Fernando de Noronha

From the warm clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean, 350 km (220 m) off the coast of Brazil, the lush green mountains and sheer cliffs of Femando de Noronha rise in all their tropical perfection. There are 21 islands in the archipelago, all uninhabited apart from Femando de Noronha itself. The waters surrounding the islands are a National Marine Reserve and home to counttless species of fish, rays, sharks and spirmer dolphins. Considered to be one of the most important ecological sanctuaries in the world and designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the area attracts keen divers and wildlife enthusiasts for the trip of a lifetime.
To prevent damage to the natural landscape, only 420 visitors are allowed on the island at a time. Accommodation is in sustainable tourist lodges which are designed to have minimum impact on their surroundings. The island is nearly always fully booked, particularly in the busiest months of December and January.


First discovered by an Italian merchant and cartographer in 1503, the archipelago is 4 degrees south of the Equator. During its 500 years of history, Femando de Noronha has been temporarily occupied by the Dutch, French, British and Portuguese, who held it from 1737 onwards and built a series of nine forts on the island to defend their territory.


Femando de Noronha is known for its beaches, which offer crystal clear blue water perfect for swimming. The Praia do Leão and Baia do Sancho are widely considered to be the best in Brazil. With underwater visibility up to 50 metres, the island is a Mecca for divers and snorkellers, with more than two hundred species of fish, five shark species, sea turtles and dolphins. Snorkelling in the tidal pool of Praia da Atalaia is now restricted to 100 people per day, but well worth the effort for its remarkable diversity of sea life. Lobsters, octopus and numerous fish species inhabit the pool and you may even see a baby shark.
Another memorable sight is the Baia dos Golfinhos (Bay of Dolphins), where every morning more than 1000 spinner dolphins gather to frolic and dance in the early sunshine. Sea turtles are also prolific here, using many of the wide,  secluded beaches as ground on which to lay their eggs.


Any time of year; even in the rainy season (April-August) there are only intermittent showers.

Fly from Recife or Natal in Brazil or take a cruise ship between October and February.

Praia do Leao and Baia do Sancho - these pristine beaches are the best on the island and widely considered to to be the best in Brazil.
Praia da Atalaia - a beautiful tidal pool just 45-60 cm (18-24 in) deep with an enormous diversity of marine life to explore with a snorkel.
Diving in the crystal clear waters to view spinner dolphins, turtles, lemon sharks and other marine life.

The smaller islands can only be vIsited with an official license from the Brazilian Environmental Institute.

Madagascar Island

The Republic of Madagascar occupies the island of the same name,  the world's fourth largest, located in the Indian Ocean off the south - east coast of Africa. Madagascar has a mountainous heart and central plateaux, with rain forests to the east and dry forests and deserts to the west and south. The capital is Antananarivo (Tana for short), and the other major cities are Antsirabe, Mahajanga and Toamasina. The island was violently annexed by France in the late 19th century, attaining independence in 1960. A period of political instability seems to be over and this intriguing nation is at last finding its feet.
Madagascar's long isolation from outside influences has resulted in unique flora and fauna, with many plants and animals that are found nowhere else. Unfortunately, this special ecosystem is under threat from extensive logging and slash-and-burn agriculture.


Belated realization of the irreversible damage this is doing has seen a new emphasis on conservation, so there is hope for the island's ecological future. This also has an important economic dimension, with ecotourism a growing trend and Madagascar possessing more potential than most. Unique attractions include lemurs, the mongoose-like fossa and three endemic bird families, but there's plenty more to look at - the island is home to five per cent of the world's plant and animal species.


Tourism has not been a priority in a country that largely depends on agriculture, fishing and forestry. The infrastructure is poor, with only one main road from Tana to the south-west coast.
Adventurous visitors tour by bicycle, or charter a yacht with local guide for a memorable exploration of the coastline. Otherwise it's a case of taking an internal flight to the town or city of your choice, finding a hotel and sallying forth from there by bus or taxi.


The cooler dry season (May to October)

By air, with various international carriers serving the island. There is also a ferry service from Mauritius. Air Madagascar operates a network of internal flights.

Ranomafana National Park –Iush rainforest teeming with wildlife, including lots of lemurs (permit required).
A ride on the train from Fianarantsoa to Manakara (if it's running!) for a really scenic trip.
The Quiet coastal area around the villages of Ifaty, Mangilly and Mandio Rano, for beautiful beaches, coral reefs and whale watching in season (July and August).
The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga, an important historic complex that includes a royal city and burial ground, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Isalo National Park near Ranohira, where the central plateaux explode into spectacular sandstone bluffs and plunging gorges (a local guide and permit required).
The resort island of Nosy Be for those wanting a conventional tropical beach holiday and/or exceptional diving opportunities.
The Pangalanes Canal, a fabulous series of natural and artificial lakes parallel to the sea in the 'Garden of Madagascar' (the east coast).

In rural areas be aware of numerous -- fady (taboos) which vary from region to region and can include the forbidding of certain foods, clothes of a certain colour or bathing in a particular lake or river.
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