Sunday, April 06, 2008

Fernando de Noronha

If you have never heard of the island called Fernando de Noronha, take heart you are not alone. We only found out about this gem of a dive island a few weeks before we booked our flight.
Although, we did have a few commitment issues when it came time to booking. Our tour agent was an avid diver himself. He raved on about how amazing it was to swim with turtles and sharks. Imagine the thoughts that went through our head when on telling us how safe it was, we could only stare at the stump that  was now his arm!
On arrival at the Island, it felt like we had landed at the very place that life had begun. It was easy to imagine why Charles Darwin had come here as the abundance of vegetation and marine life is overwhelming. Just finding our way to our hostel room through this mass of beautiful tall flowers was a mission.
But sometimes moderation would be preferable. During the rainy season, yellow striped caterpillars are everywhere. They were all over the roads making fatalities (of the caterpillars) almost unavoidable, they were all over the walls of our hostel and they happily crawled under the door of our bedroom.
This would probably not be an issue for most people but when your greatest phobia is encountering large groups of creepy-crawlies, this can cause moments of inconsolable hysteria. One particularly precious moment was when TZ decided to wear her glasses and only then noticed hundreds of them by her feet. That Jez did not disown her when she began to cry in public is a true testament of his devotion!
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Here's one making a bee line for our bedroom!
On a happier note, we made a delicious discovery of a superfruit called açai. It comes from the Amazon and people claim that those who consume it regularly will live to 100 in perfect health. We cannot comment on that but it is particularly yummy and we ate it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Ok sometimes we gave the açai a miss and had freshly grilled fish for dinner. The chef was so proud of his creations that he said if we didn't like it we could have it for free.  We happily paid!
After a painful episode of handing over a small fortune for four dives*, we boarded a very well organised dive boat. Nothing we had done in South America thus far had been as orderly or professional. Since neither of us had dived in 5 years this was a welcome surprise.
*Jez convinced the girl behind the counter that for the same money we could have flown to Bali from Australia and stayed at the most expensive hotel for a week with all our meals included. She kindly threw in the hiring of our dive gear for free.
Luckily for us, a dive photographer was on board the dive boat to capture the underwater wonderland. Although TZ did seem a little startled by the presence of paparazzi.
Jez on the other hand was too busy trying to ride the coat tails of this giant fish to pose for the camera.
Unlike any other dive we had done, the water was amazingly warm at 27 degrees and the visibility and colours incredible. 
We had heard many times over that we would see giant turtles on our dive. Since it is near impossible to predict the habits of free creatures we tried not to get our hopes up.
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When we saw this baby sleeping on the ocean floor, we were elated. If you look closely though you can see he was not in the least bit interested in smiling for the camera preferring instead to stick his head in a rock cavity.
Shortly after that we saw a 2.5 meter shark resting in a small cave and another baby shark nearby. Where was our trusty photographer then? He tried to make up for it by photographing us with other beautiful things but unfortunately, it's just not the same.
Here Jez admires another interesting aquatic life form. This time though he takes his regulator out his mouth for a quick underwater kiss. Unfortunately TZ is a little reluctant to stop her air flow under the water and so did not return the favour.
You dont need to be a diver to enjoy the spoils of the Island. There is a beach where turtles come to feed and lay their eggs. We snorkelled here with a guide and watched in delight as the turtles would gracefully peck at the seaweed and then very ungracefully flap their way to the surface for air.
Sometimes we would see hundreds of little fish pestering the turtles but actually, this is how the turtles keep clean. The fish are eating the algae that grows on their shells.
On our last day on the island, we decided to take it easy and go for a half day boat trip. Our guide promised that within minutes we would be surrounded by schools of dolphins.
He delivered on his promise too! Unfortunately though, we had hoped to see a very special kind of dolphin that jumps in the air and spins several times before landing. But then again, we had been spoilt enough with what we had seen in the last few days and could hardly complain.
This is our prize photo of the thousands upon thousands of photos we have taken thus far. No doubt it will feature on a wall in our house some day.

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