My Secret Dune Island

The world isn’t as unexplored as it once was and sometimes, as amazing as all the places are, it feels like you’re just following the book to the next tourist destination with no discovery in the process.

It was a half-listened to conversation between the people sitting next to me at a beach outside of São Luís and another with a man I suspected was drunk that initiated the journey to this secret island.  There are plenty of famous Brazilian islands (ummm… Fernando da Naronha anyone), but no one seemed to ever have heard of this island.  I didn’t have a name for, just an interesting snippet of the local demographics.


I’ve spent so much time in Brazil and done a good number of the obvious tourist destinations, that I’m having to dig deeper.   Eaves-dropping on a Portuguese conversation and a connect from a knowledgeable friend, however, led me to what was practically the end of the world.

After a tiresome hitchhiking journey undertaken in the midst of the rainy season in the Northeast, I ended up in a tiny fishing village on the coast.  Supposedly there were ‘regular’ boats out to the island.  Yes, there were daily trips, though I wouldn’t call them regular by any means.  They were just fishing boats leaving at whatever hour they pleased, which I soon discovered after walking along the docks and talking to people (and calling a lot of attention to myself — as blue eyes/blonde hair was even more unheard of than usual here).


On a cloudy morning I left the dock as a passenger of a rickety fishing boat, accompanied by several locals.  We drifted through the delta where neon red birds could be spotted flying by, past the fisherman and their stilt-legged houses.  The low tide forced us to stop and wait an hour for it to rise before continuing.   Two or three hours of sailing and the sun started clearing, giving a green shimmer to the water, and the island appeared in the distance.


lençóis, cururupu, brazilian islandThe brilliantly white slopes of sand rose up, hemmed by mangrove forests and empty beaches with tiny huts.   Around the corner a cluster of houses appeared amongst the beachfront palm trees and we pulled into the shallow waters where some thirty or so fishing boats were scattered.

lençóis, cururupu, brazilian island, Maranhãocururupu, lençois, ilha, brazilian islandA vast cry from the rainy and mucky fishing village I had left, the island was dazzling in the afternoon sunlight.  There were accommodations, though it didn’t seem like very many people ever rolled through.  Aside from the locals, the whole island was mine…

dogs hiding on sand dunesand dunes, maranhão, cururupu, brazilian islandcururupu, Brazilian islandI wandered the dunes, a miniature version of the trek through Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, that required contracting no guide.  Tiny lakes had formed here as well and vast stretches of abandoned beaches expanded before me.

cururupu, lençóis

children by boat goat, cururupuLittle goats ran in trains along the waterfront as I walked across the main beach.  From the top of the dunes, I could see every which way, surrounded by glittering water.   Every time the tide went down, the muddy beach turned into a feeding ground for thousands of tiny crabs, dancing with their claws held high and ducking for cover, in unison, if they caught any movement.

crabsMy interactions with the island’s residents were interesting, both rewarding and, at times, depressing.  No one really seemed to know how many people lived there, though I guessed it might be around 100, and essentials like health and education were a far cry not just from 1st world medicine, but also most of the Brazil I already know.  They were all very friendly, of course, and terribly interested in why I was there.  I was happy to oblige them with the information; it was a hint about the demographics that had brought me here in the first place (not saying btw).  As soon as I heard about it, doing a longterm project came to mind and this was the scouting mission.

cururupu, lençóisHeading up to the top of the dunes to catch the sunset, another local kept me company, a giant iguana.  He reluctantly posed for me during a brilliant sunset after I discovered him roaming the dunes.  I believe it’s the first one I’ve seen that was really in the wild.

iguana, sand dunes, cururupu, maranhão, brazilian islandiguana, cururupu, maranhão, lençóis

cururupu, lençóisI spent three days there.  If I’d known there was no grocery store, I would have better prepared myself and stayed longer.  Almost everything about this island was perfect and hardly anyone knew about it.  So if you want to go visit, ask me for the details, because this is one secret island I’m not ready to divulge the whereabouts of as of yet;)

cururupu, lençóis

Also, I was obliged to end my trip early cause my brother gone up and decided to get hitched.  So I’m heading back to the USA in 10 days… 🙁

But I’m accepting suggestions for another trip (or I’ll probably somehow end up in Brazil again maybe even on this Brazilian island)!


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