The peaks of a mountain range rise out of the Atlantic Ocean some 220 miles off the Brazilian coast to form an archipelago of 21 islands and islets known as Fernando de Noronha. These are the islands to have come to the attention of the world, not because of any intrinsic interest or value they possess, but because they were the last land sighted by the ill-fated Air France Airbus that disappeared into the Atlantic on 1 June 2009.
So what about this out-of-the-way corner of the ocean?
Image via Wikipedia
Well it has been occupied by the usual European suspects starting with Portugal in the early 1500s before being passed about between that country, France, the Netherlands, and Great Britain. The United States also had a look-in as did Spain. During World War 11 political and other categories of prisoners were incarcerated on the remote rocks which had already been used for that purpose in the previous century. It was at that time that the forests were stripped back to prevent escapees from chopping down trees to build rafts; that’s why the main island is now covered by shrubs rather than by the original trees.
Visited in the past by such worthies as Amerigo Vespucci and Charles Darwin, the tropical islands now play host more often to tourists than to intrepid explorers, though for modern day tourists the attractions are more or less the same as in the days of Darwin. The marine life is abundant and varied, something that came to UNESCO’s attention in 2001 and earned the islands the title of World Heritage Site. The area is particularly known for its spinner dolphins, and the waters are crystal clear and relatively warm which makes the islands a rich and rewarding Scuba diving destination. There’s even a very well-preserved Brazilian corvette lying at around 190 metres, though it’s only about 20 years or so sunk.
Image via Wikipedia
Other attractions around the islands are what you might expect: fishing, hiking, swimming and all the facets of up-market tropical beach life – yes all of them, celebs included. I stop to wonder what attracts Naomi Campbell most – the turtles, the sharks or the isolation? And the islands of course have become a luxury honeymoon destination; however tourism is controlled in favour of the delicate local ecosystem.
Hotels, restaurants and night life are all to hand. Most flights arrive via Recife. See you there.