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That night we end up at Bar do Meio - and I spend the entire night wondering how we missed this place. I found it by googling "where to watch sunset Noronha", and the reviews have us hopping in a cab as soon as we had showered. When we pull up, I am surprised. It is a big hut that we have passed many times - but when we walk down the hill we are greeted with probably the coolest bar/restaurant that I have ever encountered in my travels.

Bar do Meio is set on an outcropping of rock on the east of the island. It’s in the perfect position to watch the sun set. When we arrive about an hour before sunset, the sky is already turning orange and the place is hopping. There are cabanas on the rocks near the shore and people are dancing to live music. We join the line to have our photo taken at the huge swing that overlooks the perfect view of the beach, the sunset and the huge rock that dominates the island. Written on a sign above the swing are the words THIS IS LIVING. I don’t think I have ever seen a more perfect sight.

The trees with red flowers that grow all over the island form the perfect foreground for photos, and wildflowers catch the sun’s red rays as it sets. With a caipirinha in my hand, the sun on my face and this beautiful view in front of me, it feels like time is standing still. It’s moments like these that I travel for. I know this trip won’t last forever, but I have everything I need right here, right now. I often can’t believe my good fortune at finding all the right places to travel to on this journey. You never know what you are going to get, but when you take chances and head to unknown places, you often find the most incredible experiences. I turn and see a guy who I think must be reading my mind. As he stares with wonder at the same view I just tore my eyes away from, he makes the sign of the cross and kisses his fingers, then lifts his hand to the sky. It’s exactly what I’m feeling. This is God’s land.

While we wait for a table, we watch the people dancing and drinking and having a great time. People are still in their suits and cover ups, and one woman is dancing away in her thong. Ok, maybe more than one! I watch a father dance with his one year old (ish) son. It’s 8 o’clock, and people at home would be panicking about getting their kids to bed. But Brazilians live. They don’t seem to worry. The child is giggling and dancing and staring at his dad with the purest look of happiness on his face. All around us people dance, shout and shake to the music. When a new song comes on everyone screams in recognition and starts singing. Two girls next to us grab a beer bottle and pretend it’s a microphone. One films the other and when they catch us watching and laughing they cover their faces and laugh. They yell sorry and I wish I could tell them to never apologize for living and laughing and being happy.

The sun has completely set and now a full moon casts muted light on the ocean. I can see and hear the gentle waves as they crash on the beach next to us. Our dinner of shrimp arrives and it’s some of the best shrimp I’ve ever tasted. Bar do Meio is not cheap, but it’s worth every centavo. The view, the atmosphere, the people and the food make this night into a memory I will never forget.

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  • Writer's pictureDawnelle Salant

We spend the next day at a new - beach Cacimba do Padre. It’s actually a famous surfing beach and there is a Hang Loose Pro Competition here the next week. The waves are huge - they crash onto the beach with growls and roars so fierce you can see the sand swirling around in them as they crest. This beach is also famous for being the access point to Baia dos Porcos (Bay of Pigs, named after the Cuban one). You can only access it at low tide, so I strap on my sandals and head out. I have to climb wet rocks teeming with lizards and small black crabs, but it’s worth it. The view is perfect. Baia dos Porcos is a series of turquoise pools, usually great for snorkelling, but today the swell is so high that the water is turning the protruding rocks into waterfalls. A couple is sitting in one natural pool when a huge wave crashes over the rock and knocks them about. I wince imagining how that must feel.

On the way back I head up to the viewpoint over Dois Irmaos, (two brothers). These twin rocks in the ocean just off shore are the icon of Noronha. I bought a new rasher here to protect me from the relentless sun and it has the Two Brothers on it. I get out my selfie stick and take what is my favourite selfie on the island - the rocks line up perfectly on my shirt and in the background. This is the postcard view of the island, the one you see whenever you google Fernando de Noronha, and I can see why. It’s perfect. The two imposing rocks stand tall as the stunning turquoise water crashes below them. It’s so perfect that there is a photo shoot going on as I take in the view. Two stick thin, overly made up, gorgeous models dressed in bright orange clothing pose for photos a little ways down the cliff. The orange against the black rocks and turquoise water is absolutely stunning, but what gets me is how the models aren’t sweating. I’m drenched just standing there, and the sun is beating on them just as relentlessly as it’s beating on me. Some women have all the luck….

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Updated: Apr 19, 2020

The next beach we explore is Baia do Sueste. It’s on the south side of the island, which we haven’t visited yet, and there is supposed to be really good snorkelling here, but the visibility is terrible and I see maybe one or two fish. None of the multitude of turtles that were promised to me. The beach is nice, but my 1 kilometre walk to Praia Leao is the highlight of my day. It’s a huge beach, down a steep hill, surrounded by black volcanic rocks and more intense green forest, while turquoise waters lap over a rocky bottom that stretches out to sand on the right. The best part is that it’s deserted. You can’t swim here due to nesting turtles and strong currents, which is fine by me as the walk down and back up looks really steep and I’m sweating just standing here in the heat. So I get to see this paradise with no humans disturbing it. Giant boulders offshore prevent any boats from getting too close, and I understand why there are no tours to this side of the island. I could stand here forever and watch this untouched panorama forever. But, alas, it’s too hot!

Thursday morning I get ready for my last two dives. Again, I am the only English speaking diver, but the staff is so nice that it doesn’t really matter. Our first dive site is similar to the others I have dived here, but our last dive is spectacular. We do a drift dive along the outside of Ihla do Medio, and the dive master explains that we will see plenty of wildlife and lava formations. He’s right. There are sharks and turtles everywhere, and he points out a flounder upon our descent. It’s yellow and green and blends so well into the sandy floor that it takes me a while to figure out what he’s pointing at. I find flounders to be hilarious, it’s like they have collapsed on their sides after running a marathon, and its marble-like eye protrudes as if someone has misplaced it there. It blinks at me and I can’t help but smile even with my regulator in. I think my favourite thing to see underwater are turtles. Because this is a drift dive, we are moving along with the current and hardly have to exert any energy. The current moves in waves, we drift back and forth over the coral and lava, and the movement is relaxing. I find a turtle munching on some seaweed in a vase like lava formation. I am hovering maybe a meter over it, and the clarity of its shell, its beady eye and the way its mouth opens and closes on breakfast has me mesmerized. It too moves with the current, and while it is anchored to the lava by its mouth on the seaweed, it’s body bangs back and forth on the lava like its had too much to drink and has no control over its movements. The landscape here is as beautiful and exciting as the wildlife. This is one of my top dives to date - not just in Noronha, but out of all my dives. The perfect finale to my diving experience here on the island.

After diving, we head back to Concecaiao beach for some relaxing. I love people watching on the beach, especially in Brazil. I find it hard to believe that so many women here have perfect butts, but the evidence is right there in front of me. I can see it all. The thing is, when you go to a restaurant, meals usually come with fries and rice. Yes, and, not or. Both. Fries and rice. How these women keep their figures amazes me.

I watch a family come in and rent an umbrella and chairs. There are two young adult children, I’d say early twenties, and they spread their towels out on the sand to sunbathe. They are both females, and naturally, they are wearing thongs. They are laying on their stomachs, looking back over their shoulders talking to their father. I imagine what it would be like to grow up in Brazil, in such a different culture. It’s hard to fathom that instead of childhood weekends at the ski hill, where I was covered from head to foot, I could have spent my childhood going to the beach with my family, and prancing around with my bottom hanging out, in front of my father. It’s as foreign to me as growing up on the moon. I wonder what kind of person I would have grown into if I was raised in Brazil. Would I be more body-confident? Would I be more relaxed? I’ll never know, but I do know that I am glad I found Brazil when I did. There is so much to learn here. Brazilians are happy. They seem so much more carefree, accepting and confident. I’m hoping this rubs off on me before I have to go back to snow covered, stress filled Canada.

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Hi there! I'm Dawnelle - travel photographer, adventure seeker and digital nomad currently exploring  South America. 

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