The National Park of Lençóis Maranhenses is located in the Northeast of Brazil, in the state of Maranhão. The landscape resembles a desert, with dunes up to 40 meters high and beautiful green and blue lagoons making up an incredible scenery. The Lençóis Maranhenses National Park which was established in 1981 aiming to protect and study this ecological system. It has become, however, a major tourist attraction.
The Park holds a total area of 1,550sq.km. (i.e. 382,850 acres). There is dune after dune, all carved by the high wind caused by the coming and going of the tides. Notwithstanding its desert-like appearence, Lençóis Maranhenses records an annual rainfall of 1600mm (i.e. 62.9 inches). All that water comes down during the well marked rainy season, from January to June.
From July to December, it is time for the dry period, when dozens of ponds drain completely or partially. The miracle in that story lies in the fact that when the ponds fill up again, life comes back. Fishes, crustaceans and turtles reappear as if they had never left the place. For a visit, the best time of the year stretches from May to October, when the natural pools are formed.
The beauty of the place is not only in the ponds. The dunes, which sometimes reach up to 20mts or 65 feet, consist of a very white sand. The landscape is in permanent change, and thus no one has the privilege to see the same sight twice.
Besides its "desert", Lençóis has also its mangroves, rivers (where the local, specially adapted boats named "voadeiras" navigate), beaches and, of course, its "natives". The natives are fishermen who raise their little flocks of cattle to help themselves get by during the dry season, giving the landscape a desert-like/rural flavour.
The Park is located on the coast in the State of Maranhão, between Barreirinhas and Primeira Cruz counties. To get there the visitor may choose travelling by bus or by car for a 10 hour trip, or with a charter flight from São Luís (the capital city of that State), towards Barreirinhas. The touristic spot has little structure, but Barreirinhas has hotels, hostels, restaurants and handicrafts shops. At the mouth of the Preguiças river (which flows accross the Lençóis area) lies the small village of Caburé, that also has guesthouses and restaurants. In the villages it is possible to appreciate the typical food of the region, to go birdwatching late in the afternoon and to take another boat to continue the trip: a trip with a lot of sand, beautiful sceneries, wind against the face, great food and sympathetic people.