Diary/Photo Journal


Week of December 12 - December 18, 2010

Fernando De Noronha , a World Heritage Site, is a very special place indeed.  Still rustic enough to not feel like a tourist haven and then touristy enough to have some features in place to make the stay more enjoyable (cut and stepped trails, maps, a main road through the island, small food places dotting the island, etc.).  Of the 26 islands that make up this archipelago, only the one is inhabited and being a volcanic island, its highest point is about 1,000 feet (321 meters) above sea level.  As a side note, the actual island is about 13,000 feet (4300 meters) below the surface.  Like Hawaii (and ice bergs), most of this archipelago's mass is under water.

Our Sunday on the island found us worshipping the beauty of the nature of the island.  We walked along cliffs that gazed down upon shades of startling blue waters and golden sand beaches, punctuated by black lava rock tide pools and outcroppings. 

From the Mirante Dos Golfinhos
we viewed the lovely
Baia dos Golfinhos
(Bay of Dolphins)

Our walk took us to an
overlook of Baia do Sancho

On the way to the overlook of Baia do Sancho

Look closely at the tree -
it is filled with these amazing flyers (black birds)

After our mild exertion, we jumped over to another beach and bay, Baia do Sueste.  We had stopped in this bay the day before, and as we were told that we could only snorkel with a guide, we went elsewhere.  Well, as luck would have it, later that day we met one of the very nice island guides and he said that we did not have to have a snorkel guide, but rather, if we did snorkel in this amazing bay, we would have to use a flotation device.  The (very wise) reason for the flotation device (ski jacket/life vest) was so that the more inexperienced swimmers or those that get tired, do not take it upon themselves to rest by standing on the reefs and rocks.  Good idea.

With this knowledge, we went back to the Baia do Sueste and rented the floatation device and snorkeled to our hearts content.  Within an hour, we witnessed a plethora of underwater inhabitants and yes, I did swim on top of and next to a six foot long (two meters) lemon shark.  This mellow shark likes to hang out in the shallow waters and feel the sun on its back. 

Add to that the numerous fish and the special highlight, several marine turtles.  On this snorkel run, I swam with a Green turtle and a Hawksbill turtle (tartaruga).  These gentle creatures allowed me to swim close enough to touch (which I could not resist) and found their shells to be smooth and slick.

A very mellow, sun-loving
lemon shark (got to run my
fingertips across his back and
dorsal fin...smoooooooth)

Lots of fishies

One of the many very
colorful fish

Hawksbill Turtle
(the shell is actually
very colorful)

On Fernando de Noronha, there is a tremendous conservation effort to protect and increase the turtle species.  The TAMAR Project (Projecto TAMAR) monitors 620 miles (1,000 km) of beaches and with 20 stations, has located itself in eight Brazilian states to protect the marine turtles.  An interesting tidbit is that out of seven of the sea turtles on earth, five of the species are found in Brasil.

Due to rampant killing, consumption of eggs, illegal fishing and abuse of the beaches, the marine turtle population rapidly declined and the result was the placement of these beautiful creatures on the endangered list.  The TAMAR Project on Fernando De Noronha has existed since 1984 and has become a safe haven for the reproduction of the Green Turtle (Chelonia Mydas or Tartaruga de Verde) and the preferred feeding area of the most threatened by extinction marine turtle, the Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) (and I got to swim with one!!!).

These cobalt blue fish were
amazing to see

One strange looking fish

Green Turtle (I believe this
particular sub-species is called
Tartaruga de Pente - "painted")

This fish was almost

Views of the
Baia do Sueste

As if the morning snorkeling was not enough, we headed to a popular surfing spot (Praia da Cacimba do Padre) and made our way over and around the jutted point (near the Ilhas Dois Irmaos - "Er-mowns" or "two brothers") to Baia dos Porcos (Bay of Pigs, and yes, named for the Bay of Pigs in Cuba).

Gerson had seen fantastic pictures of this bay and for snorkeling, seemed to be simply perfect; however, the pictures were taken in the earlier part of the year when the waves are almost non-existent.  As there is a season for surfing and we were smack dab in the middle of that season, the Bay of Pigs was really a Bay of relentless waves.  Nonetheless, it was beautiful in and of itself and we made the best of the afternoon dancing around the small lemon sharks playing along the shore and walking around and climbing upon some of the rock formation.

Praia da Cacimba do Padre

Colorful crab

Baia dos Porcos
(with the Dois Irmaos in
the background)

This crystal clear pools were
embedded in the rocks - this
particular one is about 12'
or four meters deep!

A young lemon shark
playing along the shore
and going around and
between my legs - very soft

We had a fantastic typical (late) lunch there near the beach and after our very exciting day of snorkeling with sharks and turtles and looking into reflective pools formed over thousands of years, we refreshed ourselves at the pousada.  Once recovered, we found ourselves at a popular bar on Praia da Conceicao (Conception) to watch the sunset.

Praia da Conceicao, several surfers
and a paddleboard surfer

A little visitor that only came out at
night but I still was able to catch 'him'
by the camera as his eyes would reflect
the light.  'He' was less than an inch long.

Same sunset, different time

The next day, we were back in the water and hovering over a wreck of a ship that sunk in the Baia de Santo Antonio which is the home of the Porto de Santo Antonio.  The water was incredibly clear and the fish seemed to look at us as much as we were looking at them.

Gerson diving down to the

Lots of fish

Gerson investigating along
with the fish

Flavia and Helio

And, yet another turtle - Tartaruga Cabecuda
(I think a sub-species of
the Green Turtle)

View of the Baia de Santo Antonio

After viewing a bit of history under water, we decided to view a bit of history on land.  Gerson found us a fort to climb around and the views from its walls was spectacular.  No wonder this area was used as a military post for several centuries.

Recent excavations
are exposing
several buildings
and wells

Forte dos Remedios

Where's Flavia?

Gerson having fun in the
stockade room

Gerson walking the walls
where many have walked

View to Porto Baia de
Santo Antonio

We spent a bit of time wandering around the Forte dos Remedios as it was quite a complex.  It was built around 1738 and had been used as a penitentiary along with its military purposes. 

We enjoyed a simple lunch at the pousada and we were again off to another beach.  This time, we visited Praia do Sancho, a beautiful beach we had seen from the cliffs during our walk around the Mirante dos Golfinhos.  A stunning beach made even more memorable by its access "challenge"

First, we entered the bowels of the rock cliff by easing down a very steep ladder.  Second, we shimmied along a very narrow passage only to encounter yet another steep ladder that we had to "suck it all in" to slip downward.  Third, as we could see daylight, we had to watch our heads and shoulders and make our way to the exposed underside of the cliff.  This led to the fourth part of the access trek, that of a very steep staircase to the beach.   Quite the entrance!

 A local catching some rays

Views from the fort and of the
fort structures

Does anyone wonder why
this made such a good outpost?
Look at that view!

Baia do Sancho and
its very interesting

We spent a little lazy time and again saw a young shark cruising the shoreline.  We chased a few crabs (and they are fast, fast, fast) and watched the nosy lizards wander around and into our bags.  Just a pleasant afternoon at the beach.

Slipping inside and down the
cliff to Praia do Sancho
The start back up inside the cliff

Flavia and Helio put the narrow
passage in perspective

We seemed to have the beach to ourselves and probably would have stayed longer if not for the want to have a nice dinner at a recommended restaurant near the port.

Helio playing with a friend


*no crabs were injured
or eaten (unfortunately!)

The staircase up

View to Baia do Sancho and
Flavia and Helio on the beach

A local

Hidden among the tree shoots

We had a terrific dinner at a hilltop restaurant that overlooked the Baia de Santo Antonio.   We actually ran into a friend of Flavia's family (as he is part owner of the tour agency and part owner of the top pousada) and had a moment to talk and convince us to create the opportunity to scuba dive.

Dressed up for a nice night out
Dinner is served
(great presentation)

A little shrimp and pasta
and a very nice fried fish
with a shrimp sauce

Not to be defeated, we attempted to revisit Baia dos Porcos earlier in the next morning in hopes that the waters would be calmer.  Quite the opposite was the case so we turned around and headed back around the point and enjoyed the beach for a short while.  At least we were able to take advantage of some rock scrambling and some terrific views.

Praia da Cacimba do Padre

Baia Dos Porcos

These vine flowers were
encroaching all along the

Some very nice points
and views

We cut short our stay at the beach and went back to a small restaurant nearby the pousada for a good lunch.  As we were all scheduled to scuba dive that afternoon, we wanted to make sure we had the energy reserved. 

Diving down the underwater canyons

Lots of fish 100' (30 meters) down

Look closely, a very large sting ray

Gerson celebrating a 100' deep
canyon shelf

A turtle joined us

Fish everywhere

Gerson going back
to school

A photo moment

We are not exactly sure where we dove around the island as things were a bit hurried.  We do know that our first dive was about 100+' (30+ meters) and the second dive quite a bit shallower around 45' (15 meters). 

Flavia and Helio, not being scuba certified, took what is called a "baptism" and had one dive at another part of the island.  As their day was part instruction and part dive, they were signed up through a different boat.  From what we heard that evening, they had a fantastic dive and took to the water, well, like fish.

Nurse shark

Louise loved the shelves

A strange looking fish

Barra, Barracuda!

Yes, that is a green Morey Eel
about 6' (2 meters) long and yes,
we were able to swim alongside
of it for quite a distance (very cool!)


Gerson coming up
through one of the
many holes in the shelf

Ummm, dinner!

Flavia and Helio
getting ready

Fantastic picture of
Flavia and Helio taken
by their dive photographer

We had hoped to see a famous inhabitant, the Spinning Dolphins, but alas, it was not to be.  Gerson caught a glimpse of a few of them as the boat was moving along, but they soon submerged when I came out of the cabin to look.  These dolphins are famous for their leaping out of the water and fervently spinning in the air before disappearing back into the blue waters.  Baia dos Golfinhos is one of the few breeding areas left for these wonderful mammals.

Gerson checking on his ascent
time and Louise striking the pose

While ascending, we were visited
by a sizable ray (the second
picture is about 45' down)

Gerson taking a break
between dives

Parts of the archipelago

Gerson and Louise and
a great dive

Not much you can do after diving that can top that experience and we found no exception to that rule (at least for that day). 

On the following day, Wednesday, Gerson found the remnants of one of the other forts and we just stopped long enough to take a few 'postcard' pictures.  Then, it was off to one of our favorite spots, Baia do Sueste and to swim with the turtles and sharks once again.

Gerson and his
'postcard' pic at
the remains of a

Baia do Sueste

Those electric blue fish

My friendly lemon shark once again

One of my favorite all time pictures...very difficult
to capture the turtles coming up for air

We spent a couple of hours at the beach (most of which, I spent in the water) and I probably would have stayed there if my stomach did not remind me that I needed to eat.  What is so remarkable about this bay, is that the reef is only a few feet under water and you see all the critters within a depth of 10' (3 meters). 

From there, we went up to the Pousada Ze Maria, the high-end pousada I mentioned earlier.  As we were invited to indulge in their swimming pool, Gerson wanted to take advantage of the "high" life for a bit.  As with the Baia do Sueste, we were joined by a couple, Lucas and Tatiana (also from Curitiba), that we met in our humble pousada and we enjoyed sipping a few drinks in a shimmering pool of water overlooking the trees and beach below.

Green Turtle

Another strange looking fish

Reef or Lemon shark.  This
shark was smaller (about 3') and
seemed a bit different than the
previous Lemon sharks

Pousada Ze Maria

Lucas and Gerson
enjoying the pool

On Wednesdays and Fridays, Pousada Ze Maria (its namesake, Jose (Schzo-say) Maria hosts what is termed as a "gastronomical event" of all you can eat seafood and desserts.  Even though the price was exorbitant, it was something to be experienced and enjoyed at least one in a lifetime.

Jose himself introduced the fare as though it was the unveiling of a piece of art, and in a culinary way, it was.  Even though the taste of the food was a little "average" and a tad disappointing, we still were swept up in the entire evening of a variety of food, pleasurable company and energetic dancing that capped off the night.

The appetizers (the 'shells' are edible)

Jose Maria pumping up the crowd
like a carnival worker

An enormous paella (about 4' diameter)

Lucas and Tatiana are anxiously

Sushi and beautiful food

A few meats were
snuck in and were
my favorite part of
the  meal

And, of course, the
fantastic desserts

We could not stay too late at the 'event' as we had an appointment for a little excursion the next morning.  We were flying off the island later that afternoon so it only made sense to slip in one last snorkeling expedition before we said good-bye.

Praia de Atalaia is part of the Marine Reserve of the island and is only accessible with a guide along a 30-minute trail walk.  The beach is famous for its large (shallow) pool that has formed because of the reef that walls it in and away from the ocean.  Only with the highest tide does the water exchange and therefore, an abundance of sea life has nestled itself within the pool and its calmer, protected waters.

Our guided walk to Praia de Atalaia

Very beautiful landscape

This area used to be home to an
American salt-works plant

A white heron looking for lunch

View to the Atalaia beach and its
famous pool

The protective reef

Gerson poking around

Large schools of small

Typical reef fish

Unconcerned fish

Cool picture alert! Very
rare to find Seasnakes!

We made the mad scramble to get back to the pousada, shower and have lunch, all before heading to the airport.  We were sad to leave Fernando de Noronha; however, we definitely saw just about every bit we could in the short time we visited.

Pousada Biu ("Bill)

The linens may not match, but
it sure is colorful and looks nice

The dining room

View down the street to the
little town and beach

Views of the island
as we were flying away.

Baia do Sueste is the
main beach seen and
Atalaia to the far right
and Leon to the far left

We said our goodbyes to Fernando de Noronha and via Recife, we flew uneventfully back to Curitiba.  Arriving late at night, we had just enough energy to drop our luggage and find our beds. 

When we arose the next day, we had a little turtle protection job to do ourselves.  For many years, Marjorie and Carlos have nurtured a turtle in a tank on their balcony.  As the turtle has been growing and its tank has not, Gerson finally convinced them to let us release the turtle into a larger, and freer, environment. 

Gerson knew of this small park (and has taken me to visit before) that has a wonderful little lagoon with several playmates for the turtle.  Placing the turtle in a shoebox and concealing the box in a back pack, Gerson, Marjorie and myself stealthily walked into the park  (as we were not sure of the legality of our actions) and gave the turtle its freedom.  With a little nudge, the turtle went into the water and was strolling along the bank of the shore in no time.

Our turtle protection project recipient

Walking into the park

Very pleasant lagoon

Gerson saying good-bye


Other than doing a lot of laundry and getting ourselves re-situated in Marjorie's home, we did not do much more than spend the rest of the day at home.

However, as the next day was Saturday, we had plans to drop into a bar-b-que that was being hosted by Julio, the father of a good friend of ours that lives near us in Huntington Beach.

We have visited Julio and his wife Vilma and their pictures and our visits are immersed within our travel pages.  Julio is the owner of a growing business that designs and manufactures large welding (metal) projects (such as street light poles, street signs, etc.) and he was having a Christmas bar-b-que party for his employees.

Surprising Julio, as he did not know we were coming, was a lot of fun and as we knew many of the employees and other friends that showed up (Paulo, Bela's father and another Huntington Beach friend and Dinarte, Marco's father and yet another California friend - and they will show up on future pages), we had a terrific time.  As this was truly a "man" event (I was the only female), the fare was meat, beer and lots of raucous laughter.

The racks of ribs and to
get the true feel of the
size of these slabs, check
out Marco cutting off a
test chunk

Gerson eyeing the food

Employees enjoying

Marco and Julio's son,
Mauricio serving the

Dinarte, Marco, Julio with Paulo and Gerson in the

Paulo, Gerson, Marco, Dinarte, and Julio (Paulo, Dinarte and Julio are first cousins)

The bar-b-que went all day and basically ended only when no one could eat anymore.  Julio has his business on a very large piece of property wherein he converted the back half to a bar-b-que pit, a large building that houses a pool table and a small soccer field, all for his employees' use.  A very nice boss indeed!

Next up:  more food as the holidays are upon us!

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