Natal, Brazil, December 2012

Arriving in Natal, I hadn't really planned on going diving. It was just another beach town stop on my trip of Brazil. However, there seemed to be a place called Maracajaú up the coast which companies ran snorkelling trips to, so it seemed worth a look. Typing "Natal" and "mergulho" into Google brought up some promising looking options, so I went to the front desk of Republika Backpackers and asked if they could phone for me as my Portuguese really isn't up to phone calls.

There were some dive trips to Maracajaú but it didn't sound like I really wanted to go there as it's very shallow and they only run 4m try dives there. Caju Divers seemed a better option and they agreed to pick me up the following day at 7.40am.

Beach Picture
Punta Negra, Natal
We drove down to Piringi Do Sul beach to pick up the boat. On the way, we passed by what is claimed to be the world's largest cashew tree. It is very big. It didn't look very exciting. The boat looked like a converted wooden fishing boat, but it had shade, plenty of room, but no toilet. I needn't have worried about ringing. Paul's English was fine for the briefing and booking the day on the phone would have been no problem. The swell was quite big as we chugged out, easily a couple of metres, so it bounced up and down a bit.

The first site was just over 18m. The viz was about 15m and the bottom composition was rocky. There wasn't much in the way of coral, just the odd patch here and there, but there were colourful sponges and plenty of fish life. Shoals of grunts and snapper swam around, as did a shoal of Atlantic spadefish. There were blue tangs, some other surgeon fish, queen angel fish, porcupine fish, orange file fish, soldier fish and several that looked distincly familiar from my plate previously in Venezuela. In amongst the cracks, it was possible to see an octopus and three different species of moray. We'd been promised a dive time of 35 minutes, but people were better on their air than that, so it wa 50 mins before I surfaced. It was a nice dive, not spectacular, but plenty of fish life, 28C water, you can't really complain.

At 35 mins, the surface interval was a bit short but the second site was only 13m. It was similar to to first though the rocks had more holes in them for marine life to hide and there were probably more fish in general. There were also several lobsters in holes, two nurse sharks hiding under rocks as they do in the day and a green turtle that hung around for quite a while. So a better dive, though it was a bit shorter at around 40 mins.

Beach Picture
Punta Negra, Natal
Natal isn't really a place you'd go to for a dive holiday, but if you're in the area, it's well worth getting a couple of dives in. There's much less coral than the Caribbean but I've seen less fish on dives in much more famous places. It also didn't break the bank. R$180 for the two dives, transfers, kit, water and snacks on board is cheap.