the brazilian sahara

The winds that build up the dunes also help posing for picsBrazil is full of surprises, beyond the memes of beach, jungle, and soccer.

One of the country’s greater natural wonders (among many) is the Sheets of Maranhão, in the far northern state of the same name.

The national park encompasses one of the world’s rarest and most perplexing ecosystems. The name “stems from the billowy appearance of over 1,500 square kilometers of endless white dunes that end in the sea. Known as the Brazilian Sahara, it is a huge ‘desert’ that is teeming with life, for it is full of fresh water.”

Product of a unique combination of forces, from sedimentary river flows, waves, and winds, the dunes are raised with fine quartz sand that, after being washed to sea by various rivers, is churned up by the waves and blown back inland by constant on-shore winds. [p. 188, To Bélem & Back]

While the park was without any sort of infrastructure at the time and not officially open to tourists, the local guides and tour companies have come to an understanding with Ibama (the then equivalent to the National Park Service) on where and what can be done.  [please hover over images for captions]

The hand made welcome sign to the park was appropriate:

Welcome to the Paradise of Lençóis!
To Preserve is to Live!
In this Sanctuary of Life we feel God’s Embrace!

About Ben

Ben Batchelder has traveled some of the world's most remote roads. Nothing in his background, from a degree in Visual & Environmental Studies at Harvard to an MBA from Wharton, adequately prepared him for the experiences. Yet he persists, for through such journeys life unfolds. Having published four books that map the inner and exterior geographies of meaningful travel, he is a mountain man in Minas Gerais, Brazil who comes down to the sea at Miami Beach, Florida. His second travel yarn, To Belém & Back, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. For more, visit

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