If you wonder what makes Fernando de Noronha such a desired holiday destination: it is a beautiful island with 11 golden sandy beaches without any people, great landscapes and very good snorkelling. Most of the island is a Marine National Park that is protected by IBAMA. They also run a project to save and protect turtles, including a museum and lectures. There is also a bay that is off-limit to the public where dolphins come to feed every morning and the rest of the day you may encounter them while taking a boat trip. So the “environmental tourist” feels that this is what you pay for.
Well, as soon as they step out from the tiny airport, most tourists rent one of these little buggies for 100 Reals a day and drive up and down the island all day. We took the public bus wherever we went and this worked perfectly and was a lot cheaper.
The highlight of the island is definitely the beautiful and totally deserted beaches. Theoretically IBAMA limits the number of tourists allowed on the island with 500 persons, but of course there are exceptions to this rule. Between Christmas and New Years Eve more than 1.000 descend on the island and everything is even more expensive.
We think that the best activity to do on Fernando de Noronha is snorkelling, either you take a guide for a day for 35 Reals or you venture out on your own. Snorkelling in Praia de Sueste, “Turtle Bay”, is easy and although most of the bay is off-limit for tourists, even the little bit that is accessible is full of turtles and little sharks, not talking about lots of colourful fish, even though visibility is at times poor.
The other activity we really enjoyed was a walk along the outer coast with various possibilities of snorkelling in natural pools. This hike can only be done with a guide. It ends a Praia de Atalaia, which has a very large shallow pool full of fish and other marine life, fantastic!
Last but not least, a boat trip, for 80 Reals, takes you along the inner side of the island, along the famous beaches with a stop for snorkelling at one of the most known beaches in Brazil, Praia de Sancho, only accessible by boat. Probably this is your best chance to see dolphins.
At this point we also would like to mention the agency “Your Way”, which consists of three ladies who speak fluent English who can give every advice possible. They also run a hostel with very simple rooms and kitchen use. We went there a few evenings just to meet other travellers and exchange information.
We cannot recommend to go diving, especially to those who have been to the Red Sea, Indonesia, Maldives … Again it is super expensive and rather disappointing. Atlantis Divers, highly recommended by the Lonely Planet and also the ladies at Your Way, is run very professionally. The stuff speaks excellent English, the shop is very well maintained and videos show irresistible diving spots. Most groups are accompanied by a photographer that tries to shot photos of divers when surrounded by a school of fish or when coming across a ray or turtle. In the evening everybody flocks to the shop and again who could resist to buying such photos?
Despite this obvious professionalism we were annoyed that the pick up was always 30 minutes late in the morning and we were the first Pousada they went to. Also the depth meter didn’t work two days in a row for at least half of the persons diving!!! Diving computers, which are standard in the Red Sea, simply do not exist even though they charged 50% more than in Egypt. Then, visibility was not good and even at time real poor. This is surely not one of the best diving spot, but certainly one of the most expensive!
To sum it up: Fernando de Noronha is beautiful island, but it is totally over-priced, especially for the quality that you get. So this makes it neither a budget destination nor a luxury one – because for that kind of money you get top-notch accommodation in Thailand, Seychelles, etc … But wealthy Brazilians do not seem to be bother by the prices, we overheard a conversation when people bitterly complained about not getting a room in the most expensive Pousada!