Created in 2006 by science journalist Paola Catapano, MINIDARWIN aims at taking groups of children on scientific expeditions coached by real scientists and science communication professionals.

On the occasion of International Year of Biodiversity 2010, theMiniDarwins are ready to leave on their third expedition, to the Amazon Forest, devoted to biodiversity and its socio-economic spin offs. The MiniDarwins will be coached by biodiversity scientists and an ecological socio-economist specialised in ethno-ecology to experience life with an Indigenous population in the Amazon Forest

During the trip, we will publish on this blog a diary of the expedition and some of the photos, videos, interviews and texts we are producing for later publication on our website, book, reportage and documentary film.

28 July 2010

Fernando de Noronha – arrival

Wed 28 July
“Paradise is here” were the first words of navigator Amerigo Vespucci when he discovered Fernando de Noronha on August 10, 1503, during the second expedition to discover the Brazilian coasts, sponsored by the Portuguese “fidalgo” (aristocrat) Fernao Loronha. When landing on the archipelago aboard the GOL flight (one of the very few daily landings taking an allowed  maximum of 200 visitors on the island), we did get the impression of a Paradise island, amidst the unexpectedly cloudy sky. But by the time we got off the plane, filled in the forms to pay the environmental tax and found Lau, a sweet local girl working at the Pousada where we booked our stay, waiting to load us on the pick up jeep, Paradise turned into just a remote illusion around the magnificent green “Morros and Picos” (stunning volcanic peaks) all around the airstrip, littered as it became by tons of mud and greyed by endless rain and stormy winds. To make things worse, once at the Pousada, we found out that our accommodation would vanish the next day, due to an agency’s overbooking, but we shouldn’t worry because Lau would find a solution for us. Solutions there were indeed, but minimum budget for a simple pousada (bed & breakfast equivalent) were no less than 200€ per day per person! No wonder this is the place where you find the most expensive guesthouse in Brazil, the Pousada Maravilha (honestly deserving the name), at 1000€ per person per day!
Mud, rain, overbooking, overpricing… this is definitely not what we expected from a place like Noronha on our first day!

Thanks to the miraculous encounter with Cristiano, a young Italian who came here on holidays for a week 8 years ago and never left since, we finally managed to settle in a small spick and span family pousada in Vila do Trinta, one of the dozen small settlements spread around the 26 km2 of the island. We moved to the new Pousada squeezed in a pile of luggage in the dunebuggy we rented at a reasonable price (again, thanks to Cristiano), amidst muddy dirt roads, stunning tropical vegetation and rows of modest, old-fashioned but charming  constructions where the bars, shops, supermarkets and even the pharmacies and the hospital all look like slightly “improvised”. The sharp blue and yellow paint of the fence surrounding the veranda of our pousada, overlooking the Morro do Frances and especially the big smile of Etilene, the “dona” (owner)  welcoming the kids, make us all feel better.

The afternoon ride on the buggy to the Buraco da Raquel and our first encounter with the sea at the Praia do Cachorro finally make us feel in paradise. Yes, now we can say it, “Paradise is here!” The rain has gone and the promises all fulfilled: crystalline waters, gorgeous scenery and harmony between man and nature are all appropriate definitions for this sanctuary of marine (and not only) biodiversity. Just a simple unguided walk and a first dive in the sea have been enough to spot frigates, boobies, the endemic vireo, small coloured and biting (yes! gently biting) aquarium-like fishes,  our first manta ray and two sea turtles!
The kids have already taken their notebooks out to start the Hit Parade of the Species, one of the activities we planned for them. I know there’s much more to come and that it’s going to be tough to elect the species of the week, at the end of our stay in Paradise.

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