Lençóis Maranhenses at Sunset
Even though it is known as the Brazilian Sahara - its 155 thousand hectare extension is larger than the city of Sao Paulo -, the Lencois Marahenses National Park is not exactly a desert, yet it has a landscape with those typical characteristics.
It rains three times more in here than at the African desert. The rainy season, from November to June, is so intense that gives birth to enormous temporary lagoons of crystalline fresh waters.
Nevertheless, these lagoons are populated by fishes that later will be good to feed the migrating birds coming from the North Pole, such as the Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) and the Treinta y tres.
Meadows of white and golden sands, constantly shifting their shape according to the creative mood and whim of the winds, extend around these oasis as far as can meet the eye. Along 90 kilometres of littoral, beautiful, extended and deserted beaches get linked.
This marvellous ecological system is located in the State of Maranhao, in the north-eastern part of Brazil.
Another particularity that makes this a unique zone in Brazil is the level of its subterranean waters. The waters underneath the earth are so close to the surface that word goes that a two metre pipe is enough to make this vital liquid outpour with an impetuous spout.
Some families usually migrate to the savannahs of Marahenses during the rainy season, and build makeshift huts on top of the meadows in order to make use of the fishing resources in the temporary lagoons. They abandon Lencois during the dry season to make a living out of farming by the riverbanks
Tourists arriving to this part of Brazil will see white meadows everywhere in the horizon like cloths drying up under the sunrays. They are conformed by fine and light grains of quartz. Some resemble mountains up to 40 metres high and they sometimes cluster along 50 metres of beaches and inland deserts as well.
The lagoons, whose surfaces undulate with the strong trade winds, have colorations ranging from blue-turquoise to green-emerald, under a sky sometimes blue, sometimes packed with clouds.
The vegetation is limited to a relatively small area where mangroves can be seen nourishing at the damps and marshes close to the main or secondary river courses and at zones adjacent to the ocean as well.
The red mangrove can reach up to 12 metre heights. Other known species are the white mangrove and the so called Siriúba mangrove.
Diverse migratory birds nest close to the seashore such as the blue winged Cassin's auklet (Ptychor amphus aleuticus australis) coming from territories within the United States between February and April. The woodcutter deer, the Southern Spectacle Caiman (Caiman jacare) and the Paca (Agouti paca) stand out at the mangrove stands.
The weather shows an average temperature of over 18° C though it can climb up to 40° C during the day. There are only the rainy and the dry seasons in here.
There are no roads leading to this place, therefore the use of a sports utility vehicle is recommendable. The most common accesses are through Barreirinhas, Bella Balsa and Atins, or through Sucuriju in the westernmost part.
Blue Lagoon - Of transparent waters and down to 3 metre depths, the lagoon is located in the limits of the park. You have to take a 30 minute drive coming from Barreirinhas to get there.
Boa Esperanca Lagoon - Ideal for refreshing bathes and canoe rides. It holds water during the rainy season only. You have to drive for about 40 minutes from the centre of the park.
Bonita Lagoon - It is a beautiful natural pool that keeps its waters perennially. It is located in the border of the park, along the tracks leading to the Blue Lagoon. It is one of the most sought after.
Santo Amaro Lagoon - It is the biggest in Lencois and it is a great mirror of perennial waters.
Baja Grande - It is a small village much afar from other small villages. The families living there still keep old rudimentary habits. It is in the middle of the park and access is difficult.
Village of Sucuriju - Another small village located close to the southern border of the park. A sports utility vehicle is required.
Quemada de los Britos - An oasis situated on an ocean of meadows, at the edge of the Rio Negro River. It is located at approx 4 hours from Sucuriju. Access is with a four wheel drive vehicle only.
How to get there
By plane - There are regular flights from Sao Luis to Barreirinhas with single engine planes. The flight takes about one hour approx.
By road - Coming from Sao Luis, capital of the state, you have to take the BR-135 road and drive up to Rosario; then take another road up to Montes. It is a 162 kilometre drive from here to Barreirinhas. Lastly, you have to take a raft to go across the Perezas River.
http://www.pbase.com/marciocabral/maranhao Located in the State of Maranhão, on the north shore of Br...
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Text by Steve Smith.