It had always been advertised as the jewel in the crown of north-eastern Brazil and the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park
did not disappoint. The adventure began the minute we boarded the open safari-style jeep in the small town of Barreirinhas. We whizzed through the streets of Barreirinhas towards the national park which is located about two kilometres away, across the Preguicas River.
We arrived on the banks of the river and got out of the jeep - it was driven on to a small boat to make the crossing. On the other side, I almost instantly regretted the generous portion of delicious Brazilian food I had for lunch as the rest of the journey was quite bumpy! With one hand on my hat and the other on the seat in front we made our way along an ever sandier unpaved track.
The bouncy journey soon became a distant memory as, like all of those who travel the distance, we were greeted at the end of it by one of the world’s most striking natural wonders; blankets of white sand draped as far as the eye can see.
The sheer size of this desert can only be appreciated from the air: covering an area of 1500km², it soon turns humans and even the jeeps into microscopic specs. The light wind filled in our footprints so it felt as if we were the first people to explore the dunes. I felt tiny in the sprawling expanse of sandy bed sheets that cloaked the horizon.
Crystalline water filled the folds in the dunes - it was the perfect place for a dip to cool off from the hot dunes and to really appreciate the breathtaking beauty of the place. There were small fish in the lagoons even though they’re constantly changing and sometimes even drying up, their shapes and sizes entirely dictated by the weather.
Every visitor will have a different experience depending on the time of year and even the time of day. Bear in mind that the best time of year to go to the national park is from July to September as the heat is less intense the lagoons are likely to be fuller as it is straight after the rainy season. Whenever you visit the park, bringing bottled water, sun cream and your swimming costume is essential!
In summary, I cannot recommend the afternoon excursion
highly enough. Sitting on top of a dune, watching the sun melting down over another is an image that will stay with me forever. My last tip would be: if you choose to go on the afternoon excursion, you will leave Barreirinhas between two or three pm so refrain from eating too much mouth-watering Brazilian food at lunch!