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 archipelago got its name from the Portuguese merchant Fernão de Loronha, to whom it was given by the Portuguese crown for services rendered regarding wood imported from Brazil. The main island has an area of 18.4 square kilometres (7.1 sq mi) and had a population estimated at 2,718 in 2012. 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), with about 70% established in 1988 as a national maritime park.
In 2001 UNESCO designated it as a World Heritage Site because of the importance of its environment. Its timezone is UTC-02:00 all year round. The local population and travellers can get to Noronha by plane or cruise from Recife (545 km). An 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. The most popular ones include Baía do Sancho, Pig Bay, Dolphins Bay, Sueste Bay and Praia do Leão. 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.
An airport was constructed in September 1942 by the United States Army Air Forces Air Transport Command for the Natal-Dakar air route. It provided a transoceanic link between Brazil and French West Africa for cargo, transiting aircraft and personnel during the Allies campaign in Africa. Brazil transferred the airport to the jurisdiction of the United States Navy on 5 September 1944. After the end of the war, the administration of the airport was transferred back to the Brazilian Government. Fernando de Noronha Airport is served by daily flights from Recife and Natal on the Brazilian coast.