What Could Have Been: Why I Would Have Gladly Quarantined in Fernando de Noronha

Today, I want to talk about a destination I really enjoyed exploring a few years back, and where I was initially planning on spending my quarantine. As you probably already know, I am currently riding out the Corona crazy in Mexico, and it’s been pretty delightful so far. They have a very relaxed attitude towards this ‘pandemic,’ and I’m really enjoying my time here. However, before coming to Mexico, I had flown from Egypt through Dubai to Brazil with hopes of settling there until travel restrictions were lifted. I love Brazil, and specifically, I wanted to spend some more time on a small island about 500-600 km off the Brazilian coast called Fernando De Noronha. Why Fernando de Noronha, you may ask? Well, In January of 2018, I spent six days there and have wanted to go back ever since.

That trip started after Christmas 2017. I flew to Brazil to spend the end of the year and most of January exploring the country. Within one week, I went from skiing in Germany over Christmas to celebrating New Year’s Eve at a beach party in Salvador De Bahia, Brazil.

Nice skies and scenery from arrival.

Salvador is the capital of Brazil’s northeastern state of Bahia; it is a beautiful place known for its Portuguese colonial architecture, Afro-Brazilian culture and tropical coastlines.

I decided to spend New Years there because I had a friend who lived there who had offered to host me. After New Year’s we spent a couple of days there and then moved on to Fortaleza – the capital of the northeastern Brazilian state of Ceará. This town is known for its beaches and red cliffs, palm trees, dunes, and lagoons – if you want details on these destinations and adventures that will be on another post.

So, after spending a few days in Salvador and Fortaleza, I flew directly to Fernando de Noronha. I stayed there for a little less than a week, and this post is all about that time.

Let’s start by giving you some background on FDN. It is a small island that has a history dating back 500 years. At one point or another, it has been occupied by the Dutch, the French, and the Portuguese. It even served as a prison, and a US Army base not too long ago. You can see signs and evidence of this history scattered throughout the island. Most notably, the remains of the ten-fort defense system the Portuguese built in the 18th century. Today, the population of this island is around 3,500, and its primary industry is tourism.

Moreover, Fernando de Noronha is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a large part of the area is a National Marine Park. Most of its beaches are considered among the most beautiful in all of Brazil. FDN is well known for its biodiversity and its lizards, which can be spotted all around the land. The surrounding waters are very clear, with excellent visibility and year-round warm temperatures. It is not uncommon to see manta rays, sharks, moray eels, goliath groupers, sea turtles, and dolphins in these waters.

Personally, I was especially interested in the spinner dolphins, which I’d heard could be spotted very near the shores. Being an avid snorkel and not a diver, the promise of beautiful ecosystems near the beaches was super exciting. Needless to say, I was really looking forward to being on that island paradise and seeing what it’s fascinating underwater world had to offer.

I dropped my GoPro at this beach. In almost any other place in Brazil, it would have been gone in minutes. Here I found it untouched at the same spot 3h later.

I should note that because it is such a small island with limited water resources and a fragile ecosystem, there is a maximum number of 460 visitors allowed on the island at any given time. Visitors also pay an Environmental Preservation Tax that increases progressively with the length of the visit.

So, it is no wonder that the relative isolation from the mainland, the limits on visitors, and the preservation costs make Fernando de Noronha an expensive destination, actually the most costly destination I’ve been to in Brazil. To put it in perspective, I went for six days and stayed at a small ‘pousada’ (hostel) dorm because of the high costs. My hostel was in the main town, and from there, I explored the island.

This was my favorite beach for snorkeling

Most of my days, I would just go explore a new beach with my snorkel mask and snorkel directly off the beach. Thinking back, it’s hard to recap each little adventure, but in my opinion, there are a few things you must do when in FDN and, here’s my small list:

Enjoy the beautiful sunsets; there are plenty of stunning sunset spots, one better than the other.

Even a cloudy sunset won’t disappoint.

Check out the beaches, all of the beaches. Fernando de Noronha is home to some of the top beaches in Brazil – In fact, Praia do Leão and Baía do Sancho are always competing for the title of ‘most beautiful beach in Brazil.’ Both beaches offer crystal clear blue water with areas for swimming and superb snorkeling.

Photos from my phone don’t really do these places justice.

The waters around the island have more than two hundred fish species, five shark species, sea turtles, dolphins, and more. I really enjoyed the beautiful reefs, just walking around the beach and exploring the surroundings. I would also suggest checking out the rock formations of the Two Brothers (Dois Irmaãos).

From this point, you can watch the sunset behind the two-rock formation, really a must-see.

One of the days, I went on a boat trip to scout the spinner dolphins all around the island. One of my favorite spots is The Baía dos Golfinhos, this archipelago has the title World Natural Heritage, among other things because of the unique collection of dolphins there. Actually, you can even see them from the coast from this point, which is very cool. It is the mating and resting place for the East Pacific dolphins. Fun Fact: There is no other place in the world that is known to have more dolphins living together than this spot.

The bay with the biggest number of resident spinner dolphins in the world.

So, that is pretty much how I spent most of my days during my short stay in FDN, exploring all the land and sea that I could. In the evenings, I would go for caipirinhas at the local bars and never had any trouble finding some charming restaurants with great food and good vibes, albeit with high prices – but very much worth it.

Praia dos Porcos

FDN is basically the Hawaii of Brazil.

In case you were wondering, to get around, there is one road that circles the main island and connects many of its best sites. You can rent a car or buggy, which can cost upwards of 50$ US per day, but the easiest way to get around is by bus (R$ 2.85) which goes back and forth along the main road from the Port on one end of the island to Praia de Sueste on the other. Another option, and the most affordable one, is to hitchhike. Almost all the local people and sometimes the odd taxi or dive truck will be happy to pick you up and give you a ride if you are going in their direction.

This is a typical mode of transportation. Good for hitchhiking too 😉

I would really encourage you to explore all of the island, most of it is very beautiful. There is this big monolith in the center, right on the beach – which, I’ll admit (at the risk of sounding like my friends the rainbow nomads), really gives the place a magic aura. ✨🌈


Islands with monoliths have great mystical powers, you feel that energy everywhere around you.


The part of the island facing the mainland has eight beaches, and the part of the island facing the Atlantic Ocean has only three beaches. A great way to get to know the island is to walk from Praia dos Americanos, pass by Praia do Boldró, Praia da Conceição, Praia do Meio and finish the walking at Praia do Cachorro.

Selfie before sunset

While we’re on the topic of walking all over the island, I’ll tell you a pretty hilarious story. The story is prefaced in Fortaleza, remember I was there right before FDN? Well, one of the days there, I was at the beach and decided pretty spontaneously to go in the water. So, I took my shoes off and went into the beach, when I came out of the water my shoes were gone.🤦‍ This was pretty inconvenient since they were my only pair of shoes (as you know, I only travel with hand luggage). So, after my swim, my only pair of actual shoes were gone. Thankfully I had a couple of flip flops that I wore in the meantime in the beach towns.

However, I would need a real pair of shoes for my upcoming travels to the Pantanal Region of brazil and to other inland cities of the country, where traveling in flip flops would not be so lovely. So I tried shopping in Fortaleza, I went to some stores and shopping centers, but I couldn’t find any shoes that fit me. All the shoes I found were too small – I have shoe size 47. That’s around 12 in American sizes, and I had no luck finding anything close to fitting. All the shoes I found would only go up to 44-45, so, with no success, I had to fly to FDN in flip flops.

Now for the ridiculous part of the story, as already mentioned, I would spend my days walking around in FND, and while wearing these flip flops, every 50 or so meters, I would feel a very sharp pain in one of my feet. It was as if something would sting my feet every so often. The pain would come below, from the ground. I thought that maybe I was picking up stones with the flip flops; after all, there were lots of rocks around. But when I would look, I couldn’t find anything that would explain the pain I was feeling. I also thought maybe something got stuck on the flip flops, but I looked under and couldn’t find anything wrong with the sole of the shoe. So for 5 of the days that I was there, I was wearing these flip flops, and every couple of meters, I would get this stinging pain in my feet.

After a while it got to a point where I couldn’t bear it anymore and decided to take a much closer look at the shoe, and what do you know, I found a nail INSIDE the flip flop. – You couldn’t see the head of the nail at all when looking at the sole of the shoe, and even from the top, nothing could be seen. The nail had somehow gone all the way into the flip flop – completely hidden. The only way to see it was by taking out the cross-toe strap and looking inside; that’s how I finally dug it out. I couldn’t believe I had a nail in my shoe the whole time. I mean, I searched for it, but it wasn’t protruding at all – I could only witness its presence when I took a substantial step or sunk deep into the flip flop, and that would like a sharp, sting-like stab on the bottom of my foot each time. So, I was glad to find it, remove it, and enjoy my last few hikes in FDN without the fear of stabbing pain in every step. 😅

On one of these last hikes, my phone also decided to check out and break completely. The timing was unfortunate, too, because it happened during a pretty cool hike. I was hiking on the north shore, where the landscape is more barren than the mountainous jungles in other parts. This area is beautiful still, and it has a significant and steep coastal drop leading down to a beautiful lagoon.

I went down to this lagoon, and there were a few big sharks just swimming right at the beach. I’m talking about 6 or 7 bull sharks 3-4 meters long, right on the shore. I went super close, but not in the water for obvious reasons. Anyways, right as I got close to the sharks to take a picture, my phone broke and went completely dead. Sadly, that’s why I don’t have any photos of my last days on the island.

Really enjoyed my time exploring this magical island.

All I can tell you is that the days spent there were really great. Back then, I said to my self that I would come back, and I was very eager to ride out the COVID lock-down there, snorkeling and exploring what I had left of the island to explore. But alas, when I got to São Paulo, the news hit that all tourists were getting deported from the FDN after getting their first case of coronavirus.

Stunning views in every turn.

So, I let go of what could have been, rolled with the punches, and booked a set of flights to a new destination. A place that still had 100% open immigration, great climate and beaches, good food, tequila and women, and most importantly, the most relaxed attitude towards COVID in all of America. Viva Mexico! Stay tuned to future posts to hear all about my Mexican Quarantine!