The islands of this archipelago are the visible parts of a range of submerged mountains. It consists of 21 islands, islets and rocks of volcanic origin. The main island has an area of 18 km2 (6.9 sq mi), being 10 km (6.2 mi) long and 3.5 km (2.2 mi) wide at its maximum. The base of this enormous volcanic formation is 756 metres (2,480 ft) below the surface. The volcanic rocks are of variable though mainly silica-undersaturated character with basanite, nephelinite and phonolite among the lava types found. The main island, from which the group gets its name, makes up 91% of the total area; the islands of Rata, Sela Gineta, Cabeluda and Sao Jose, together with the islets of Leao and Viuva make up the rest. The central upland of the main island is called the Quixaba.
The beaches of Fernando de Noronha are promoted for tourism and recreational diving. The most popular ones include BaĆa do Sancho, Pig Bay, Dolphins Bay, Sueste Bay and Praia do LeĆ£o. Due to the South Equatorial Current that pushes warm water from Africa to the island, diving to depths of 30 to 40 metres (98 to 131 ft) does not require a wetsuit. The visibility underwater can reach up to 50 metres (160 ft).
The part of the island facing the mainland has the beaches in the following order: Baoa do Sancho, Baoa dos Porcos, Praia da Cacimba do Padre, Praia do Bode, Praia dos Americanos, Praia do Boldra, Praia da Conceiao, Praia do Meio and Praia do Cachorro. The part of the island facing the Atlantic Ocean has only 03 beaches: Praia do Leao, Praia do Sueste and Praia do Atalaia. A great way to get to know the island is to walk from Praia dos Americanos, pass by Praia do Boldra, Praia da Conceiao, Praia do Meio and finish the walking at Praia do Cachorro.
The island is served by Gov. Carlos Wilson Airport with regular flights to Natal and Recife.
The life above and below sea is the main attraction of the island. Sea turtles, cetaceans (most common among these are spinner dolphins and humpback whales, followed by many others such as pantropical spotted dolphins, short-finned pilot whales, melon-headed whales), albatrosses, and many other species are frequently observed.