|This ecological reserve encompasses a large coastal area south-east of Guayaquil. As the name suggests it is principally mangrove forest but there are also some lakes and small hills.
The reserve is inhabited and many local people live from fishing and the capture of crabs. It is also an important rice-growing area and there are banana and cocoa plantations. There are no shrimp farms, which have been responsible for the destruction of mangrove along many parts of the Ecuadorian coast in the last 30 years.
Visitors can explore various parts of the reserve but it hasn’t been made particularly easy. The best way is to contact a local guide. The man who co-ordinates this in the community is called Jairo Lara (email email@example.com telephone 09 42 14 068).
Alternatively you can visit the Ministerio del Ambiente office in Guayaquil (on Avenida 9 de Octubre and Chile in the Banco Central building) or via their website www.ambiente.gov.ec. Tour companies and independent guides also organise trips from Guayaquil. If you are keen to really understand the flora and fauna as well as the general scenery I would recommend this.
The administration centre is located at km.50 on the road from Guayaquil to Machala. There were far more mosquitoes than people when I visited so it’s really better to organise something before you arrive.
The main things that you can do in the reserve are:
A canoe trip along the Churute estuary where you can see many types of stork, pelicans and bottle-nosed dolphins.
An-all day trip to the Laguna El Canclón. It takes about 5 hours to walk to this lake but it’s definitely worth it if you want to see the horned screamer (el canclón in Spanish and an endangered species). There are also other migratory water birds.
Hike up Cerro Mas Vale, Cerro El Mate and Cerro Pancho Diablo. These are actually three different hikes that each take about 3-4 hours. They enable you to see dry and some wet tropical forest with some endemic plants, howler monkeys, sloths, deer and various birds and insects.