Fernando de Noronha is an isolated group of volcanic islands located in the South Equatorial Atlantic at 03° 51′ south and 32° 25′ west, approximately 215 miles from Cape Sao Roque in the state of Rio Grande do Norte and 340 miles from Recife, Pernambuco. The main islands are the visible parts of a range of submerged mountains . Consisting of 21 islands, islets and rocks of a volcanic origin, the main island has an area of 7.1 square miles, being 6.2 miles long and 2.2 miles at its maximum width. The perimeter measures 37.2 miles. The base of this enormous volcanic formation is 2480 feet below the surface. The main island, from which the group gets its name, makes up 91% of the total area; the islands of Rata, Sela Gineta, Cabeluda and Sao Jose, together with the islets of Leao and Viuva make up the rest. Geological studies indicate that the islands were formed around 2,000,000 years ago.
The climate is tropical, with two well defined seasons: the rainy season from January to August, and the dry season for the rest of the year. The heaviest rains occur between March and July, sometimes reaching almost 8 inches in 24 hours in March and April. October is the dryest month, when rainfall will not be greater than 0.36 inch in a 24 hour period. The average temperature is 77° F, with a variation of only 7.4°. The hottest months are January, February and March. The relative humidity varies little from 81.5 % due to the islands characteristics. Average annual sunshine is 3.215 hours per day, with a maximum in November and a minimum in April.
Compared to the Brazilian coastline, there is a great variety of aquatic plants on Fernando de Noronha. This emphasizes the uniqueness of the marine ecosystem of these islands, to which few species have been able to adapt. Perhaps it is due to the lack of nutrients basic to the growth of these algae, since warm currents poor in organic material are characteristic of Fernando de Noronha.
As occurs on other isolated oceanic systems, the land fauna of the Archipelago Fernando de Noronha presents an exuberant bird life, much richer than the vertebrate groups such as amphibians, reptiles, and mammals, which are represented by only a few species.
The archipelago is home to the largest bird breeding colonies of all the islands of the Tropical South Atlantic.
The Archipelago Fernando de Noronha hosts ecologic sites ideal for an exuberant marine animal life, due to its geographic location far from the continent and well within the path of the Southern Equatorial Current, as well as the nature of its climate, a fact clearly proven in various experiments. Over the years separate studies have discovered 168 families of mollusks, 72 species of crustaceans, and a large quantity of ornamental fish both native and migratory.
In 1988 approximately 70% of the archipelago was declared a National Marine Park, with the goal of preserving the land and marine environment. It is administered by the IBAMA. Towards its goal research projects are being developed, such as: recording native and migratory bird species both marine and land; studying the behavior and reproduction of the rotator dolphin stenella longirostris; the ecology and reproduction of the crustaceans of the upper, middle and lower coast; shark research and the TAMAR PROJECT (marine turtles). These subjects are offered to the tourists each night at the visitors center of the project, nearby the headquarters of IBAMA (the Brazilian Ecosystems Institute).
Today Fernando de Noronha is a model of enviornmental preservation, existing side by side with small scale tourist activities, which are limited by the existing facilities. Permanent works built by the ONG’s and Foundations, contribute to the perfecting of the conservational policies.
Places to stay
There are various choices of where to stay on the island of Fernando de Noronha. All are tipically modest. In all there are 70 inns, classified according to their facilities and touristic infrastructure, and a small hotel. Reservations should be made early, especially for the months of January, February, July and December, as well as for longer holidays.
The inns on the island function as boarding houses (breakfast, lunch and dinner), or only with breakfast, charging per night and per person. There is no limit imposed on the length of time a visitor may stay on the island, although this is tied into the Environmental Preservation Tax. This tax, paid upon arrival, progressively increases with the length of the visit.
Uniquely, all of the inns of the island are private residences more or less well modified for this type of service, similar to “Bed and Breakfast” accomodations, but offering all 3 meals. This family atmosphere is one of the most distinctive factors of the tourists’ stay, making them feel as though they were in their own beach house.