenir from the island, you could consider purchasing a souvenir to support the TAMAR/IBAMA project which is focused on turtle conservation.


After a long morning of diving, nothing beats a bowl of açaí with granola and bananas in the port


The island has about 70 inns or pousadas, often private residences more or less adapted for this type of service, similar to B&B. The quality of the lodgings are indicated by the number of dolphins. There are 3 categories :

  • 1 dolphin (basic) - most places are in this category
  • 2 dolphins (comfortable) - about 9
  • 3 dolphins (very comfortable) - 4

Most inns have a website and can be booked online. A full listing can be seen at the official website for Fernando de Noronha( under Turismo - Hospedagem.

  • Algas Marinhas
  • Ares De Noronha
  • Canto Das Sereias
  • Da Fatima
  • Da Morena
  • Del Mares (
  • Simpatia da Ilha
  • Alquimista
  • Lenda das Aguas
  • Bela Vista
  • Pousada Verdes Mares, Alameda dos Cajueiros (Floresta Nova), 55 81 96631134 (). A very nice place to stay. You feel as if you were in your own summer house, with wonderful breakfast and very good reception by the host.  edit
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

'FERNANDO DE NORONHA' [Fernao de N.], an island in the South Atlantic, 125 m. from the coast of Brazil, to which country it belongs, in 3° 50' S., 32° 25' W. It is about 7 m. long and 12 wide, and some other islets lie adjacent to it. Its surface is rugged, and it contains a number of rocky hills from Soo to 700 ft. high, and one peak towering to the height of 1089 ft. It is formed of basalt, trachyte and phonolite, and the soil is very fertile. The climate is healthy. It is defended by forts, and serves as a place of banishment for criminals from Brazil. The next largest island of the group is about a mile in circumference, and the others are small barren rocks. The population is about 2000, all males, including some 1400 criminals, and a garrison of 150. Communication is maintained by steamer with Pernambuco. The island takes name from its Portuguese discoverer (1503), the count of Noronha.

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