The Alcatrazes islands, located 28 miles from the São Sebastião port, at São Paulo's northern shore, opened for the first time last Sunday (16th).
One of the largest nurseries of marine birds in the Southern portion of Brazilian, the islands were used for Navy shooting practices from 1980 to 2013 and therefore closed to visitors.
It will be the first time that the area will have organized tourism. It's still forbidden to dock on land, but visitors can take boat tours and dive in ten designated areas.
The boat tours can only be booked with agencies cleared by ICMBio, the federal agency that manages the islands in partnership with the Brazilian Navy. Private motorboats won't be allowed.
ICMBio has a list of 32 approved tour operators, but only two were scheduled to begin their activities: Universo Marinho, with tours from São Sebastião, and Colonial Diver, from Ilhabela. They charge around US$ 180 (R$ 700) for one session of scuba diving.
In January, other three companies will start their operations and in March, five more. At that stage, boat tours will be departing also from Bertioga and Santos. The list of authorized operators will be available at http://www.icmbio.gov.br/refugiodealcatrazes.
During the 18 months, researchers will assess tourism's impacts on coral reefs and fish behaviors and adjust tours' schedules accordingly.
Translated by NATASHA MADOV