Fernando de Noronha is an archipelago of 21 islands and islets in the Atlantic Ocean, 354 km (220 mi) offshore from the Brazilian coast. The area is a special municipality (distrito estadual) of the Brazilian state of Pernambuco (despite being closer to the state of Rio Grande do Norte) and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its timezone is UTC-02:00. The local population and travellers can get to Noronha by plane or cruise from Recife (545 km) or by plane from Natal (360 km). A small environmental preservation fee is charged from tourists upon arrival by Ibama (Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources).
The beaches of Fernando de Noronha are promoted for tourism and recreational diving. Due to the South Equatorial Current that pushes warm water from Africa to the island, diving to depths of 30 to 40 meters does not require a wetsuit. The visibility underwater can reach up to 50 meters.
The island was covered in forest until the 19th century, when it was cleared to prevent prisoners on the island from building rafts. The islands are now predominantly covered by shrubs, with some areas of recently planted secondary forest. Many of the plants on the island today were introduced by people. The United Nations Environment Programme lists 15 possible endemic plant species, including species of the genera Capparis (2 species), Ceratosanthes (3 species), Cayaponias (2 species), Moriordica, Cereus, Palicourea, Guettarda, Bumelia, Physalis, and Ficus noronhae. Combretum rupicola is also a likely endemic. The islands have two endemic birds — the Noronha Elaenia (Elaenia ridleyana) and the Noronha Vireo (Vireo gracilirostris). Both are present on the main island; Noronha Vireo is also present on Ilha Rata. In addition there is an endemic race of Eared Dove Zenaida auriculata noronha. An endemic sigmodontine rodent, Noronhomys vespuccii, mentioned by Amerigo Vespucci, is now extinct. The islands have two endemic reptiles, Amphisbaena ridleyi and Trachylepis atlantica.
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