Brazil Travel Diary - p 4Baia do Sueste - Noronha (71758 bytes)

25 September 2004
Now for something different.  Yesterday I returned to Rio, where Charlotte and I spent the night at a hotel near Ipanema beach.  Today we flew to Recife and on to the islands of Fernando de Noronha, 200 miles out in the Atlantic off the northeast coast of Brazil.
    Noronha, 4° south of the equator, is an archipelago of volcanic origin - the largest and only inhabited island is about 10 miles in length.   Somehow Amérigo Vespucci stumbled onto the islands in 1503.
    Because they are so remote and were never part of the mainland, the islands have almost no native land birds.  The ancestors of two endemic insectivores, Noronha Elaenia and Noronha Vireo, made it out here, but not much else.  Eared Dove, brought by humans, is common and tame everywhere.  But it's great for seabirds.  With lots of fish in the clean ocean, and few humans, not to mention the offshore rocks for White-tailed Tropicbird (24203 bytes)nesting, 10 seabird species live around the islands.  Most common is the Brown Booby, but Masked and also Red-footed Booby can be seen.  Magnificent Frigatebirds soar everywhere, and along the windswept south coast we enjoy views of both White-tailed and Red-billed Tropicbirds.

26 September 2004
While Charlotte is off diving, I rent a dune buggy, the primary means of independent transport on the island.  It has a top but no doors or windows, can go up to 40 miles/hr, and handles just like an old John Deere tractor.
    Noronha, Charlotte reports, has relatively little coral compared to the shallow Caribbean.  But it has most of the same fish species, usually larger in size here, as well as sea turtles, reef sharks, sting rays - enough to keep any diver happy.

Brown Booby and Surf (63647 bytes)

26 September 2004
I spend the morning at Cachorro beach, watching and photographing both Black and Brown Noddies, which are tropical terns.  But my favorites are the Brown Boobies.  They fly just beyond the surf and feed by abruptly diving in the manner of pelicans.  What are they feeding on, I wonder?  Later, Charlotte and I have lunch at Restaurante Flamboyant, where you pay for your buffet-style meal according to its weight.  We then go to Sancho Bay for some snorkeling.  Here the mystery of the boobies' prey is solved.  Just beyond the surf, I encounter large schools of small fish, about 4" in length.  The boobies must see the schools and dive in, hoping to get lucky.




Spinner Dolphin (68751 bytes)28 September 2004
We spend our last morning at Mirante dos Golfinhos overlook, watching Spinner Dolphins, Noronha's most famous animal.  These are blue-water dolphins, seldom seen except around volcanic islands like this, far from continents.   At night they feed out at sea, then come into the Bay of Dolphins at dawn to spend the day relaxing and sleeping (in 5-10 minute stretches before they must return to the surface to breathe).  It's not easy to photograph them.  I'm high above the water, and the dolphins are a good 500 yards distant.  But that's okay.  The bay is part of the marine national park, off-limits to human activity.  The dolphins are free to enjoy life undisturbed by people.
    Spinners get their name from their unique spin, in which they leap out of the water and rotate, or spin up to 360°, before splash-down.  Why do they do this?  It's thought to be performed by leaders of the group, who use the sound of the splash to indicate to the others which direction they should be moving.  Or maybe they leap and spin just because it's so much fun.

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