Sailing to Fernando de Noronha – Brazilian Paradise

 

Fernando de Noronha is an archipelago of 21 islands and islets, that rose up from the bottom of the ocean millions of years ago Map of the Amazing Ferando De Noronha Archipelagofrom an intense volcanic activity, in the Atlantic Ocean, 220 NM off the NE coast of Brazil. The area counts around 2500 inhabitants and is a special municipality (distrito estadual) of the Brazilian state of Pernambuco. It is also a World Heritage Site; Brazilian and local authorities are really dedicated to protect this marine national park (since 1988), making Fernando de Noronha one of the best examples of environment preservation. The fact that until recently Fernando de Noronha was used as a military base (*) by Brazilian government probably helped to prevent the environment destruction.

*The Portuguese recognized the Islands location’s strategic value in the 17th century and fortified the island; it also played an important role during the WWII when it was a US base.

Position 3°51’S, 32°25’W.

Today, only 400 hundred visitors are allowed at any given time, and big part of the Islands’ national park can only be visited with official tour companies. One of the most beautiful beaches of the archipelago, Praia de Atalia, has a strict (and controlled) capacity limit of 100 visitors per day. Sun creams are forbidden (did you know they tend to make fishes anorexic…for real), as are flippers. One of the bays is also strictly reserved to dolphins (Baia de Golfinhos – Dolphins bay, SW of the main Island). No sailing, no surfing nor swimming in the dolphins bay.

Baia Do Sancho is said to be the most beautiful beach in Brazil
Baia Do Sancho is said to be the most beautiful beach in Brazil. Just in front of it emerge twin islands.

Another obligatory stop is Baia do Sancho. Several sites and magazines have elected Praia do Sancho as the most beautiful beach in Brazil. With clear water and sand ground, this place is magnificent! Moreover, this bay is one of the few in which it’s allowed to stop boats for bathing purposes without damaging the corals. Isolated, bordered by a steep cliff, it can be reached through three “routes”: by sea on boat; by ladders fixed in a rock split (from where you can see the sea), and by stairs carved in the stones from the neighbor Porcos Beach.


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Building in the archipelago is strictly regulated and all new construction must respect traditional standards. Be aware that you must not disturb (it means swimming toward or following on a dinghy) dolphins or turtles; you can receive a fine for that.

The archipelago is among the very best spot for diving in the world. Crystal clear water filled with coral, dolphins, giant turtles, and lots of other species to observe. You will also be able to dive into natural caverns. Snorkeling is possible but you can also rent diving equipment and get a certified guide.

Turtles in Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

 If you’re looking for sensations, and have deep dives experience and qualification, why not explore the wreck of the Ipiranga Corvette, a Brazilian 60 meters warship that sank in 1983 and lies 30 meters under the surface. If you’re not an experienced good scuba diver, good news is you just found the perfect place to get better!

The islands have a tropical weather with 2 main seasons: From April to August, the rainy season and from September to March, the dry season. Temperature of air and water are quite steady through the year, averaging 27C° (80F°). From what I know, the dry season and its bigger waves is very appreciated by surfers.

Their location makes the Fernando de Noronha Islands a perfect stopover for sailing yachts crossing from Europe to Brazil.

Sailing to Fernando de Noronha
One of the great possible view while sailing around Fernando de Noronha
Fernando de Noronha. National Park in Brazil

When you sail to Fernando de Noronha, it looks like you’ve sailed to a loss world, a mix between the Island of the TV Show “Lost” and “Jurassic Park”. Long sand beaches, high cliffs, tropical birds and tropical rain forest. Well…some parts of the islands are more tropical than others, since men brought vineyards.

Dolphins Bay - You can't sail in it, but it's a must seen. Probably the widest Dolphins refuge in the world
Dolphin Bay – You can’t sail in it, but it’s a must seen. Probably the widest Dolphins refuge in the world

From a sailing point of view, the island offers a ESE steady light breeze most of the time (around 10 knots). July and August are the windiest months (a wind above 4 Beaufort 30% of the time). In a word, it’s a great playground. Considering the numerous restrictions and regulations, get a good and detailed nautical chart.

You have to know, though, that if you are willing to discover the wonders of Fernando de Noronha, you’ll have to pay for the privilege. It begins with a mooring tax, then the “environment tax” that finances the preservation of the archipelago.

For a sailing yacht above 32 feet (10 meters), the mooring tax was in 2010 153 Brazilian Reals per day (about 58€ or US$75). The “environment tax” is 39 Brazilian Reals (about 15€ or US$19) per day and per person. And where there are taxes, there is paperwork…

When landing for the first time on the island, head to Baia de San Antonio, right at the north end of the island, just off the breakwater. The bay is the home of a large number of white bellied spinning dolphins that come to say hi to the boats.

Dolphins - Fernando de Noronha

Once anchored in front of Porto Santo Antonio (Baia de Santo Antonio), you need to go ashore and deal with the Port Authority. Arriving yachts must clear with the port captain’s office, Park Administration (I.B.A.M.A.) and Immigration. This is now an official port of entry for Brazil and yachts are expected to arrive with all the appropriate visas. However, all the paperwork can be done here, except clearing customs, that does not present a problem if it is done at the next port of call.  Formalities are relatively simple and relaxed, all being handled by the Port Captain. I advise you to remind to ask for an up to date list of the authorized areas for anchoring, so that you can plan your cruise knowing what can or can’t be done by boats. You’ll find all the information about tours companies in the Captain’s office (for hiking, boating, diving, the sharks museum, game fishing, etc.).

If you want to reduce the amount of paperwork at your arrival, you can pay the Environmental Preservation Tax via Internet, on www.noronha.pe.gov.br .

To find a good restaurant on the main Island, Porto Santo Antonio is the best place. I recommend “Mergulhao”, a nice little restaurant, serving nice food, with an enjoyable view on the harbour. Don’t expect a fancy restaurant, just good food and good location. Be careful, there is no currency exchange agencies and most shops do not take credit card. It’s wise to arrive their having already Brazilian Reals

The shops are limited, and all prices are doubled compared to mainland Brazil, but you’re not here to do shopping, right ?

Why don’t you try “Planasub” a.k.a “submarine flight” ? Equipped with a snorkel and diving goggles you hold tight to an “acryl board” with a groove that is connected with a rope to a motor boat, that pulls you. If you give an angle to the board, you dive down or up between 1 and 10 meters without any effort and you can enjoy feeling like a fish among the amazing fauna of the archipelagos. The departure for this really fun experience is from Porto Santo Antonio. Here is a video I found on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48h49dAMqeo.

The guy that invented this actually live on this island and owns the “Shark Museum”, another possible stop if you are into sharks…

Sailing and cruising around Fernando de Noronha is a fantastic experience. One that makes you love sailing even more !
Sailing and cruising around Fernando de Noronha is a fantastic experience. One that makes you love sailing even more !

The guy that invented this actually live on this island and owns the “Shark Museum”, another possible stop if you are into sharks…

The sailing and regatta fans should be interested in an event that takes place every September. The Regatta Recife – Fernando de Noronha that is hosted by the Cabanga Yacht Club and attracts a lot of sailing boats to the islands. It is almost the only moment when you’ll find some crowd in this place!

I hope you’ll have fun sailing to Fernando de Noronha. Thanks for reading,

Aurélien

 

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