Parque Nacional dos Lençóis Maranhenses
Parque Nacional dos Lençóis MaranhensesThe Lenáóis Maranhenses National Park, which extends along the coast to the estuary of the Rio Preguiça, in the communes of Barreirinhas and Primera Cruz, with an area of 155,000 hectares/383,000 acres, is the only stretch of desert in Brazil.Parque Nacional dos Lençóis MaranhensesThe Lenáóis Maranhenses National Park, which extends along the coast to the estuary of the Rio Preguiça, in the communes of Barreirinhas and Primera Cruz, with an area of 155,000 hectares/383,000 acres, is the only stretch of desert in Brazil.DunesThe snow-white dunes, which from their resemblance to bed-sheets (lenáóis) have given the area its name, extend some 50km/30mi inland. The climate is hot and semi-moist (maximum temperatures around 38°C/100°F, minimum around 16°C/61°F, average annual rainfall 1500-1700mm/59-67in.). Plants grow only near the rivers (Rio Preguiça and Rio Alegre), on sandbanks and mangrove swamps, where dippers and other species of bird occasionally nest. Pakas (a South American species of rodent) and other mammals are only very rarely seen.BeachesThe half empty beaches provide a refuge for turtles. In general the area is inhabited only in winter: that is, during the rainy season. As soon as the dry season begins the fishermen abandon their thatched clay huts on the shore and look for work on the farms in the surrounding area.The park lies 370km/230mi east of São Luís, including 170km/106mi on an unsurfaced road. From Barreirinhas it is possible to go by boat to the fishing villages of Mandacaru and Atins and continue by road to the park. On the 5-hour trip up the Rio Preguiça the boat passes expanses of mangroves and cactus steppe: only towards the end of the journey do creeping plants and huge dunes of the finest sand begin to appear.One of the bases of life in this region is provided by the lakes formed between December and May by the heavy rain. Their water, shimmering in shades of blue, green, yellow or green, contribute to the wild beauty of the area. During the rest of the year the lakes dry up and return to the appearance of bed-sheets, thus becoming part of the morraria, the chain of dunes which under the constant lash of the wind are continually taking on new shapes. Visitors venturing into this terrain need a horse or a donkey, and above all an experienced guide, for here there are no tracks to follow, no water and nothing edible.
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