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By Patricia Ribeiro, See More About:São Luís Maranhão Brazil national parks
Parque Nacional dos Lençóis Maranhenses, Maranhão (Click nas imagens para ampliá-las)
Sand Dunes and Rain in Lençóis Maranhenses:
Lençóis Maranhenses has been formed over thousands of years, as the sand from riverbeds is deposited at the mouth of the rivers and brought back to the continent by winds and sea currents.
What to Do in Lençóis Maranhenses :
Riding the sand dunes aboard a jeep with experienced guides; going for walks on the dunes - during the said tours; riding a boat on the Preguiças River; flying over the sand dunes on a single engine plane are some of the fun things to do at Lençóis Maranhenses.
However, nothing can compare to taking a dip in one of the park's many rainwater lagoons while a breeze blows.
The sand dunes advance as far as 50 kilometers (about 31 miles) into the continent and stretch along 43 kilometers of coastline, mostly deserted beaches on which sand mixes with mangroves.
Access to the park is controlled by ICMBIO and only certified agencies can take travelers. Which is good: touring the sand dunes with experienced guides is the safe way to go. There are no amenities except in Barreirinhas and in the villages.
Some of the lagoons at Lençóis Maranhenses National Park are huge. They are included in the main tour packages available in the area, with the smaller lagoons as treats you will enjoy on the side. Lagoa Bonita and Lagoa Azul are some of the attractions near Barreirinhas. Lagoa Tropical, also worth a visit, is closer to the village of Atins.
Lagoa da Gaivota (Seagull Lagoon), one of the park's largest and most beautiful lagoons, is near a village called Santo Amaro do Maranhão, located about 60 miles away from Barreirinhas. Local agencies take travelers there by jeep.
Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, in Maranhão State, is one of Brazil's top natural attractions. It is an ecosystem formed of white sand dunes which cover 383,000 acres and look like bedsheets (lençóis in Portuguese) spread out on the northern coast of Brazil.
Fresh water lagoons that fill up with rainwater, mostly during the first six months of the year, make Lençóis Maranhenses a unique kind of ecosystem. Mangroves, deserted beaches, buritis - a graceful kind of palm tree - and the Preguiças River help compose the park's diversity.
House of Sand:
The area around Santo Amaro do Maranhão and Lagoa da Gaivota can be seen in the Brazilian movie Casa de Areia (House of Sand), a 2005 production directed by Andrucha Waddington.
The isolation of Lençóis Maranhenses at the beginning of the twentieth century, when the movie plot starts, is not such a distant reality for the region's communities. The paved road (MA-402) between Lençóis Maranhenses and the capital, São Luís, was only finished in 2002.
To get around Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, contact one of these local agencies (in Barreirinhas):
Ecotrilha - 98-3349-0372
Off-Road Adventure - 98-3349-6000
Tropical Adventure - 98-3349-1151
For flights over the park, call Fênix (98-3349-14-51).
List of local agencies
Where to Stay, What to Eat:
Vote Lençóis Maranhenses, a website devoted to making the park better known and encouraging people to vote for it as one of The New 7 Wonders of Nature, has suggestions for accommodations and restaurants.
A few comfortable hotels and charming inns are available in the area. Expect to find great fresh seafood at local restaurants.
How to Get to São Luís:
Although several European countries have long had charter flights to São Luís, travelers from North America need to connect from other Brazilian cities. TAM, for example, has direct flights to São Luís from Belém (1 hour).
Weather in Lençóis Maranhenses :
Always assume it will be hot in Lençóis Maranhenses. Temperatures often reach the high 90s, even during the Brazilian winter (June-September). Protect yourself with sunblock and a hat while visiting.
The park is about 252 kilometers (156 miles) from São Luís, the state capital.
The wind is a major cooling factor in Lençóis Maranhenses, and so are the park's lagoons.