When talking about scuba diving in Brazil, we will find that the destinations are grouped into five locations: Fernando de Noronhan, the northeast coast, the State of Rio de Janeiro, Abrolhos Archipelago and Southern Brazil (Santa Catarina). Each of these locations offer world-class diving and unique experiences. Here is an overview of the five destinations:
Fernando de Noronha: The archipelago of Fernando de Noronha consist of 21 islands located about 217 miles offshore. The archipelago is named for the largest island, and the only one with a population. Fernando de Noronhan archipelago was designated a maritime national park in 1988. Approximately 70% of the archipelago falls within the protection of the park. UNESCO declared Fernando de Noronha, with Rocas Atoll, a World Heritage Site in 2001. UNESCO cited the following reasons:
a) The island's importance as a feeding ground for several species, including tuna, billfish, cetaceans, sharks, and marine turtles,
b) A high population of resident spinner dolphins
c) Protection for endangered species, such as the hawksbill sea turtle (critically endangered) and various birds
Divers will find the water to be warm averaging 26°C year round with visibility between 25 and 40 meters. Some dive sites are known for visibility greater that 50 meters. There are about 25 dive sites, some on the windward and others on the leeward side of the archipelago. Trade winds from April to December, favor diving on the leeward side, while winds between December to March favor the windward side. Divers of all skill levels will find remarkable diving.
Accommodations on the island are limited and keeps the number of guest low. The local tourism agency has a ranking system using dolphins. Accommodations are ranked from 1 dolphin to 3 dolphins. Many of the places are similar to bed and breakfast inns and hostels. Space is limited, as are resources, so do not expect large grounds and swimming pools around the resorts.
Recife-Olinda: The eastern “horn” of Brazil is the most popular dive destination. While Fernando de Noronha is considered the best diving, its distant location, difficult logistics and cost does not make it the most popular. The Recife-Olinda area has great diving, has reasonable pricing and is easy to get to. Serrambi about 40 miles south of Recife is known for great surfing. The reef breaks bring surfers from around the world. That shallow reef extends to Recife and is the reason Recife is also known as the wreck diving capital of Brazil. Approximately 100 wrecks are found along the reef. Natal to the north of Recife, and Maceio to the south also have great diving and are considered a part of the destination by many or separate destinations. The water temperature seldom varies from 80ºF (27ºC) and visibility is always very good to great. Dive sites ranges from beginners to advance. The stretch of Atlantic Coast from Natal to Maceio is a popular beach destination for both domestic and international tourist.
Rio de Janeiro: The city of Rio de Janeiro, often just called Rio, is a well-known destination. Rio is also the capital of the State of Rio de Janeiro, which is one of the smallest states in size but the third largest in population. This makes the State of Rio de Janeiro the most densely populated in Brazil. Rio does not have any remarkable diving, however, it can serve as a base to explore other portions of the state that does have outstanding diving. Arraial do Cabo and Angra Dos Reis are two of the leading dive destinations here.
Arraial do Cabo features some 40 dive sites. It is about a two-hour drive from Rio. While tourism is important here, it is not destination solely focused on tourism. A strong fishing industry is also found here. The warm Brazilian current has mostly played out, and the water is influenced by Antarctic currents. This colder water brings a nutrient up-swelling that supports a very diverse range of marine life. October to May/June the water temperatures is around 77ºF (25ºC) while the winter months of July, to September will find the water around 71ºF (22ºC). Dolphins, sharks and turtles are found year-round as well as some whales. Other whales species, who frequent the Antarctic in the summer, will migrate to here. The different dive sites offer caves, caverns, reefs, shipwrecks and other attractions. Some dive sites are for advanced divers, however, there are many sites suitable for beginning divers and training.
Angra Dos Reis is about a 2 hours drive south of Rio and a very popular weekend destination for those living in the city. Featuring a coast line that is steep and rocky, the real draw is the 365 small islands off the coast. The group of islands boasts over 2,000 individual beaches. The largest island is Ilha Grande. Angra Dos Reis has little current and feature caves, caverns, reefs and shipwrecks.
Arvoredo Island Biological Reserve (Santa Catarina): The Arvoredo archipelago is made up of three islands (Arvoredo, Galés and Deserta) and a rocky outcrop (São Pedro) located off the coast of Santa Catarina. The Biological Reserve was established on 12 March 1990, and closed to all access for seven years. It reopened in 1997 for some activities, however, it closed again in 2003. Currently diving is allowed off the south coast of Arvoredo island. Marine life here is in a full natural state. One of the items that make this area unique is the influence of currents. The coast of Brazil has the warm Brazil Current coming from the north. The southern portion of South America has the Falkland Current, a cold water current. These two currents converge in the area of the archipelago. Depending on the season, one current may dominate over the other. Still, it means that both warm water and cold water marine species can be found here. You will also find warmer water from the tropical shelf provides different conditions then the water below 60 feet which is subject to up-swells from deeper South Atlantic waters. It takes about 2 hours by boat to reach the dive sites from the mainland.
Abrolhos Archipelago: The Abrolhos Archipelago is a group of 5 uninhabited islands in the Atlantic Ocean about 70 km off Brazil's Bahia coast. The Abrolhos Marine National Park encompasses 4 of these islands. This park is a popular boating destination, not only for scuba diving, but also for whale watching excursions and bird watchers. As there are no accommodations, visitors sleep on board the boats. The park is rich in marine life with over 250 identified marine species, including rare coral formations. Humpback whales, turtles and dolphins are frequently observed both on the surface and while diving. Ilha Siriba is the only accessible island, and it features trails to explore the island.