You Need to Swim in Brazil’s Sand Dune Lagoons Before They Disappear

One of the best things about Brazil is that it’s easy to travel to. The flight’s no longer than one from the West Coast to Western Europe; it’s leave late/arrive early, and if you’re coming from, say, Chicago, there’s no jetlag. (For the rest of us, it’s minimal.) Non-stop flights are plentiful, and thanks to a drop in the value of the Brazilan real, the country is considerably cheaper than it was, say, three or four years ago. 

Now let’s consider one of the other best things about Brazil: these ridiculously beautiful — and short-lived — natural lagoons

How to find them? Easy. First, get yourself to either São Paolo or Rio — and from there, fly to São Luís, the capital of the state of Maranhão. From there, you can book a tour or — if you’re an exceptionally hardy traveler — travel independently to the dunes, which are formed when rainwater collects in this desert-like landscape. (Despite all that sand, this doesn’t qualify as a desert; it gets five times the amount of rain an official “desert” receives.) At their fullest and deepest, an individual “pond” might be 10 feet deep, crystal clear, and home to an unexpected array of sealife: Fish from nearby rivers can enter interconnected lagoons, and during the dry season, some can survive by burrowing into the sand and waiting out the return of the rain

This is the very tail end of the lagoon-swimming season; in a couple months, wind and heat will dry them out. That means you can either plan now for next July, when they’ll fill again — or consider hopping a plane this weekend.