Bem vindo ao Fernando de Noronha

Which means: “Welcome to Fernando de Noronha”. Oh how I loved to read these words as we set foot on land in the harbour after the tough days on the sea at the crossing of the Atlantic. I was amazed we all walked straight the minute we stepped out of “little Alita”, our dinghy. I had expected to fall around. Only Eva was a bit landsick for about 15 minutes – she missed the tossing and turning. ;-) 

It was 8.30 in the morning as we stepped into the office of the marine officials to officially check in. It was the friendliest welcome I had ever experienced in a marina office, all was so clean and the people spoke a bit English. They asked us if we’d come from Cabo Verde. Bingo. It seems rare that boats from across the atlantic arrive, it took them a while to gather the necessary officials from around the island and to look for the papers that we needed to fill out. 1 hrs later we had officially travelled into Brazil, with stamps in our passports although books said this is not possible. This moment felt so great. The only thing left was the official registration of Alita through customs. This can only be done on the mainland. And the check-out from FdN the day before we leave.

The friendly harbour official have us a map (which shows the only road over FdN) and offered us the rent of a Buggy for $100 reais / day (40 EUR/day). Having been sitting around for so long we preferred to walk to the next town, which was 1,5km away. The overwhelming friendliness for sure is something which characterizes the Brazilian people. They help you before you know you need help. But they are also very proud. A denial of help is easily taken personal. With what we experience here it is hard to imagine that robbery is such a big problem in the country. So far I did not feel unsafe – for sure not in FdN, not here or in Joao Pessoa or Recife. 

Fernando de Noronha is a beautiful protected world natural reserve – and that comes with many restrictions. You can’t hike, snorkel, swim, dive or go horseback riding where you want to. Some areas can only be accessed with tours, some can’t be accessed at all. It’s for the good, for the nature and its inhabitants though. You have to be able to understand Portuguese though to understand the restrictions – and to make your way around. No one speaks any other language – besides hand and body language. Same here on the mainland. My Spanish does help me in understanding and I picked up enough Portuguese now to be able to communicate what I want. Of course I use the chance of being here to learn as much Portuguese as possible. 

What you find when you land on the island is peace and beauty.

 The max. 475 tourists a day sleep in Pousadas which fit into the landscape. I did not see any big building our outstanding modern architecture, which I find very charming. Only the one main street is paved, the rest is sand, very rocky with deep holes and the island consist of many hills. 
This is an example of a good street!

That explains why 90% of transportation takes place in VW buggys – usually wrecked ones. Loved it. 
All houses, restaurants are simple but clean and no stress. The first beach where we landed in the afternoon of the first day already took our breath away and that was only the beginning.

 Clear water, calm seas, palm trees and coco frio. What more can you expect? A true paradise. An expensive one. Just to be at anchor cost us EUR 70/day plus a tourist tax of about EUR15/day – and that does not give you electricity or water or a pier…

The whole island is ecological. So they say. That means all natural. Example? Ecological horses (for horsebackriding) means the horses are tied on a long rope somewhere in the green and feed themselves from all the green around them. I went horsebackriding and they first had to find the nearest horses (mine was a wonderful horse) for the guide and me. The horses all look very healthy, some are “parked ´” with breathtaking views. See here, and look at the horse in the back overlooking the bay. 

The fauna is most characterized by the sea birds (mostly fregatta 
and white fern (Trinta-réis-branco (Gygis alba))
as well as sea turtles 
(last 3 pictures are not from me)
and DOLPHINS (spinnerdolphins (Stenella longirostris)). Visit this page for more information about flora and fauna of FdN: http://www.ecology.info/fernando-de-noronha-ecology.htm
About 1500 dolphins are said to have their domicil there. You can go to the Dolphin lookout  (“mirrador de golfinhos”) 

and see nothing or just stay at anchor, eat breakfast and have hundreds of them swimming, playing and jumping nearby. We had almost given up in seeing dolphins when that happened. We left our breakfast, I grabbed the camera, we jumped into little Alita and drove over there, turned the motor off and enjoyed being amongst those at least 100 dolphins. Wouldn’t you have done the same thing? Thank god they came into a not restricted area ;-) The best shot that lives only in my head was when that one dolphin decided to give us a private show and jumped up high directly next to our little boat. I thought that for sure will flood our boat, but we were lucky. The guy was not more than 3m away! Dolphins like to play with boats and show that they are faster. So their biggest fun was when we drove fast (direction back to Alita), they were all around us, mostly swimming ahead of us until we were too far away from the group. 
What else characterizes Fernando de Noronha? Only one place sells poorly made postcards, food portions are usually for two people, Acaí is the national ice cream dish, Buggys all over, every day rain, rolly and windy anchorage (unable to use it in the main season as the ITZC moves lower and brings wind and high waves from north east), fresh water (spring fountain water) shower at the beach, coconuts all over, Noronha skink (Trachylepsis atlantica), the rat of Fernando de Noronha, beautiful sea fish, fresh bread in the supermarket only a night, internet only when you’re lucky, Air France terminal 

which is used as home for local artists, beautifully green volcano island with lots of places to go snorkeling.

A place to go and a place to come back (when you have enough money). Absolutely loved it, and now I am spoiled! I hated to leave, but it was time to go. 

The two days from FdN to Cabedelo were a good sail against the wind, I enjoyed it. After the paradise I even felt good enough to cook a steak the first night and an onion/ham quiche the second evening! I could feel that even Alita was anxious to get a rest in a harbour though. She did her best to go as smooth as possible through the waves of up to 4m but couldn’t help pounding into the wave with the bow with a huge splash and bang, making it a bit more noisy for the ones trying to sleep. Long before we could see the land the sea changed the colour from dark blue to turcoise / green, showing us we had gone from thousands of meters of depth to 25m depth. That was the point when our breakfast dolphins showed up again. A different species than in FdN, a lot bigger. For about an hour they swam with us. As we were going against wind and wave and had reefed our sails down in order not to arrive too early (we needed the tide to be at low so we would not have to enter the river against the stream of max. 3 knots) the dolphins almost fell asleep going at our not-speed of about 3 knots…Then came the moment where we saw the first buildings – skyscrapers of Joao Pessoa and tall storage building in the harbour of Cabedelo. 
You can see Jacarè in that map:
We entered the Rio de Paraíba, also a natural reserve area. Tourists come here to enjoy holidays or weekends with the chance to have both: ocean and river. A tourist restaurant mile here in Jacaré is known and highly frequented for sunset river boat cruises with group dancing and the highlight is Saxaphonist on a paddle boat who plays the Bolero (from Ravel) every day at sunset. Great, this way we always know what time it is when we’re on board…
Jacaré is part of the area of Cabedelo (see: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabedelo) where we had to check in our boat at the harbour marine and the customs. Silvio, the guy from customs, was very sweet and became our friend. He gave us helmets and lead us the way to the beautiful national marine training sailing boat “Cisne branko” (white swan), a 3 mast who happened to be in the harbour – usually not accessible to people from the street. ;-)

Look at the german blog, you'll find a picture with sails up.
Read more about Jacaré – Cabedelo – Joao Pessoa and Recife in the next blog entry with pictures. Coming up soon…

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