>>>The oases of the American Sahara

The oases of the American Sahara

It’s not every day that we find water in the desert. The Lençóis Maranhenses National Park is full of lakes during the months of May and October.
T
he sight of lagoons in the desert is not a mirage. Between May and October, thousands of freshwater lakes flood the white sands of the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, in the Brazilian state of Maranhão. Lençois means “sheet” and that is precisely what the 300 square kilometres of this park look like when you look down on it from above: a gigantic white sheet, marked by the wrinkles made by the dunes. Despite being almost next to the largest tropical jungle in the world, the feeling is that of being in the middle of the Sahara. However, here it rains a lot. Between January and May 1,600 litres of rainwater fall per square metre, 300 times more than in the Sahara.
The Blue Lagoon is the most well-known Lagoon in the park

Don’t be fooled

The abundance of freshwater may make you forget you are in the desert. It’s important to keep yourself hydrated. Don’t forget your water bottle or your sun cream, because once you’re inside the park there won’t be any shops for miles around.

The entrance to this unique Eden is the town of Barreirinhas. As a visit without a guide is not recommended, you can book excursions in all-terrain vehicles there. Before submerging yourself in the sea of dunes and water, you need to cross Preguiças River in a ‘voadeira’, a traditional boat of the fishing villages in the area.
The first stop on the way is the Blue Lagoon, one of the most famous in the park, both because of its size and because of its crystal-clear water. A dip is almost obligatory, provided that you’re not frightened of animals. During the rainy season the lakes that are formed become full of fish, crustaceans and turtles as if by magic. The miracle is repeated in the Fish Lagoon, Esperança Lagoon and Bonita Lagoon. The lagoons evaporate in the dry season and the marine creatures disappear without trace.
Fish and crustaceans appear along with the lakes
T photography / Shutterstock.com
It’s likely that they come from the sea. The national park has a coastline of 70 kilometres. Ponta do Mangue, Moitas, Morro do Boi and Barra do Tatu are some of its beaches. The most outstanding is Caburé beach. It’s nothing more than a narrow line of sand that separates the Atlantic from Preguiças River. There are just a handful of ‘pousada’ guesthouses and some fishing huts.
Huts in Santo Amaro do Maranhão, another nearby village
Gianluca Figliola Fantini
There are no shops and the electricity supply is limited. Another place where you can switch off from civilisation is the city of Atins, which is very close to the sea and to the mouth of the river. There is hardly any signal for mobile telephones, the streets are made of sand and most of the houses are made of straw. As relaxation is not at odds with activities, you can practice kite surfing, windsurfing and other aquatic sports. All of this makes Lençóis Maranhenses the wettest desert on Earth.

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