To really get to grips with Chapada dos Veadeiros you need to head 37km further up a good-quality dirt road to the small village of SÃO JORGE, next to the only entrance to the national park. Looking around São Jorge, you can see the potential that ecotourism has to protect landscapes and generate jobs and income at the same time. Before the creation of the national park in 1980, the main industry hereabouts was the mining of rock crystals. When the practice was eventually made illegal in and around the park, the parks authority, prodded and helped by the World Wildlife Fund, recognized the need to create jobs linked to the park and invested heavily in training local ex-miners to be guides – the perfect choice, since no one picked over every remote nook and cranny of the landscape quite like them. So there is a good reason why IBAMA, the federal parks authority, makes it compulsory for visitors to the park to be accompanied by a guide.

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