Lençóis Maranhenses Dunes – Santo Amaro do Maranhão, Brazil - Atlas Obscura

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Lençóis Maranhenses Dunes

Santo Amaro do Maranhão, Brazil

A faux desert landscape in the middle of the jungle that sprouts oases during the rainy season. 


The Lençóis Maranhenses Dunes look like the unspoiled, white sand undulations of any archetypical desert, save for the deep, blue pools of water collecting between the hills.

Located on the edge of the Preguiças River in Brazil, the seeming desert region is just adjacent to the tropical Amazon Basin which is generally lush, wet, and green. This being the case, the Lençóis Maranhenses dunes are subject to the nearby area’s torrential rainy seasons. Between the months of July and September, the depressions between the dunes fill with rainwater creating pools ranging from small ponds to deep lakes. Like any real desert, the 1,500 square kilometer area supports little plant life despite the rain, but the transient bodies of water amazingly populate with marine life each year as migratory birds accidentally deposit fish eggs in the waters. Most of the underwater life dies off when the pools evaporate during the dry season, but the local human population is able to maintain a healthy fishing trade nonetheless.

The Lençóis Maranhenses Dunes are recognized as a national park and are closely protected, not allowing vehicles within the recognized borders of the park, but it’s just as well since breaking down in the desert is bad enough without having to worry about drowning.

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