A prison island that turned into a paradise

Marcelo Alex/Shutterstock.com
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Among the beautiful, hidden paradise destinations in the world, there are very few who have had the experience of visiting Fernando de Noronha, an archipelago which lies about 350 km from Brazil’s northeast coastline. Fernando de Horonha (named after a 16th century Portuguese nobleman who is fabled to have discovered it) is comprised of 21 beautiful islands. 75% of the islands were designated as a protected national marine sanctuary in 1988. Because of this, only 420 visitors per day are allowed to visit the islands.

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Fernando de Noronha is not just a getaway for the rich and famous. While it is well known for its pristine, white sand beaches and warm clear waters, this tropical paradise is famous for diving and snorkeling. It is highly favored by naturalists and ecologists all over the world. The waters are a perfect hue of emerald and stay warm all year long. Because of this the waters are teeming with not only the highest population of dolphins in the world but lobsters and turtles and several different species of sharks including the lemon shark, the nurse shark and the Caribbean reef shark.

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Fernando de Noronha is not just exotic and rich in wildlife but has a very interesting history. In 1832, Darwin wrote about the islands when he and his crew stopped briefly after harpooning a porpoise to eat. But the most fascinating page out of the history surrounding the secluded paradise would be the ruins of a prison which incarcerated hundreds of Brazil’s most dangerous and notorious criminals. It was used as a fortress by Dutch and Portuguese military forces and in the 1700’s, the main island became the site for the prison. In fact, the site operated as a prison until 1957 when it was officially closed down.

Presently, tourists are able to see ruins of the prison but the dark history which surrounds them have been overgrown with the tropical, lush greenery which covers the islands. Those who inhabited the prison centuries ago would never have known that someday the place they were held captive would become a lush, tropical paradise only available to a fortunate few in the whole world.

Fernando de Noronha is designated as a Unesco World Heritage Site and is best known for being South America’s ‘hot spot’ for the best diving and surfing. An island that was once known for being a place to house the most dangerous criminals transformed into one of the most exotic and secluded paradise islands in the entire world.