Fernando de Noronha Natural Aspects

Fernando de Noronha Natural Aspects
This mountainous archipelago, made up of 21 islands, lies 200 miles off the northeastern coast of Rio Grande do Norte and 340 miles from Recife, Pernambuco.
Fernando de Noronha is an isolated group of volcanic islands, which were formed around 2 million years ago.

The main islands are part of the mid-Atlantic ridge, an underwater mountain chain which is over 15,000 km long. The main island, from which the group gets its name, is sparsely populated, only 1500 inhabitants, and is an extinct volcanic cone, the base of which lies 2,480 feet below the surface. The island measures 7.1 square miles; 6.2 miles long and 2.2 miles at its maximum width. With its crystal-clear waters and rich marine life, the archipelago is a heavenly retreat for underwater pleasures.

Fernando de Noronha is a marine ecological reserve, protected by the government and for the most part, the islands are still the way they were in the 1500s, when the Portuguese discovered them, untouched and exciting. There are many beautiful beaches to choose from on the island. Some are better adapted to diving, others to swimming, contemplation, surfing or walking. In general, the beaches found on the protected side of the main island are ideal for diving and swimming during the months of April through November, due to the extremely calm sea.

During the rest of the year, the changing conditions of the sea favor the sport of surfing, especially during January and February. Conceição is one of the more beautiful and longer beaches; Boldró beach has some amazing coral formations; Porcos Bay is one of the best beaches with natural pools and and marvelous views; Sancho Bay is a beach of unforgettable beauty which has excellent diving and where nests of aquatic birds can be found; Dolphin Bay, reached by a cliff path, is an incredible beach to watch Spinner dolphins; Leão beach, located on the southeast side of the island, is thought by many to have the most beautiful scenery of the Archipelago.

It is the main area where sea turtles lay their eggs and, among its other attractions are the esguichos – geyser-like fountains that result from the tremendous build-up of pressure when water comes in under the coral during high tide and consequently forces itself through small openings. The land vegetation of the islands consists mainly of vines and bushes with a few species of trees.

There are also a great number of bushes and herbs not endemic to the island, introduced in the 18th century when Fernando de Noronha first became a penal colony. Most noted among the bushes is the wild bean and the burra leiteira (native), that produces a caustic sap capable of causing serious burns on men and animals. Besides these, some fruit trees have been introduced on the island, such as the papaya, cashew, banana, tamarindo, caja, guava and graviola.

Various ornamental species also exist, such as the almond, the royal poinciana, the jasmin manga, the eucalyptus and the coconut palm. Perhaps due to the warm currents, poor in organic material, which are characteristic of Fernando de Noronha there is little variety of marine vegetation on the islands. This emphasizes the uniqueness of the marine ecosystem of these islands, to which few species have been able to adapt. What the archipelago does have though is an exuberant bird life. It is home to the largest bird breeding colonies of all the islands of the Tropical South Atlantic.

Among the species found here are the viuvinha, which builds it's nest in the trees and on the cliffs of the islands, using algae collected from the surface of the waters; the viuvinha grande; the trinta-reis-de-manto-negro; the viuvinha branca, a pure white bird which lays its eggs in the forks of tree branches; the mumbebos, the brown mumbebos, the red footed mumbebos; the catraia and the red beak rabo-de-junco.

The archipelago of Fernando de Noronha owes its very rich marine life 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 (average temperature 26°C (79°F)). The oldest and largest residential school of dolphins on earth can be found here, as well as 14 species of reef shark, hawksbill and green turtles, baracudas, a variety of rays and schooling fish of every kind and color. 168 families of mollusks and 72 species of crustaceans also live in these waters. In 1988 Fernando de Noronha was declared a National Marine Park, with the goal of preserving the land and marine environment. IBAMA has set up various research projects, two of which are shark research and the TAMAR PROJECT (marine turtles).

Visitors to the island can learn about these projects at the project´s visitor center, near the IBAMA headquarters. Another popular activity here is walking. Many places on the archipelago remain unknown due to their lack of access. The island´s natural beauty offers the visitor walks through superb scenery, such as exotic beaches squeezed between cliffs, caves and hills. The best locations are within the Marine Park itself, where the company of a park ranger is required. All these natural wonders featured in the Fernando de Noronha Archipelago make this one of the most enchanting and relaxing places to visit in Brazil.
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