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Traveling through the biodiversity of the Parnaíba River Delta

Updated: Jul 31, 2020

From a very young age, I could proudly say that I lived in the city that had the only open-sea river delta in the Americas. Early on, I learned that the Igaraçu was a branch of the Parnaíba River, that the crabs came from the Old Monk mangroves and that I should stay away from the waters due to Cabeça de Cuia (according to local legend, a man that murdered his mother was cursed by her to wander around the river, and, in his rage, he would kill women that came to bathe in the river waters)).

Growing up in an ecological sanctuary, amidst a river, mangroves, salt pans, dunes and the sea made me conscious of the rich biodiversity of the region. So much so that any invitation to explore some of Piauí's 66 km of coastline, the shortest in Brazil, continues to be enthusiastically accepted.


The least crowded destination of the Thrill Route (which also includes Jericoacoara and Lençóis Maranhenses), the Delta do Parnaíba has 2,700 km2 of area and spreads across Piauí and Maranhão, states that it divides territorially.

The Parnaíba River, the largest genuinely Northeastern river, starts at Chapada das Mangabeiras and is divided into five branches. This 1,500 km area boasts a tangle of streams, mangroves and almost eighty islands close to the sea. In a delta, the mouth of the river has little slope and low flow, forming many islands.


It is from Tatus Harbour on Ilha Grande, the largest of those islands, that boats leave for trips to the Delta. There are catamarans and speedboats of different sizes that cater to tourists seeking a variety of tours types and prices. A tip from someone who has tried them all? Take the speedboat! The smaller boat allows you to enter narrower streams, the tour guide is always available for questions and curiosities, and the smaller group has an easier time scheduling stops.

There are many route options, but in all of them it is possible to swim in the river, test your physical endurance by going up the dunes and observe the fauna and flora of the region, such as monkeys, crabs, alligators and guarás.

Ah, the guarás! The typical bird of the region deserves its own paragraph. Reddish in color, they are the protagonists of the most beautiful tour offered. They fly majestically every evening to a small island full of vegetation. Several speedboats stop around the island to birdwatch.Everyone is silent, anxiously waiting for what it seems like forever.. When you least expect it, one or two birds will appear ... Suddenly, hundreds are stubbornly heading towards the same little island, which turns red from the large number of birds hanging from the top of the tree branches. Take a few pictures, make some short movies, but make sure to save time to leave your cell phone aside and just marvel at the sight. Nothing will be able to capture the beauty of the flight of the Guarás.

The tours can be hired on the spot or scheduled in advance. I recommend scheduling in advance, as it allows you to guarantee a speedboat and choose the best starting time according to the tide. Tour operators can also travel by land from Parnaíba to Tatus Harbour (about 7,5 miles).


The second largest city in Piauí, which bears the same name as the river that names the Delta, Parnaíba is also the best option for lodging in the region. it has an airport that was serviced by Azul flights before the Covid-19 pandemic and is about 340 km away from Teresina, the state capital. Given the pandemic, the current options are car, bus or private transfer.


There’s more to Piauí’s coastline than the river delta. The beaches are many and you will learn more about them here in Konsuu in the future. To whet your curiosity, I suggest checking out Barra Grande (it is worth specifying the state, as Bahia has an equally charming beach of the same name). Barra Grande, Piauí, is located by a fishing village with sandy streets, covered by a sky sprinkled by colorful kitesurfing sails, and blessed by the absence of cell phone coverage.What at first seems to pose a problem, ends up adding extra charm and becoming an invitation to slow down, to live of the sun and the sea. Praia de Macapá, Coqueiro and many others in the region are also well worth the visit.

Less well known than the ones in the neighboring state of Maranhão, Lençóis Piauienses are gaining fame inside and outside the state. As in Maranhão, the region is full of dunes and lagoons. Quite an adventure for those who like quad biking (tour that I intend to do in the name of research to tell soon here, of course). The entire route must be accompanied by a guide hired in the region.

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