The province has a large variety of ecosystems. The most important is the wet tropical forest of Biogeographic Choco that runs from southern Panama along the Colombian Pacific to Esmeraldas. These forests, with their large number of unique species, are considered the richest and most diverse in the world.Unfortunately, the timber activity and settlements have significantly reduced these forests in Ecuador. If drastic measures are not taken, in a few years the wealth of the Choco forests will be only a privilege that Colombia and Panama will have. In the Coastal semi-wet forest you will find species from both dry southern tropical forests and the wet Choco forests – a real paradise for naturists! These characteristics are seen in very few ecosystems around the world. They are mainly found from Esmeraldas to the south.
The mangrove is composed by intricate canals along the ocean border, with particular fauna and flora, where products such as oysters, shrimp, and crab are extracted. The mangroves have coexisted with humans since La Tolita Culture. The zone has the highest mangroves of the world, with 50 m (160 ft.) or more (please see El Majagual.) Regrettably, the shrimp industry has fragmented a large amount of these mangroves.Practical tips: Protect yourself from mosquitoes in the afternoon and night; and in the daytime when you’re in the forest. There is still malaria and, in a lower amount, tropical diseases. In the beaches the risk is less. We recommend you use some repelling lotion and a net during the night.
La Chiquita Wildlife Shelter:
A forest investigation area 29 km (18 miles) southeast of San Lorenzo, which is particularly important since it is one of the last corners of the forest that have chanul trees in Ecuador. It also has an orchid garden, didactic paths for flora and fauna observation, and others. It’s a good place for bird-watchers. How to get there: From the city of Ibarra, take the paved road to San Lorenzo, near Calderon. We suggest you contact the following numbers before: (593-6) 271-0096 / 272-1781 / cel. (593-9) 818-3102, or the email: [email protected]
Chuchuvi River Mountain Reserve:
This Reserve is located in alto Tambo, 12.5 km (8 miles) west of Lita; you access by Ibarra. It is a private reserve specialized in bird-watching, but also excellent for persons interested in Choco-type birds and fauna. Contacts: [email protected] or [email protected].
Chachi Community-La Ceiba:
The Chachi Indian community includes primary and secondary forests where you can take a dip in the rivers. How to get there: It is located 35 km (22 miles) south of San Lorenzo; you must ask for the entrance to La Ceiba. Where to stay: Lodging is available in the site or in San Lorenzo.
La Tolita Pampa de Oro:
Archaeological site. La Tolita Culture (500 bC – 500 AD) is characterized by its fine work in ceramics, gold and platinum. An example is the sun-shaped funeral mask which is now the symbol of the Ecuadorian Central Bank; or the funeral tolas. This area is part of the Cayapas-Mataje Ecological Reserve and is located in one of the islands of the estuary. How to get there: By boat from La Tola (end of the Sun Route from Esmeraldas); from Limones it will take 30 minutes for approximately $3.00); and from Borbon or San Lorenzo also, although this latter is longer (but more interesting since you visit a significant part of the reserve.)
The Island of the Birds and Love Cave:
Please see the description of beaches above.
Wildlife Refuge at the Muisne River Estuary
Located 84 km (52 miles) south-west of the city of Esmeraldas, one part is in the province of Esmeraldas and another in the province of Manabi. The Refuge protects 3 174 Ha (7 840 acres) of tropical wet and semi-wet forests and mangroves. It is an ideal place to watch birds, humpback whales (July to September), marine turtles, and others. The settlers of Muisne participate in mangrove recovery campaigns and develop ecologic dark oyster-breeding projects. You can visit Bonita Island (25 min boat-ride from Muisne), the Island of the Birds, Las Manchas and Mompiche Beaches (please see above), El Congal Reserve and its island (please see text below), the San Francisco Cape beacon and its beaches. How to get there: You reach Muisne, the Reserve’s operation center, by road to the quay, and then you cross by boat. You reach the quay by a paved road from the main route, 17 km (10.5 miles) (El Salto).
El Oro Beach and Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve:
This is the west zone of the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve where you will find a wet Choco-type forest and spectacular fauna and flora – birds, butterflies, monkeys, spiders, jaguars, and the magnificent Harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja.) There are also several waterfalls, such as El Bravo, Santiago, and San MIguel Falls. How to get there: From Borbon, you take the Santiago River on a motorboat (north) or the Cayapas River (south.) You will pass black communities or the Cayapas Indians. Tour time: generally, 3 to 4 hours or more, according to the sites you visit. Where to stay: You will find cabins at El Oro Beach or others at the Choco Lodge, in the Santa Maria Community (phone No: 593-2 250-7245 or 223-8801, in Quito; or the Kumanii Lodge, near San Miguel (phone No: 593-2 320-2023, in Quito.)
Canande Region and Canande River Bird Reserve:
This is a wet Choco-type forest with a large variety of birds, mammals, butterflies; lovely rivers and waterfalls where you will be able to swim. The Bird Reserve has 1 000 Ha (2 471 acres) of primary forest near Las golondrias. It is an excellent site to admire and hear the great chestnut-mandibled toucan (Ramphastos swainsonii) and the extremely rare great green macaw (Ara ambigua). How to get there and where to stay: For the Canande region, please contact ACJ Association (and ask for the route and road conditions), (593-2) 370-3020 or cellular phone (593-9) 982-1049. To reach the Bird Reserve you may take the road by Pedro Vicente Maldonado (also, ask for the road conditions before) and call Fundación Jocotoco (593-2) 245-3583 or 243-2240 or write to [email protected].
La Perla Protector Forest:
Located in La Concordia (province of Pichincha), it is an interesting 266 Ha- (660 acre-) remnant of this zone’s original forest. It is a few kilometers from La Concordia (in front of Masgas gasoline station.) Altitude: 250 masl (820 ft) Very good site for bird-watching. How to get there: From Quito, you take the Calacali-La Independencia or the road to Santo Domingo de Los Colorados and then the road to Esmeraldas. Entrance: $3 for Ecuadorians; $2 for students; $7 foreigners. Please contact Placido Palacios before, phone No. (593-9) 936-9580.
Awa Bi-National Reserve:
Located in the north of the province of Carchi, the Reserve is protected by the Awa Indians of Colombia and Ecuador, Tobar Donoso Sector. You must go with a guide.