I had not heard of Fernando de Noronha until i made some Brazilian friends. Jaws dropped all around the table as soon as they learned of my ignorance, and a solid 30 minutes of lecturing later it was quite indisputably clear that heaven was a reality, and that it is the small cluster of islands off the coast of Brazil called Fernando de Noronha.


Brazilians are justified their somewhat outrageous pride of Noronha, but it is an interesting pride because I have yet to meet a Brazilian that has been there. The island only allows a certain amount of tourists there at a time, so its beaches are forever empty--hard to believe if you have ever been to Brazil. Most of the island belongs to a nature preserve and cannot be developed, and what remains is sparsely populated with close to no natives. This has allowed its beauty to flourish. Beaches are literally swollen with sea turtles and fisherman reel in plump nets of fish on the same beaches that tourists are suntanning on. By some rankings, 7 of the top 10 beaches in Brazil are on the main island of Noronha, and Baia do Sancho is usually ranked the first or second most beautiful beach in the world.


There is no denying the natural beauty of Noronha. It is unworldly, isolated for hundreds of miles in all directions, beautifully devoid of people, and for a country so ripe with discontent it is deceptively tranquil. The few dark sides that pervade modern Brazil-unrest, violence, crime, poverty-are largely nonexistent on Noronha.  With luck, Noronha will never change.