200 miles off the northeastern coast of Brazil lies a mountainous archipelago made up of 21 islands, the National Marine Sanctuary of Fernando de Noronha. With its crystal-clear water and rich marine life, the archipelago is a heavenly retreat for underwater pleasures. The main island is sparsely populated, only 1500 inhabitants, and is an extinct volcanic cone. The island-mountain is part of the mid-Atlantic ridge, an underwater mountain chain which is over 15,000 km long. In the 1500s, the Portugese claimed Fernando de Noronha and built a fortress here. Only the ruins of the fortress remain today for you to explore and in many ways the islands are still the way they were in the 1500s, untouched and exciting. A truly special place for divers, you’ve never seen anything like it before! Average visibility is 30 meters. Prolific marine life is found – pelagics such as tuna, jack, albacore, barracuda and others. Benthics such as gigantic jewfishes, groupers and snappers.
Only 420 tourists are allowed on the island at a time. Each day 100 leave and 100 arrive. Life for the island’s 2,000 permanent residents is also touched; all development: forbidden and fishing: nearly eliminated. The foods they grow, even the materials they use in refurbishing their houses – if given permission – must be approved by IBAMA, the Brazilian Environmental Institute, which enforces some of the world’s strictest human controls: Thus the nickname, “Island of the Forbidden.”
Best Diving Destinations in Brazil
The dive sites include shipwrecks, caverns, amazing volcanic rock and coral formations, wild dolphins, an array of reef sharks, turtles – schooling baracudas and all kinds of rays, schooling fish of every kind and color. Did we mention dolphins? Dolphins on every dive? That’s right! and you will get the chance to snorkle and play in the water with over 600 at one time.
Every day between 2 and 3pm, a pod of over 600 spinner dolphins leaves the Bay of Dolphins to hunt and then they return at about 5am the next day. This is the oldest and largest residential school of dolphins on earth.
Lage dos Dies Irmaos
You can swim with the juvenile sharks at this divespot. Of the 14 species of sharks in the area, the gray reef sharks have seemingly found and claimed a protected feeding ground and breeding area. The site consists of wo rocky outcroppings on the main island’s west side If you descend to the sandy 70-foot bottom next to a field of mountainous star coral, you’ll soon encounter, about 20 to 30 gray reef sharks appear and begin to circle around you.
For advanced divers only, this is a sunken Portugese frigate in pristine condition that ran aground on Sapata Rocks and sank in 1987. Your max depth on the dive will be 180 feet for 10 to 12 minutes, requiring two decompression stops at 30 and 15 feet. Definitely worth the hang time!
Fernando de Noronha Islands
One of Brazil’s most popular areas to dive is the UNESCO World Heritage site called the Fernando de Noronha Islands. This chain of islands is made by the Atlantic Ridge and is located 320km from Brazil’s northern coast. The UNESCO World Heritage site is actually an archipelago of 21 islands with unbelievable topography including swim-throughs, caverns and caves formed by volcanoes. There are more than 20 amazing dives around the islands where scuba divers are spoilt with more than 230 fish species and at least 15 different species of coral. The abundant marine life includes sharks, turtles, rays, eels, barracuda and even whale sharks, not to mention a resident pod of spinner dolphins that are loved by all who encounter them. This area also boasts a great wreck site of a Brazilian Navy ship, the Ipiranga Corvette V17.
Laje de Santos Marine Park
Located close to San Paulo, the Laje de Santos Marine Park is a firm favorite among scuba divers visiting Brazil. During the months of May to September divers flock to see the manta ray congregations, during which time there is also of pelagic fish to see. Dive sites in the marine park allow for sightings of the very small to the very big, and divers might spot colorful nudibranchs one minute and a massive whale the next! The Laje de Santos Marine Park also has a wreck site, the Moreia, which was purposefully sunk in 1995 to create an artificial reef at a depth of 22 meters.
Freshwater cave in Bonito
For advanced cave divers, the freshwater cave in Bonito is a must-dive. Divers wanting to enter the Abismo Anhumas Cave, known for its crystal clear visibility, will need to be lowered into the cave using a harness, which is why the site is only suitable for advanced cave divers.
Abrolhos National Marine Park
Brazil is also lucky enough to be in a prime location to view humpback whales during their breeding season in the months of July to November. The Abrolhos National Marine Park is an excellent spot for this as well as wreck diving. The area features four wreck sites, one of which is an Italian freighter from 1939 called Rosalinda. The Abrolhos National Marine Park is also a great site to see a variety of healthy coral species and colorful reef fish.
Porto de Galinhas
Brazil has what’s known as a shipwreck coast in the area of Porto de Galinhas, so wreck divers are in for a real treat in this area.
Arraial Do Cabo
For those hoping to see seahorses, turtles, queen angel fish and eels, a popular area is Arraial Do Cabo.
Angra dos Reis
The Pinguino Wreck is also a popular site with visiting scuba divers, as there are many sting rays and groupers to be seen around the area of Angra dos Reis.
When to Visit Brazil
Fernando de Rorohna can be visited any time of the year. Temperatures are always warm and mild (26 C. or 79 F.), with a gentle breeze. The rainy season, Feb. – July, is also when the island is the most beautiful. From Dec. – Feb. the waves are huge and are perfect for surfing. The rest of the year is excellent for diving and snorkeling.
Getting to Brazil
Direct flights to Recife are available from New York and Miami or take an international flight to Rio de Janeiro and go to Natal or Recife from there. Local carriers such as Trip and Norteste airlines fly from Recife and Natal to Fernando de Noronha. Flights can be booked through any Varig Airlines office in your country. Brazil air passes are a very economical way to fly within Brazil. They have to be purchases outside of Brazil.