It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superman! I mean, it’s a sand dune, it’s a lagoon, it’s both! And while this place was used in the hit movie franchise Avengers to depict the fictional planet of Vormir, this wonder is on our mother Earth itself.
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Human beings are creatures who visualize. We think of a desert in a certain barren sandy way, we assume a lagoon to look a particular kind. And then there comes nature, winking at you and me to say, wait a minute, let me change these ideas you so dearly hold.
Meet Lencois Maranhenses, here to riddle your mind with one idea or two. It is a national park in Brazil spread over 1,550 sq. km. within which 70 kms area comprises of just the coastline. Almost the entire park is laden with sand dunes which touch a height of 47 metres, yesss, the dunes go 130 feet high. A bird’s eye view of this park, explains its name which means “the bed sheets of Maranhao” because when seen from up above they look like white linen sheets which stretch as far as one can see.
Lencois presents not one but multiple strange facts. It has no vegetation, in consistency with a desert. But contrary to a desert it annually witnesses large amounts of precipitation which end up filling the lagoons with water. Though the dry season evaporates some of the water, it never fully disappears leading to each lagoon even having its own name, for instance, Lagoa Bonita and Lagoa Azul. But you know what? It isn’t just humans who visit this place. Fishes are actually found within these lagoons. So much so that the area is actually used for fishing trade too. Migratory birds accidentally brought and continue to bring them here. Also, when the lagoons are full, they end up connecting to the nearby river, Rio Negro, thus, drawing in more fish.
And if you’re wondering how these fishies survive when the water evaporates and reaches dangerously low, unfortunately some die but you should know that some even dig themselves into the mud at the bottom and wait to resurface with the next monsoon. This is done by the tiger fish or wolf fish in true spirit of the animals it is named after. ? Fishes found in a region rich with sand dunes. Now that’s something I never fathomed!
The reality is that below the sand there lies impermeable rocks. So, when the rainfalls come, water collects between the sheets of dunes and does not seep in further. In close proximity to the Amazon region of Brazil, this region does see a considerable amount of rainfall. And no, it is NOT really a desert. Gotcha!
While the formation occurred as a natural process thousands of years ago, local legends of course have their own theories. They believe that a tribe used to live here of American Indian origin. However, one night as they slept, they all got covered with sand and then overtime appeared the wonder as known to the world today.
Eerie as that may sound, it just can’t take away from the park’s beauty which even gets magnified with the occasional mangroves and palm trees.
While you can rent a bike or a jeep to make your way around the park, adventurers even have the option of trying sandboarding. After snowy hills, make your way whooshing past on a board as you ride the sand dunes. Or if astounded by the landscape, you’re feeling as if you walked into a music video set, you can even ride a horse here!
If you think about it, these lagoons actually make for multiple beaches in the closest proximity possible. Feel like beach hopping? Take a dip in the blue green waters, soak not just yourself but this incredible view around you and make sure to catch the sunset because that’s just the cherry on top with which a visit to a place this unique would be complete.
A mystery, an other-worldly comparison, a one of a kind phenomena; all this while in the very place we live in but oh well, what are bucket lists for?!
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