Two weeks before we actually went to Fernando de Noronha, we had never heard of this island, but fellow travellers in Venezuela raved about it. So we checked the ThornTree forum from Lonely Planet and no superlative seemed to be able to describe this island 17 km2 small 370 km east of Brazil shores: “most beautiful beaches”, “best diving spot in the world”, “a small place in paradise” …
Prices quoted by local agencies were absurdly high, but we found a reasonably priced ticket (180 € roundtrip per person) on LastMinute.fr. When we headed for the airport on Monday, August 27th, destination paradise, we stopped at an Internet café to see if our e-tickets had finally arrived, three days after we ordered them and Gilles parents calling LastMinute in France to require of their whereabouts!
Approaching the island, the pilot was given permission to circle the island once before landing, so we could take photos and indeed the view was breathtaking: a dramatic surf on the outer side of the island and a string of no less than 11 golden sandy beaches on the side facing the mainland!
But reality struck soon: every tourist has to pay a “eco-tax” that is now 68 USD for four days, instead of the 38 USD quoted in the Lonely Planet, that it used to be. This harsh increase in prices is true for all other services – accommodation, food, scuba diving, boat trips, Internet … So most quotes in the Lonely Planet were completely outdated.
We arrived off season but still had to dish out 160 Reals or 80 USD for a non spectacular room in a family run Pousada, 3 to 4 times the equivalent what it costs on the mainland. Other budget tourists we met envied us for the cheap deal! Prices for more comfortable Pousadas on the island range from 800 to 1450 Reals, which makes 400 to 730 USD a night! A dish in a “normal” restaurant sells for 25 to 40 Reals or 12 to 20 USD, no wonder the only “cheapy”, a “Comida per kilo” restaurant, The Flamboyant, is full every night, while almost all the other places are empty. Once a pizza or salad costs more than in downtown Paris or even London, it starts getting annoying!
Since everybody raved about the great diving we could not resist this either, generally expensive, amenity. For no less than 278 Reals / 145 USD we booked at Atlantis divers. Against the warning of a British couple we booked three days of scuba diving and we must say it is not worth it. Visibility is poor. There is no coral, though lots of little fish and even bigger ones, but again what you expect to see here are turtles, sharks, rays & dolphins. To see these during a dive is really seldom and only a matter of luck.
As a consequence, we spent more money staying 4 days on this island than in 22 days in Venezuela and except three days of diving (2 dives a day), we settled for the cheapest possible. French tourists we met told us that even Bora Bora and Ranrogira in the French Polynesia were cheaper destinations! Ouch …