!!!Lencois Maranhenses National Park

by [Stas Sedov|http://rccam.livejournal.com] and
[Dmitry Moiseenko|https://www.facebook.com/dmitry.moiseenko]
members of the [AirPano Team|Geography/About/Consortium/AirPano,_Team] that is a member of the [global-geography Consortium|Geography/About/Consortium]. \\

8 August 2014

with kind permission of [AirPano|http://www.AirPano.com]

Lençóis Desert is the farthest place that we have traveled from the
Airpano.com hometown during our photo expeditions. The images that we
took were "shelved" for almost 2 years, and now the time has come to
publish them. It is an interesting and, in its own way, unique place.

The Lençóis Desert is located on the equatorial part of Brazil. Due to
the high amount of rainfall per season, freshwater lagoons cover the
desert. Let me show you the photograph of our photo crew (Dima
Moiseenko, our guide, and myself) from up above to give you an idea of
the size of the sand dunes.

The Lençóis Desert is a national park where all motorized transportation
is prohibited. Drivers pick tourists up from the nearest settlement
(about 30 kilometers away) and drive them along a very difficult road
that goes through a thick bush, fording small rivers along the way. The
Toyota Land Cruiser is the king of these roads — one can hardly find a
car of any other brand here.

[{Image src='01_Lencois Maranhenses National Park.jpg' caption='Lencois Maranhenses National Park, Brazil' alt='' width='900' popup='false' height='455'}]

The tourists get off at the edge of the desert. Local guides recommend
that visitors take off their shoes and walk barefoot in the sand. The
sand is very fine and well pressed, so it is a pleasure to walk on!
There are practically no thorns, rocks, or poisonous creatures in the
Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, so the risk of hurting your feet is
close to none.

The guides usually take tourists along the trodden path at the very edge
of the desert, but it was not suitable for our photo shoot: strong winds
are rare here; footprints remain on the sand for a long time, and so the
nearest dunes were rather trampled. I believe that this is the main
reason why they don't allow cars in the desert.

[{Image src='02_Lencois Maranhenses National Park.jpg' caption='Lencois Maranhenses National Park, Brazil' alt='' width='900' popup='false' height='621'}]

We asked our guide to take us further away from the trodden path. We
took a few shots on the way and then got caught under a heavy tropical
rainfall, which soaked us completely in just a minute. Our clothes dried
just as fast. However, our equipment didn't recover that well: the
helicopter's engine refused to start. We had no way to fix it as all our
tools were left in the hotel room over an hour drive away. Yes, we were
still inexperienced at that time, and so we found ourselves in tight
spots such as this on a regular basis. Therefore, we had to bite off the
insulation cover on the malfunctioning engine controller, clean it with
a lens dust blower and dry it in the sun, and — bingo! The helicopter
came back to life.

[{Image src='03_Lencois Maranhenses National Park.jpg' caption='Lencois Maranhenses National Park, Brazil' alt='' width='900' popup='false' height='600'}]

In the evening Dima and I went to photograph the desert without our
guide. There were no landmarks or pointers, so we measured the distance
depending on our walking time. We told our guides that we would return
when it was dark because we wanted to shoot the sunset. We found a spot
suitable for the shooting within about an hour and a half of hiking. I
got an impression that the edges of the desert were still not very far
away, as the scale of the dunes are not obvious without something to
compare it to.

While waiting for the evening light, we swam in the lagoons: the water
was sweet, clear, and warm and not a soul was around for kilometers.
What bliss! Finally, the sun started its rapid descent into the horizon.

[{Image src='04_Kencois Maranhenses National Park.jpg' caption='Lencois Maranhenses National Park, Brazil' alt='' width='900' popup='false' height='900'}]

Darkness fell immediately after the sunset. To be honest, I was quite
nervous, because Dima's iPhone (with our recorded trek) was the only
navigation system at our disposal. We knew through our own experience in
the Naska desert in Peru how easy it is to get lost even with a recorded
trek in hand.

We lost our footprints very quickly and followed the general direction
as we made our way back. Our guides did well: in about a half an hour
after the sunset, they brought their car up on a dune and turned on the
headlights. It worked like a beacon, making our navigation much easier,
and so in about an hour we were on our way back to the hotel, exchanging
our thoughts and memories of the day.

Will I be able to return to this place once again? I don't know, but I
would surely take a future opportunity to do so!

The Lençóis Maranhenses National Park (Parque Nacional dos Lençóis
Maranhenses), one of the main natural landmarks of the country, is
located in northeastern Brazil. This is not a conventional park —
despite abundant rain, there is almost no vegetation. A flat surface
occupying about 1,500 square kilometers is covered with large sand dunes
reaching up to 40 meters in height. The local people call the Lençóis
Desert "a white bed sheet": the sand made of shiny white quartz, and the
landscape formed from the winds blowing from the Atlantic Ocean can be
compared to an unmade bed.

[{Image src='05_Lencois Maranhenses National Park.jpg' caption='Lencois Maranhenses National Park, Brazil' alt='' width='900' popup='false' height='384'}]

During the rainy season (which peaks between July and September)
rainwater collects between the dunes, creating lagoons with an amazing
variety of colors: all shades of blue, turquoise, and green.

Despite the fact that lagoons completely disappear during the dry
season, every year there is fish in some of the water basins. There is
no clear explanation to this. Perhaps, birds bring fish roe from the
sea. One of the species of fish, the wolf fish (Hoplias malabaricus),
stays dormant in the wet areas of the dunes even after the lagoons dry
out. It may sound absurd, but there are so many fish in the Lençóis
Desert that fishing is the main occupation for local people!

[{Image src='06_Lencois Maranhenses National Park.jpg' caption='Lencois Maranhenses National Park, Brazil' alt='' width='900' popup='false' height='621'}]

The sand formations and lagoons of the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park
are a rare geological phenomenon that have been in the making for
thousands of years. Because of the unique nature of the park's dunes,
the desert can only be approached by foot, and only the aerial view will
give you the most complete picture of this unusual landscape that
resembles huge snowdrifts. You will have the opportunity to do so
through our panoramas.

\\ \\
[12 Panoramas of Lencois Maranhenses National Park|Geography/America/Brazil/Pictures/Panoramas_of_Lencois_Maranhenses_National_Park]










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