|Posted by: HoboSylvain | 2015-02-13 19:08:48 | Puerto Lopez, Manabi, Ecuador|
Keywords: nature, UNESCO
|On my journey, in between official UNESCO World Heritate Sites, I also visit locations that are on the tentative list of the World Heritage. That way, if they are accepted later on the list, I will have already visited them. There's a park in Ecuador that is on that tentative list (where it was submitted by the country but not yet accepted officially on the list) that I visited a few days ago. The tentative inscription is both for natural and cultural reasons. This park has a mainland component and an island. In this first article of two, I'll tell you about the island.|
The island (named
'Isla de la Plata', which translates as 'Silver Island') is located
just a few kilometres off the coast of Ecuador. It is often nicknamed
the 'Galapagos of the poor', because you can find on that tiny island
many of the birds species usually seen only in the Galapagos
archipelago, like the famous blue-footed booby... and because it's
MUCH cheaper to visit the Silver Island than the Galapagos. The
island is part of the Machalilla national park, and it's free to
access, but can only go there with tour operators, to limit the
impact on the park.
That piece of land
was detached from the continent a long time ago and it's surprising
on more than one aspect. First, it's not a tiny patch of land shyly
emerging from the water, it's a massive piece of rock with high
cliffs. There are just a few landing zones all around the island
that give access to it. The other major surprise is that it's a
desert area! Although it's about 30 km off the coast and surrounded
by the Pacific Ocean, the island (as I saw it, at the beginning of
the rainy season) is really a patch of desert on rock. It's covered
with bushes and most of them are brown and dry and it has cactus
trees all over the place. The cliffs must prevent some of the ocean
humidity to reach the plants... but also the Sun hits very hard on
the island (which is just South of the Equator line). But most of
all, the high cliffs often yield dramatic sights with the ocean
hitting their base.
That is the perfect
conditions apparently for many birds to call this place home.
Amongst the species that can be seen on this little island, there are
the blue-footed, red-footed and Nazca boobies, which is the only
place where they could be found together (in the Galapagos, they are
based in different and distant islands). You can also spot the
Galapagos albatross and the frigates. The seen species will depend
of course of the time of the year, and the luck you have on the day
of your visit.
Parents blue-footed bobby just brought back food for their baby.
Around the island,
you will see mantas (which is why some areas around the island aren't
safe to swim in) and some big tortoises. Of course, the tortoises
aren't as big as in the Galapagos, but they still are about one metre
long... so that's pretty big.
Once on the island,
you will be guided to climb 180 steps to reach the top plateau of the
island and rest a bit at the little shade area from where all
exploration paths start. Then, depending on the guide's information
regarding the location of the various species the group will decide
which path they will follow. Each path has a different distance and
covers a different part of the island.
All paths are very
well maintained and are safe to walk, no need to bring mountain
climbing gear, just a good pair of shoes and plenty of water and
sunscreen. On the island, the temperature is easily 5 to 10 degrees
(C, 10-20 F) more than on the coast. When I was there, it was easily
40 C, of dry heat on a perfect blue sky day.
Despite lunch, you
get to do some snorkelling in an area of the island (where it's safe,
no mantas)... and get to see some corals and tropical fishes. Isla
de la Plata is the number one tourist attraction on the coast of
Ecuador and it's a very interesting visit.
After this review of
the natural wonders of the isla de la Plata, I'll tell you in my next
article about the cultural side of the national park. I already
visited some of the forest, but I have yet to visit ruins, I plan to
do that next week.
A view of a path across the dry bushes.
La Amistad Park
Belize Reef Barrier
Monarch butterfly biosphere reserve
Modern Ensemble of Pampulha
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