One of the last great, little-known, little-visited destinations for ecotourists, the mini-archipelago of Fernando de Noronha offers an unusual Galapagos-like experience. As a closely guarded national marine park, whose untroubled waters ensure a pristine ecosystem with year-round visibility of more than 300 feet, it’s small wonder that the twenty-one-island paradise is considered one of the world’s greatest sites for scuba and snorkeling. Add to that the community of more than 600 whitebelly spinner dolphins who have chosen to make the Baía dos Dolfinhos (Dolphin Bay) their home since the 1700s; their famous gravity-defying acrobatics can be viewed by boat excursions or from the bay’s escarpments (though visitors are no longer allowed to swim with them).
The volcanic main island’s 1,600 friendly human residents are as unpolluted by outside contact as the local flora and fauna. Many of them are descended from penal inmates who were imprisoned here in the 18th and 19th centuries. TV is nonexistent, and rudimentary accommodations are often in bunker-type barracks built during the island’s brief stint as an American military base during WW II.