Wildlife

Flora y fauna de Esmeraldas
Nature, boundless nature 1024 576Ñan - La revista de viajes del Ecuador

Nature, boundless nature

With such biodiversity, Esmeraldas is becoming a true nature destination. Discover its wonders!

The forests

The mangroves are perhaps the most emblematic natural emblems of the province. Esmeraldas is also home to the world’s highest mangrove, the Majagual, a fascinating two-hour visit from Green 9.
The tropical dry forests are home to amazing hardwood trees, including the stoic guayacanes, while the humid forests, typical of the Chocó region, cover immense tracts of land, a true green mantle crucial to the balance of our planet’s climate. You can venture inside these forests during river visits and be absorbed by their magnificence. Playa de Oro, on the Santiago River, is a place coveted by birders from all over the world, for its forests full of difficult-to-find species.

Palms and palm groves

There is a great diversity of native palms, whose leaves are used to make different arts and crafts, as in the case of the chachi and epera cultures that commercialize their locally sourced and handmade products. You can visit them along the Cayapas River from Borbón (2-and-a-half hour care ride from Green 9, and then another hour by boat to the communities). Tagua is a seed that comes from another species of palm tree. It is known as vegetable ivory, and was once exported from these forests to make buttons in Europe. Of course, there is also the ubiquitous coconut tree: emblematic and sculptural, they line the coast with their leafy fronds and provide the fruit that fills food in Esmeraldas with all its flavor.

Whales

In July and August, the colossal Humpback Whales cross the entire great Pacific Ocean from Oceania to breed in the warm waters of the Ecuadorian coast. This is the ideal time and place to see them breach in all their splendor.

Birds

Esmeraldas is one of the richest provinces in terms of bird diversity, with eight Important Bird Areas (IBAS), where unique marine and tropical forest species are found. Different habitats, such as mangrove habitats, tropical dry forests, tropical rainforests and beaches are a great attraction for birders from around the globe.

Howler monkeys and other mammals

There are several places to visit where howler monkeys have been recorded, and can even be considered common. Other iconic mammals include anteaters, peccaries and wild cats such as ocelots or the sacred jaguar, a furtive creature that prowls the forest floor.

Manglares de Esmeraldas
The mangrove’s beauty 1024 576Ñan - La revista de viajes del Ecuador

The mangrove’s beauty

Don’t miss out on the wonderful world of Esmeraldas’ mangrove beds. We tell you all about their importance and the best places to visit from Green 9

How do mangroves grow?

They are like spearheads. They are some of the first colonizing plants of coastal ecosystems as their “seeds”, like small stakes, thrust into the sand as the tide brings them into the shore. They then germinate, proliferate and end up covering a deserted stretch of beach with branches, foliage, and eventually, a wide array of wildlife.

The mangrove is very important from an ecological and social standpoint, and the fact it is becoming more and more reduced along the Esmeraldas coastline has represented struggle for local communities. Many families, for example, are “concheros”, they “harvest” black conch, a small endemic shell found in mangroves throughout the country. If the mangroves were to disappear, this age-old tradition and source of sustenance would disappear, as well as one of the most emblematic dishes of our country: the black conch ceviche (ceviche de concha).

But habitat reduction is not the only challenge the black conch has to survive, since the concheros, to sell this ingredient, are forced to harvest (illegally) immature shells to make a living. These have not yet had the opportunity to reproduce, so the sustained activity of harvesting them is depleting generation after generation of the species, which could end up exterminating it. For this reason, there is a governmental ban on black conch that measures less than 4.5 centimeters in diameter.

With the reduction of mangroves, many fish also disappear, and since fish, which reach the mangrove to feed themselves, have less and less mangrove to do so, fishermen are now forced to go further and further into the sea to fish, which in turn is more dangerous (and expensive) for them.

The mangroves are already much less extensive than they were twenty years ago. Their gradual destruction is also a problem in the face of climate change, already palpable all over the world, as they also serve to protect coastal areas as natural levies against tide and waves.

Every time we visit a mangrove bed, we are helping conch-harvesting communities and Ecuadorian traditions to stay alive. That’s something to keep in mind when planning your visit, because the boat rides, in themselves, are magical. As you navigate along the mangrove beds, exploring mangrove, silent waterways, discovering beautiful herons, crustaceans and other species, you’ll understand why some refer to them as a little Venice of nature…

Where to go

Mangrove visits are, in particular, one of the most important tourism activities in coastal communities. Esmeraldas still has important areas of mangrove, including Piangapí, a small community and mangrove reserve located within the city of Esmeraldas (the only protected mangrove reserve within the urban limits of any city in Ecuador). Esmeraldas is only half an hour from Green 9.

Perhaps the best-known mangroves (less than 1 hour away from Green 9) are found at Muisne, to the south of Green 9. Here you can visit the community of Bellavista and locals will show you their surroundings and even organize a delicious seafood meal in town. There is also Isla Bonita, a boat ride you can hire at the entrance of Muisne, where you can also visit mangroves before arriving on the island.

Further south, turning off at Mompiche, you can reach Bolívar, Portete and Chamanga, also extensive mangroves; you can venture to the beautiful and deserted Isla Jupiter, a silent stretch of palm trees worth discovering.

Finally, and perhaps the most imposing mangrove visit in the world, is Majagual. About 2 hours from Green 9 to the north, passing Las Peñas, this beautiful reserve is home to the tallest mangroves in our planet, some measuring over fifty meters high!