After sight-seeing in dozens of cities, visiting deserts, going on boat outings and some awe-inspiring hikes we felt we had been missing out on one particular thing. Beaches!
Where visit beaches if not in Brazil? Whei-Oh had immediately suggested to visit Fernando de Noronha and some research had quickly convinced us. Just a few days after arriving in Rio we found ourselves sitting on the plane towards Fernando de Noronha on Andys birthday…
Fernando de Noronha is an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, about 350 km off the Brazilian coast. Because of the importance of its environment a large part of the area has been made a National Marine Park in 1988 and an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001, allowing a mere 500 tourists on the island at any time.
If you are one of the lucky ones who manages to go ashore you can witness the unspoiled and breathtaking beaches of Fernando de Noronha. The island is renowned for its pristine beaches, landscapes and wildlife. Geologically the archipelago is the tip of a submarine volcanic formation which rises out of the deep seabed. The rocks form many natural aquaria housing huge underwater life diversity. 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 and home to many endemic species.
Every year polls elect the best beaches in Brazil, and every year some of the beaches of Noronha are there, at the top. In 2009, the poll by ViajeAqui (working with the Brazilian Michelin Guide and National Geographic) came out with a somewhat surprising result: Among the 10 most beautiful beaches in Brazil the top three are in Noronha (1 – Praia do Sancho, 2 – Praia dos Porcos, 3 – Praia do Leão).
We felt pretty convinced we had picked a good spot and already the first look out of the plane looked very promising:
All of Noronhas airport:
We were picked up at the airport and arrived at our “Pousada” in the afternoon:
Immediately we whipped out our swim trunks and bikinis from our packs and headed straight to the nearest beach. It was just a short walk down the street to Cachorro Beach:
The sun was shining, the water was clear, had just the perfect temperature and the waves kept breaking in… It was perfect!
After we finally left the water we lingered around the beach and watched the sun go down behind one of the islands icons, the “Morro do Picco”:
After the cold nights in Peru and Bolivia we really enjoyed sitting outside with a warm breeze. For dinner we had a rice shrimp dish covered in sauce and cheese:
The mornings we begun with a breakfast served on the sunny terrace:
And there was always time to relax in the hammock:
Or play with the tiny dog:
Our first snorkeling we did at Sueste Bay, which isn’t the nicest beach, but a great place for snorkeling.
Here we explored the underwater world and saw many colorful fishes and even some turtles. Due to currents the water was not as clear as we were hoping and a lot of sea weed had been washed up on the south side of the island, but we still had a great time:
The highlight of that days snorkeling was definitely when Andy discovered a Caribbean reef shark!
Lucky for Tini she was already back at the beach and enjoying the sun. Otherwise she probably would have scared the shark with her underwater yell…
According to Andy’s story he stayed calm, more fascinated than scared, and took his time to get pictures from all angles:
All around the beach we also observed the so called Mumbebo birds who plunge into the sea to hunt for fish. See how the bird first circles the water until he detects a swarm of fish and then bolts towards the water and draws his wings close to his body in the very last moment before he hits the water.
Here he has already transformed to a streamline torpedo:
and completely disappears in the water:
After they must of course take off again, which can be quite funny to watch:
In the afternoon we went for a short hike towards the ruins of Sueste Fort:
In 1503 the Italian merchant and cartographer Amerigo Vespucci discovered Fernando de Noronha. During its history the island has been temporarily occupied by the Dutch (17th century) and the French (18th century) before Portugal established dominion in 1737. They built an extensive defense system consisting of 10 forts around the island. Some of the remains can still be visited today:
We continued on to the nearby Leão Beach, which is famous for its green sea turtle sanctuary and spawning place. However November is not “turtle-season” so we missed them, but nevertheless enjoyed that beautiful beach:
From almost everywhere on the island one can see the highest point of the island, Morro do Pico:
In the evening we had barbecued fish and shrimps:
with some rice, beans and fries:
The next morning while exploring the south-west part of the island and its harbor we saw Pico mountain once again from the distance. From here it looked like the face of a sad old man (can you see it?):
One of our favorite beaches was definitely Bode Beach, located in front of a huge rock which reminded us a little bit of Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach in Oregon…
The waves were just perfect here for bobbing up and down with them and if moving into the surf, to get a pleasant massage:
Later on in the afternoon we continued towards the famous Baia dos Porcos. On the way we passed the “Morro Dois Irmãos”, another of the Fernando de Noronha iconic rocks.
Looking back at the almost entirely deserted Bode Beach:
Instead of other people one meets lots of lizards on Fernando de Noronha. They seem to love those black volcanic stones and lie on them to warm in the sun:
A panoramic view of the Dois Irmãos with Bode Beach in the back:
With hardly any other people around our “gorilla pod” proved indispensable for taking pictures of us:
Admittedly in sometimes difficult accessible positions…
But in the end it is the result that counts:
And finally our view from Porcos Bay, often used as post card motif because of its breathtaking scenery:
After some more walking under the hot sun and without shade, we were in desperate need for a refreshment. And what is better than fresh and tasty coconut water?
After drinking the water, we got the coconut split in half and ate the soft and delicious coconut flesh:
In the late afternoon we started to walk back to our hostel all along the northern beaches. We passed by this nicely decorated place which was prepared for a wedding on the beach:
It almost was difficult to keep track of all the picture perfect beaches we kept crossing:
This large orange stone seemed to have been misplaced between all the grey ones…
And more beaches…
Coming from the beaches we arrived in the small village in the north of the island:
And passed the Palácio São Miguel which is nowadays used as a government building:
In the evening we enjoyed seafood risotto:
And shrimps with a salad and potatoes prepared in an island-typical way. They almost tasted like chips:-)
The next day we spent at Sancho Bay (rated beach #2) which is surrounded by great cliffs from land and perfect for snorkeling.
Before going down to the beach we took a little walk along the overlook of the Baia dos Porcos, that we had visited from the bottom, the day before:
In the cliffs and the trees along the cliffs edge there are countless birds in their nests:
Doing their body care:
Feeding their hungry breed:
Or calling for their parents:
To get down to the beach we had to take several ladders leading through a crevasse in the cliffs:
But the climb quickly proved to be worth it:
On the rocks of the beach we found many huge crabs looking for food:
And on the rocks near the cliffs we saw some of these very shy rodents:
Once we finally got into the water to explore the underwater world we saw hundreds of different kinds of fish in all colors, shapes and sizes:
These two rays are almost invisible:
It took us quite some time to find the turtle-hideout, but eventually we did find them and followed them for some time:
And a different kind of sting ray:
After spending most of the day down at the beach we came back up in the early evening and headed for the Dolphin Bay vista nearby. We walked along the west part of the rim and had a magnificent view of Sancho Bay:
The clouds kept growing darker but always moving by the island before shattering any rain:
Flower blossoms from along the way:
Once we reached the vista we decided to wait here and watch the sun set into the ocean:
We also had discovered that our underwater camera supports time lapse videos and gave it a first try with the setting sun:
As the time had just flown by the evening before, we decided to walk back to this vista the next day and were also hoping to see some dolphins.
We gave it another try with the time lapse during the day and it nicely shows how quick the clouds keep moving by:
While Andy was setting up the camera for the time-lapse recording Tini suddenly cried out. She had spotted the first dolphins down in the bay!
Heading back towards Sancho Bay:
The rest of the day we spent relaxing at Cachorro, our home-beach with beer and snacks:
The waves had increased in size compared to our first visit, which just made bobbing on them even more fun:
In the evening we walked up to the old fortress:
From up here one has a great view over the coastal line, the harbor and the small village:
A perfect place for watching the sun set:
In the evening we tried the Varanda restaurant which according to Tripadvisor is one of the top places to eat on Noronha.
We were not disappointed and ended up having a great time:
And the food was delicious! We had “Prawns in pumpkin cream served with rice and a crunchy exotic Brazilian nut flour”:
Dessert: “Chocolate brownie with crunchy almonds and passion fruit syrup over the ice cream”:
We did not manage to get up early the next day, but still decided to revisit Leão Beach, which is one of the furthest away from us:
We spent a lot of time just strolling along the beach and enjoying all the beach had to offer…
Even just watching the beach from above one can spend hours…
Since the currents can be a little dangerous at Leão Beach we moved close to Bode Beach to one of the beaches we had walked by several days before:
And here as well the only company on the entire beach was this little fellow:
The weather had further increased the waves:
and moving along the stone shore line one always carried the risk of getting too close to the waves:
The view out onto the sea:
Our “private” beach:
Another time lapse experiment on our beach…
Being our last evening it took no time for us to decide to go back and eat at Varanda. This time we had delicious “Fish pieces with prawns in coconut sauce with fish flew, white rice and toasted cassava flour”:
And of course a meal is not complete without a dessert: “White chocolate brownie with crunchy almonds and hot chocolate sauce over the ice cream”:
The next day we left Noronha and headed back to Rio de Janeiro. We had a great time on the island and definitely managed to relax a lot. The almost non-existent and always very slow internet connection ensured we would not work on the blog and spend all the time on the beaches 😉
Being significantly more expensive than the rest of Brazil Noronha tore quite a hole in our budget, but we for sure would have regretted not going!