Brazil Travel & Tourism News
SALVADOR, Brazil — Banco de Abrolhos, off the south shore of Bahia state, is the largest refuge for marine life off the Brazilian coast. The archipelago stretches 200 km (124 miles) into the South Atlantic, has 420 km (261 miles) of shoreline, and occupies an area comparable in size to the U.S. state of Maine.
Brazil’s Banco de Abrolhos Marine Sanctuary
The sanctuary is home to an amazing diversity of animals, including humpback whales who come to the area each year from August to November to breed and feed. In 2011, seven thousand of the whales came to Abrolhos from Antarctica, a voyage of four thousand km (2,500 miles) and taking two months.
Birds use the islands as a landing spot for resting, breeding, or simply to feed on the large supply of fish. The most abundant bird is the piloto, or booby in English, which makes its nest on the ground.
The Banco de Abrolhos
The Abrolhos Bank lies about 72 km (45 miles) off the coast of Caravelas, Bahia and 950 km (590 miles) from the state capital, Salvador. The archipelago has five islands, scattered across 913 km² (353 square miles), Santa Bárbara, Siriba, Redonda, Sueste and Guarita.
Abrolhos hosts the largest coral reef in the South Atlantic, and is the only place on earth with reefs that grow in the shape of mushrooms, called ‘chapeirões’.
The archipelago is also home to the National Marine Park, the first of its kind in Brazil, created in April 1983. It also has the worlds largest area covered by rodolitos — algae that form structures like coral reefs.
Brazilian scientists worry about the decreasing amount of fish found in the refuge each year. They are researching management strategies, especially the constant need for environmental preservation.
The islands of Banco de Abrolhos
Santa Bárbara, the largest and only inhabited island in the archipelago, is home to military personnel and researchers from the Brazilian Environmental Institute (IBAMA). Despite being located almost at the center of the Abrolhos National Park, the island belongs to the Brazilian Navy and is home to a military base, so landing is only allowed with permission.
Siriba is the only island in Abrolhos which allows visiting tourists to land for planned activities, such as scuba diving, hiking and bird watching.
Redonda is the only breeding site for fragata, or frigate birds. Although the park allows authorized landings, they hardly ever happen because turtles nest on the beach and reefs surround the island, which makes landing difficult.
On Sueste, the second largest of the islands, landing is not permitted. Guarita, the smallest of the islands, just 100 meters (328 feet) long and topped by a cluster of volcanic rock, permits no landing.