Lençóis Maranhenses National Park (Portuguese: Parque Nacional dos Lençóis Maranhenses) is a national park in the Maranhão state of northeastern Brazil, just east of the Baía de São José. It is an area of low, flat and often flooded land overlaid with large pristine white sand dunes. .
It covers roughly 1,500 square klometers or 580 square miles. Even with abundant rainfall while supporting almost no vegetation, this area became a National Park in Brazil on June 2nd, 1981.
Composed of brilliant white sand dunes, at first glance the Lençóis Maranhenses looks like a typical desert, but in fact it is no desert at all. Situated just outside the Amazon Basin, this area is subject to a consistent rainy season during the beginning of the year.
But these rains cause an interesting phenomenon - the rain water collects in the low areas between sand dunes and is prevented from seeping down by a layer of impermeable rock which lies just underneath the sand. Varying shades of blue, green and black 'lagoons' result and are surrounded by the desert-like white sand - reaching their fullest between July and September.
These lagoons have large numbers of fish that arrive when the lagoons are at their fullest after July, when they are interconnected to rivers such as the Rio Negro. One species of fish, the wolf fish or tiger fish stays dormant in the mud and moist areas after the majority of the water has evaporated only to re-emerge during the next rainy season.
According to local folklore, the region was inhabited by Caeté Indians, who woke up one day to find their homes covered by sand.
The national park status serves only as a way of protecting the ecology of the area; consequently many people do reside in the park, as is also the case with nearby Jericoacoara. These inhabitants work primarily as fishermen during the rainy season, but during the dry season, many leave for neighboring areas to work small parcels of land.
Situated on the northeastern coast of the state of Maranhão by the banks of the Preguiças River, the park contains the towns of Humberto de Campos, Primeira Cruz, Santo Amaro do Maranhão and Barreirinhas, the latter serving as the main jumping off point into the park.
There are several regular bus/truck routes between Barreirinhas and São Luís, Brazil the capital of Maranhão, a distance of about 260 kilometers or 160 miles. There is also air taxi service from São Luís to Barreirinhas. The Rio Preguiças River connects the park to Atins, a small town at the southern edge of the park.
The National Park is quite extensive and has no direct access roads. Because of the nature of the park's protected status, the majority of vehicles are not permitted access and entrance to the park is made exclusively by 4-wheel drive vehicles.
Caburé is a beautiful retreat where visitors can bathe in the sea and take the salt off of their body in fresh water. There are chalets and good food available there. Mandacaru is a fishing village where the main attraction is the lighthouse from the Navy which is 54 meters high with 160 steps to the top, from where you have an excellent panoramic view of the region.
Aside from the dozens of lakes at Maranhenses there are also small ponds with water throughout the year to bathe and cool the body, but the water of the lakes is due to the rain, so making the end of the rainy season in July the best suited time of year to see the beauty of Maranhao sheets in their entirety. The best-known lakes are called Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Bonita, famous for its charm and swimming conditions.
Some of the beaches are Barra do Tatu, Thickets, Ox Hill, Ponta do Mangue and Broomsticks in Barreirinhas. To get to know them, you arrive by boat departing from Barreirinhas.
Atins is a small fishing village that lies between the Atlantic Ocean and the mouth of the River Preguiças. It is a town that preserves a more harmonious connection with the environment, where daily life remains integrated with the ecosystem. It's a great place for those seeking a natural location to enjoy peace and tranquility. Modern technology such as the internet, telephone and electricity that are so common in our day-to-day contemporary lives, are still extremely deficient in Atins.
Floating down the River Formiga on the River Ant, which is located in the village of Cardosa is a very relaxing ride and descent down river taking about an hour. It is a great choice for a more relaxing time, especially at the end of a day trip, when you've already made strenuous hikes through the dunes.
Every morning Jeep Tours depart for Lençóis Maranhenses in 4 x 4's full of tourists going to the Blue Lagoons.
To reach the National Park, you need to cross the Laziness River. The 4x4 will take you across the river or go by hand on a primitive raft which is driven by human power or by motor.
On the other side of the river along a dirt trail - with sand and streams full of real adventure for about one hour. Arriving on the scene, all will leave the car and the rest will have to be done on foot, as there is a high dune to climb. But at the top you enjoy the the reward: you will have reached the sky. The feeling is that you have died and gone to heaven.
The scene is dominated by sand dunes and freshwater ponds. Large sand formations reach up to 40 meters high and are generated by the wind that constantly blows inland from the sea. The inland advance reaches 50 kilometers and stretches for about 70 kilometers of deserted beaches.
You will find incredibly beautiful vistas, great scenery and ice-cold water when compared with the high temperature environment. We recommend to take plenty of sunscreen so that sunburns do not ruin the rest of the trip. Take along some light snacks and a camera because you will want to have those images forever.
You can also go walking on the Laziness River. Small boats are for rent in the city of Barreirinhas in order to take a lazy stroll on the river and visit the beach Caburé. There are several inns and restaurants with delicious regional foods.
Another choice is down the Sloths River, which borders the Lençóis Maranhenses Park before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean. The trip may be in line boat, charter boat or flying boats. Along the way, the stops are required to take advantage of everything the place has to offer - dunes, lakes and breathtaking landscapes. Great ride attractions are the communities of Atins and Mandacaru - especially, in the latter, to the lighthouse from where you have an unparalleled view of the park.
Never go to the National Park to its lakes and the beach Caburé without a guide. As everything is old and it is dangerous to walk alone. The guides accompany the 4x4 trips and the speedboat.
The National Park is located in the state of Maranhão, encompassing the municipalities of Barreirinhas, Humberto de Campos and Primeira Cruz.
Access is done by land by BR 135, by sea by entering the channel of the Sloths River in Atins and through river from Barreirinhas to the Sloths River.
By land from São Luís, the state capital, it is 58 kilometers to Rosario, and from there another 22 kilometers until Morros and 162 kilometers to Barreirinhas, crossing the turnoff to Humberto de Campos.
By waterway, is entered through the same Preguiças from Barreirinhas, where you can reach Atins, where there is an administrative headquarters.
The headquarters of the Park is 2 kilometers from Barreirinhas, across the Rio Sloths, where it is crossed by ferry. There are tours from Barreirinhas, using appropriate vehicles through which it reaches the dunes and freshwater ponds.
There are three alternatives to arrive from São Luís.
Chartered car or van: From São Luís, capital of Maranhão, it runs for 3 hours on a new road, Translitornea - MA402, to a town in the interior of Maranhão, called Barreirinhas (main park entrance gate).
Bus: Buses depart daily from the Bus Terminal of São Luís The length of the route is on average about 4 hours.
Airplane: There is also the option of air taxi from São Luís The length of the route is on average 50 minutes, but the advantage of this means of transport is ability to enjoy the beautiful aerial views of the sheets.
For those who have sensitive or very light skin, one extra caution is necessary, after all, in the dunes, there are no shadows and does not like you to hide in the sun. It is recommended that you replace the sunscreen often, as recommended by the product manufacturers.
Take the opportunity to know the city of São Luís, capital of Maranhão, among its main attractions is the historic center, with its colonial buildings and architectures.
Worth doing a gastronomic tourism, as in São Luís, you can find great restaurants with regional food that is simply wonderful! An example of this is the Cabana do Sol.
Lençóis Maranhenses, in Portuguese, literally means 'bedsheets of Maranhão' - the northeastern coastal state where the national park is found.
Two rivers run through the Lençóis Maranhenses. These rivers push sand from the interior of the continent to the Atlantic Ocean, depositing thousands of tons of sediment along Brazil's northern coast. This alone isn't such a unique phenomenon as sediment flowing through rivers helps form beaches along many coastlines. But in Lençóis Maranhenses, the sand doesn't stay put. During the dry season, especially during the months of October and November, powerful winds from the equatorial Atlantic whip the sand back inland, carrying it as far as 30 miles and creating the vast, sculpted sand dunes for which the park is famous.
At first glance, it looks like a picture-perfect desert with miles and miles of sand with almost no vegetation. Lençóis Maranhenses gets about 47 inches of rain each year, making it too rainy to be officially considered a desert (which get less than ten inches a year). From the months of January to June, the area is inundated with torrential rainstorms. Rainwater pools in the valleys between the dunes creating thousands of crystal clear lagoons. In July, when the park's lagoons are at their peak, some reach over 300 feet long and ten feet deep. And although these lagoons exist for only a few months a year, they are not devoid of life. Interconnected lagoons link up with neighboring rivers creating channels for fish to enter the temporary pools.
But the water world of Lençóis Maranhenses is an ephemeral one: once the dry season returns, the equatorial sun heats the region quickly, causing water levels to drop by as much as three feet in a single month. The best time to visit the lagoons is between July and September when they are at their most full and temperatures aren't too hot. By October, the region's winds begin to pick up, making a trek through the sandy landscape less enjoyable.
To visit Lençóis Maranhenses, it's best to fly into São Luís, the capital of Maranhão. From there, visitors can book tours or take public transportation to the town of Barreirinhas which is located just outside the national park. From Barreirinhas, visitors are taken to the park via Jeeps, which can handle the bumpy terrain (though even the Jeeps have to be carted across a river via barge before they can reach the actual park). Once inside the park, visitors can explore the dunes and lagoons, but be sure to go with a guide, as the park is vast and visitors wandering alone can easily get lost. The park's website recommends a minimum of two days to explore the biggest lagoons in the park (Azul and Bonita). Visitors can swim in the lagoons if the water level is high enough. Water temperatures in some lagoons have been measured as high as 87 F.
La Ferme Pousada de Georges covers several acres midway between the sea and the river, at the very edge of the natural park of Lençóis Maranhenses.
We have created a bubble away from the bustle of the small village center. On one side there are seven architecturally designed houses that can accommodate up to four guests, even five in the Park Chalet. On the other side are the gardens and restaurant which serves homegrown organic fruits and vegetables, completely free from pesticides and fertilizers.
Most fruits and vegetables we offer you in the restaurant come from the farm pousada. Annually, we produce 400 kilos of rice but also melons, watermelons, zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, chillies, peppers, salads (wide variety), potato, passion fruit, mangoes, lemons, limes, cashew, papaya, acerola, and more.
In the evening, we gather in the forum for a Caipirinha or a fresh pressed juice from the gardens to prepare the next dayâ€™s activities, expeditions and kite surfing lessons.
Biosfera Brasil works together with some of the best ecological operators in Brazil, who are responsible for managing all activities related to travel arrangements.
This structure allows us to remain focused on our main tasks: to design special products for a foreign travelers, escorting groups with the best service and giving the best support for international travel agencies.
Our different programs have one thing in common: you will always travel supervised by a well trained staff and will find the convenience of the best selection of hotels available. In each destination, we work with the best naturalist guides in the region, focusing on environmental awareness, nature interpretation and conservation of wildlife. Mindful of the impact of human visitation on wildlife habitats, we recognize the positive impact, environmentally speaking, that the money from tourism creates sustainable economic alternatives for the exploitation of natural resources. Biosfera Brasilia´s programs stimulate the traveler with a desire to preserve the environmental integrity and kindle in local communities a pride in safeguarding their natural and cultural heritage.
Biosfera Brasil offers the best services for travelers who want to visit Brazilian ecological reserves. Our goal is to stimulate an interest in develop an understanding of, and create a method to appreciate, the great natural wonders of our country. Our programs are primarily designed to provide all comfort and facilities, so that travelers may focus only on the exploration of natural beauty as well as reach the local communities to learn and understand their cultures.
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