Today we are publishing a guest blog post written by John Clites, an American expat residing in Brazil. In this post John writes about Fernando de Noronha, a stunning island in Brazil and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that has been selected as the most beautiful beach in the world by travelers on TripAdvisor.
For the second year in a row, the beach at Baia do Sancho (Sancho’s Bay) in Fernando de Noronha Archipelago tops TripAdvisor’s list of the best beaches in the world. I’m typically skeptical of such lists. Comparing beaches (or whatever) often is a matter of comparing apples and oranges, and also ratings are generally subjective, depending on the voters’ particular preferences (in the case of beaches, factors such as privacy, amenities, surfable waves, thong bikinis…). But one thing I do like about TripAdvisor lists is that they are compiled from reader responses, rather than by a judge who may be either arbitrary or biased.
You may not have heard of Fernando de Noronha (named for Portuguese merchant Fernão de Loronha, to whom it was awarded by the Portuguese king Manuel I – and I have no idea why the L morphed in to N). In the realm of eco-tourism, this tiny archipelago off Brazil’s northeast coast is a success story. A daily tax levied on visitors by Ibama (Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources) helps preserve the environment, including the waters surrounding the islands. Many marine species can be found in abundance because of strict management aimed at sustainability. Approximately 70% of this special municipality lies within a federal park. Noronha is all the more impressive given that Brazil is typically more known for misappropriation of public funds than it is for forward planning and successful environmental management.
Fernando de Noronha was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001 due to its unique and important environment. It has several native plants and two species of native birds. But the big draws are the marine species, which include not only fish but also dolphins and sea turtles. Regulations prevent access to certain areas at certain hours to prevent disturbing the animals.
I visited Fernando de Noronha once, but am embarrassed to admit that I did not have the opportunity to visit Baia do Sancho. The whole trip was arranged by the wife of a friend. She is exceedingly tight with a dollar, and booked us a 3-day trip. As the first day was spent arriving, and the last departing, I effectively had only on day there and opted to SCUBA dive instead of visiting the beach. That dive was excellent, and included swimming with a couple of sea turtles and swimming through a large underwater ring of stone. Unfortunately activities are (no doubt intentionally) scheduled so that you can generally only manage one per day. Great for bumping up the tax revenue (which is based on number of days on the island), but frustrating for tourists. Still, you can fill your “off hours” wandering about.
My friend Miguel and Marilia opted instead for a guided hike which took them along Baia do Sancho, and they raved about it. My suggestion is that if you visit Noronha – and if you are into nature it should be on your bucket list – then do as most visitors do and plan to stay on the island (excluding travel) or four or five days. You can find a list of things to do on Noronha on the TripAdvisor website. Not surprisingly, the list includes lots of beaches, but also diving, hikes, and horseback riding.
As for the beach at Baia do Sancho itself, you’ll have to decide for yourself. I do hope one day to return to Noronha, and afterwards will be able to give you a firsthand account and opinion. Those of you who have visited the beach are encouraged to comment below.
You can get to Noronha by plane from either Recife or Natal. Cruise ships also visit.
This article also provides additional useful information about the archipelago:
Remember: Brazil is so much more than Rio and Carnival. If you come, plan to explore.
at the other end of Brazil
About the author: John Clites is a U.S. citizen who first visited Brazil in 1993. He fell in love with the country and traveled Brazil extensively before finally moving there in 2008. He divides his time between teaching English, writing about Brazil, and maintaining his blog, www.JohnInBrazil.org. His first e-book, Teaching English in Brazil, is available at www.ComeTeachEnglishInBrazil.com. His second e-book, “Live well in Rio” is now available on Amazon. Readers may write to John at email@example.com.