Archipelago of Alcatrazes, in São Sebastião, now open to ecotourism

The islands of the archipelago.

The Alcatrazes Archipelago is a Wildlife Sanctuary (RVS – Refúgio de Vida Silvestre), located in São Sebastião (SP), is now open for recreational diving and embarkation for wildlife observation. The opening for public visitation of the conservation unit aims to strengthen ecotourism in the northern region of São Paulo. From now on, tourism companies and freelancers who meet the prerequisites will be able to register to provide visitation services in the Refuge.

The prospect is that in early 2018 on-site tourism is already in operation and represents a huge gain for ecotourism in the region, especially for the municipalities of São Sebastião, Ilhabela, Caraguatatuba, Ubatuba, Bertioga, Guarujá, São Vicente and Santos.

The refuge is managed in a unified way with the Tupinambás Ecological Station, composing the ICMBio Alcatrazes Integrated Management Nucleus. In the two units were registered 1,300 species and 93 of them are under some degree of threat of extinction. The vegetation of the archipelago is characterized by areas of Atlantic forest and rock fields and, to date, 320 species of flora have been found.

The archipelago of Alcatrazes is part of the archaeological, historical and cultural heritage of the region. The 316-meter-high granite walls in the middle of the ocean impress mariners with their beauty and waters with good visibility and a great amount of marine life are an invitation to dive.

Island of Alcatrazes.

The archipelago is made up of five larger islands, the main one being called Alcatrazes Island (2.5km in length), in addition to the Island of Sapata, Paredão, Porto or Lighthouse and South, as well as four islands minors (not nominated islets); five slabs (Double, Singela, Paredão, Lighthouse and Black); and two parcéis (Northeast and Southeast). Its depth can reach 50 m.

It has rich fauna, with the occurrence of endemic species such as the alcatrazes and the alcatrazes. On the main island, there is the largest ninhal frigate in the world, gathering 6 thousand specimens. In its waters, several species live among the brain corals, including a number of species of fish superior to any other place in Brazil, including the Fernando de Noronha archipelago, which is much larger than Alcatrazes.

Use the map below to locate the islands and it’s distance from São Sebastiao, on the coast of São Paulo.

History of the archipelago

Since 1980, the visit to the island was closed by the Brazilian Navy, which until 2013, used the main island as a shooting site, which caused considerable environmental damage, became the subject of several lawsuits, including public civil actions aimed at preventing this practice.

Fishing is strictly forbidden. Diving, even recreational, was also prohibited until 2016. Only diving activities were permitted in special cases, such as for researchers.

In 2016, however, Alcatrazes received status as a Wildlife Refuge and had its protection extended to the entire area of ​​the archipelago. Fishing and deforestation are prohibited, but at the time it was planned to release boat rides and diving to the public, according to criteria that would be defined in a management plan.

In September 2017, it was stipulated that the waters around the island will in fact be available for boating and diving, but not landing ashore, as there are no beaches or other safe places for the tourist to tread on land firm. The visits, which can only be made by companies authorized by ICMBio, should only occur in 2018, with the year 2017 being reserved for the preparation for the activities (registration of companies, training and issuing of licenses). A 60-foot vessel will be installed on the island and will remain there all the time to facilitate site research and protection.

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Joe Cloud
Dutch, American, Brazilian... lived there for 5 years and owns property in Brazil. Out of the country for a few years now and would like to go back, however current circumstances tell me it's not the right time.