Surviving on a Beautiful Island – Fernando De Noronha

Two months ago, me and Dee were zooming into a world map on google maps to find a mere spec in the grand Atlantic Ocean, somewhere close to Brazil, yet on the way to Africa. Two months later we’ve now spent two nights on this island, 10km long and 3.5km wide, Fernando de Noronha.

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It’s quite a friendly place – the 3000 people who live on the island, the tourists that visit, the buggy drivers who will let you hitch a free ride, the sand that likes to stick to your body like glue, the small shark that swam near the shore, the turtles who eat the coral by the beach, the Pousada owners who will tell you everything you want to know, the sun which will touch every part of your body and in return, all I had to do was own a friendly wallet. But, it was pretty worth it.

We fly towards the island, the spec in the distance slowly getting bigger. My biggest concern had been the booking I’d made at Pousada Dois Irmaos through booking.com. There’s very limited internet on this island, so I hadn’t received direct confirmation from the place itself. So our back-up plan was to sleep on the beach..
But! There was no need to worry, as soon as we get through the tiny airport, a lady is waiting with my name on her list. Immediately after that two girls approach us offering to split a taxi into Villa do Trinta, the main accommodation location.

IMG_1047 (1)Everything runs relatively smoothly from there until we’re scouting for a good lunch location and realise prices definitely aren’t as cheap as we’re used to. We end up at Ginga Bar e Restaurate with the service of a friendly waiter. Our Spanguese seems to be working exceptionally well on the island but -so-lo–quan-do–fa-llas–mais–des-pa-cio–. However more people claim to be able to speak Spanish, and do so quite well by softening their Brazilian accent, pronouncing their R’s and using simple words.

After lunch, where I buy a filling prawn and cheese meal for 50 reais, we walk down to Baía de Santo Antonio to catch the sunset and feel the water.

My reactions in order of their occurrence:
– Wow! – Quite a few boats out there. – Hey they’re cute (boys playing volleyball) – Let me take a few more photos. – Hey this water is cooler than the water at Recife – OMGASH, there’s a shark!

Yep, there was a shark. But when someone says shark, I think of pointy teeth, a black fin circling the surface of the water, an open mouth and an animal double my size. But this shark replaced the image with a relatively large fish, yet tiny white shark cruising through the water without a care in the world, as waves tumbled and crashed above it. Swimming around with my goggle, we only saw that one shark (which wasn’t really going anywhere) and a school of fish. But watching the sun go down was definitely enough reason to get out of the water and relax on the sand.

IMG_0050We only had one full day on the island, so we planned to make the most of it. The next day after eating a big breakfast, our first stop was:

Baía do Sancho – Apparently voted the best beach in the world by Tripadviser travellers. Once we get to the viewpoint after walking about a kilometre and a half from the bus stop we try to figure out how to actually get down to the beach. We point another tourist in the wrong direction (whoops), but I decide to check-out the passage down the stairs (located on the viewpoint) that appeared to go into a closed cave. But what do you know, that’s the only access point to the beach, as a small gap leads down to the sand. Since we arrived quite early there wasn’t anyone to follow, but later on, returning from the beach, there’s a bit of a queue to get down and go up. So in this case, curiosity saved the cat.
This beach was definitely a good one. I enjoy swimming away from the shore, just past the point the waves crash. A couple of boats had come into the bay and let people off to snorkel. I saw pretty close to where they were located, but I didn’t see any sea life.
Before moving on to the next location we took a slight detour to Baía Dos Porcos, apparently the postcard picture of the island and well of course, took a photo or two or ten..

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Baía do Sueste – The last stop on the bus towards Sueste. I went out snorkelling!! … well on a student budget. I only hired what was required, which was a life jacket. I actually didn’t even want that, I mean, what for? But it was really needed. We weren’t allowed to stand on the coral, so the life jacket helped keep us afloat.
So out I go, with my dad’s goggles and the life jacket. Swimming along the reef actually takes a bit of practice and a lot of patience. Seriously, after half an hour I was going to give up, but then I saw a turtle! And I started to notice more and more fish. It’s a bit like looking for a stranger you’ve arranged to meet in a crowded place vs. finding your mum in a crowded place – you know what to look for and more importantly how to look for her, her behaviour, her characteristics and her reaction. Every time I swam over some fish they would duck behind the coral. The turtle, with its slow movement and brownish-green colour, easily blended into the coral below it. But once I found it, I wasn’t letting it get away. From stalking it for a good fifteen minutes, I learnt that they can’t breathe under water. I watched it come up for breathe and then continue its meander along the coral.
Back on the shore I eat a well desired sandwich ‘misto’ (cheese and ham toastie) before planning our next stop..

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Praia do Leão – Our first actual beach for the day, and our final stop. Before heading over to the beach we walk towards Ponta das Caracas, the edge of the cliff where the waves crashed onto the black rocks below. We manage to hitch our first free ride on the back of a couple’s buggy who kindly drop us off at the Beach of Leao.
We simply sit on the sand, enjoying the serenity of this beach. The greenery surrounding the beach reminded me a bit of the scenery from the Lord of the Rings and its reclusive nature made it surreal. There was seriously only about six couples on this long beach. We stare at the two islands, just meters from the shore, contemplating if we could survive solely on one of those tiny islands, but decide as city kids it’ll be pretty hard.

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Baía dos Golfinhos – Our last morning on the island we head to the Dolphin Bay. We were told that if you want to see the dolphins jumping into the bay, arrive at 6am, otherwise you should be able to spot them throughout the morning. But alas, we arrive at 8:45am and didn’t see any action that morning. We enjoy the serenity of the bay before we hitch a ride back to our pousada, pack our gear and head to the airport.

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Waiting for the bus we speak with a French couple and pass on our knowledge of the island we had gained over the past 48 hours. At the airport, we bump into the two girls we originally split a taxi with, the day we arrived. They had planned a five day stay on the Island, but had shortened their stay, saying it was too expensive and they had seen it all already. I guess we made a good choice with our two nights and one full day well spent.

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