What a great experience it was this time returning to Fernando de Noronha and find that previous obstacles for us wheelchair users, no longer exist. Exactly ten years ago I almost went crazy looking for a hotel that would accommodate me. It was beyond difficult just trying to put luggage in a buggy and trying to deal with a rude taxi driver who did not hide his prejudice for the disabled people … Result of last trip: A lot of effort and exhausting effort even taking a shower, trying to get through a bathroom door only 0.60m wide with my wheelchair let alone participating in any of the activities that the islands offers…
This time I went for work, to document the accessibility provided on the island with regard to accommodation and tours for the Guide O VIAJENTE ESPECIAL (The Special Traveller). I was delighted to see that some hotels have already adapted or at least have tried to adapt to accommodate and include disable people as welcome visitors. Some hotels have experienced difficulties making these adaptions due to the steep terrain on the island and have ended up doing the best possible. Others who had little or no guidelines to help them have made adaptions as best they could with their own sense of judgment. But the fact is, I must congratulate them, because they have tried! Many are still willing to give us greater security and comfort even though it is difficult to make renovations or build on the island of Noronha.
My job involves not only verifying the accessibility for accommodation, but also for local attractions and trips. Yet again I went to Fernando de Noronha to prove that it is possible for disable people to visit both safely and with pleasure. It is important to remember that many of these tourist destinations do have difficulties in making modifications to receive wheelchair users, often because of environmental preservation. In Noronha, most of the streets are not paved and the most common means of transportation on the island is by buggy. The majority of the beaches and trails are still mostly inaccessible. Taking all of this into consideration it with pride and delight to inform you that I was able to do almost all of the activities offered to the regular tourist on the island of Fernando de Noronha.
Of course I had to make some changes on some trips and adapt myself accordingly to my conditions and the physical structure of the site. Let`s start with the famous Island Tour which was the first to make changes and adaptions. This tour is the main tour where you get to visit the whole island: it takes you through the historic sites on the island, beaches, trails and spots for swimming. We did this trip in a 4x4WD vehicle and visited beaches and the historical sites. Unfortunately I wasn`t able to visit the Forte dos Remedios nor the trails of the Dolphins, Sancho and Lion beach. But I was able to go by wheelchair to Boldro, Cacimba do Padre and Conceicao and Porto. An alternative trip to visit the other beaches that were not accessible by land was to take a boat ride and visit them, for example Sancho beach. All you have to do is arrange this trip with a local tourism operator.
An unforgettable trip is to visit the beach of Atalaia. To visit this beach, visitors must contact a local tourist operator and inform them about their physical conditions (use of wheelchair) in order to receive authorization of ICMBio (Environmental Agency) for a wheelchair to have access to the trail that leads to the beach. To reach the beach it is only accessible through this trail. Once you have completed this rough trail you can enjoy the natural pool at the Atalaia beach just like any other tourist. It is worth organizing the authorization.
Noronha has also innovated with yet another new ride, the project NAVI. It consists of a boat with a magnifying glass in the hull that allows the observation of marine life. This is a great option for those who get along well with water or for the elderly, pregnant women and children. The boat was not designed for wheelchair users, but yes there is the possibility of a wheelchair user to be part of this expedition.
Also there is the option of being put into a comfortable seat next to the lens to enjoy it along with everyone else. This tour, as well as magical and interesting is very easy and accessible, as long as the sea is calm to transport the wheelchair from the pier to the boat.
A great option for those who are wheelchair or have mobility is diving or free diving in Porto. Meet the sinking and to swim with turtles, sharks and stingrays is an invitation to this tour. Even for the most daring and courageous, Noronha offers catamarans boats that take tourists to dive into the open sea. The local operator can give an introductory course in the swimming pool before the baptism in the sea. Another very interesting ride worthwhile is the water board. The board tows you on the water while wearing mask and snorkel you can observe the amazing marine life below the surface. I did and it is definitely approved! You can also take the wheelchair into the boat and with the help of guides, into the sea. All done with the utmost care and security.
But the island still hides other beauties and attractions beyond the diving and boating, like the Sunset at Forte Sao Pedro do Boldró, where all the tourists meet at 6PM and the TAMAR Project (the Sea Turtle NGO), which offers evening lectures and afternoon guided visits. The TAMAR project is located in a very nice venue all accessible to the wheelchair. Unfortunately does not have accessible toilets, but I was told that it will be soon implemented. It is worth visiting and here’s a tip: do not miss the lecture on sharks by Mr. Leonardo Veras.
How to get there and what to do when you get there:
From Recife or Natal, Trip Airlines has regular flights to Fernando de Noronha.
At the airport in Noronha there is no lift for wheelchairs so you have to be prepared to be carried down stairs. You than need to pay the National Park preservation fee, according to the number of days you are expected to stay.
There are taxis outside or you can organize a transfer beforehand at www.ambiental.tur.br .
There is an adapted toilet at the airport.
Places to stay:
Pousada Zé Maria
Pousada Dois Irmãos
Pousada Monsieur Rocha