Dunes and Lagoons at sunset
Located in the State of Maranhão, on the north shore of Brazil, the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park is an area of about 300 square kilometers (155,000 ha) of blinding white dunes and deep blue lagoons, forming one of the most beautiful and unique places in the world.
The dunes invade the continent over 50km (31 miles) from the cost creating a landscape that reminds a white bed sheet, when seen from above. That’s the reason of the name given to the region: “lençóis” in Portuguese means “bed sheets”.
But you may ask: -Lagoons ??? You told me it was a desert…
Yes, what defers this region from a desert is the amount of rain the drops over the dunes, creating ponds of crystal clear water on the depression between dunes. Despite its desert-like appearance, Lençóis Maranhenses records an annual rainfall of 1,600mm (i.e. 62.9 inches), 300 times more than in the Saara.
During the period of drought, the lagoons evaporates and become completely dried. After the rainy season, the lagoons are home of many species of fishes, turtles and clams. The mystery in this story lies in the fact that when the lagoons fill up, life comes back, as if they had never left the place. One of the hypotheses to explain the phenomenon is that the eggs of the fish and crabs are maintained alive in the sand, exploding when rain come back.
The strong heat in the region (over 30ºC) is rewarded by a cooling bath in the crystalline lagoons and the untouched beaches, that occupy about 70km. The most famous lagoon, due to its beauty, is the Blue Lagoon. In the borders of the park we can find big mangroves that are home of crabs, clams and birds. The region is one of the best in Brazil for Bird Watching, where it is possible to admire the “Maçarico”, the “Marreca-de-asa-azul” and the “Trinta-réis”.
The region has little infrastructure for tourism, but Barreirinhas has hotels, hostels, restaurants and handicrafts shops. In the villages it is possible to appreciate the typical food of the region and have contact with its sympathetic people.
The Lençóis Maranheses are certainly a unique place you will never forget.
Even though it is known as the Brazilian Sahara - its 155 thousand hectare extension is larger than t...
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Text by Steve Smith.