Manglares Churute Ecological Reserve
Manglares Churute (tel. 9/276-3653 or 4/229-3131, 8 a.m.–6 p.m. daily, $10 pp), 45 kilometers south of Guayaquil, protects 50,000 hectares of mangroves from shrimp farming. The reserve is home to a wealth of diversity due to its varied landscapes, from tangled mangroves rising 700 meters to hilly forest.
The surrounding salt flats provide shelter for a wide range of shorebirds, such as laughing gulls, roseate spoonbills, ospreys, herons, egrets, and ibis. Hikes into the dry tropical forest are rewarded with the sights of a beautiful waterfall and, with luck, the sight and sound of mantled howler monkeys.
At the park’s information center, you can view videos and arrange for maps and guides for hikes into the reserve. Four short trails lead downhill to the mangroves and up to the peaks of the Cerros El Mirador and Masvale.
Guides ($5) are required, and they speak only Spanish. Boats to explore the mangroves ($60 per day), with room for up to 12 people, can be hired. There are a few basic cabins ($5 pp) near the information center, or camping is available ($3 pp).
The road between Guayaquil and Machala passes the entrance to the reserve on the west side. Not all drivers know it, so make sure yours knows exactly where you want to go, or you may get dropped off in the middle of nowhere. Alternately, you can book a tour of Manglares Churute in Guayaquil through Chasquitur (Acacias 605 at Las Monjas, Guayaquil, tel. 4/288-8988, fax 4/238-8987, chasquitur [at] yahoo [dot] com).
Zoo El Pantanal
The small Zoo El Pantanal (tel. 4/226-7047, zooelpantanal [at] hotmail [dot] com, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, $3 pp) was originally an animal rehabilitation center, and it has a collection of at least 60 species, many of which are endangered, including monkeys, crocodiles, tortoises, and big cats. The zoo is located 23 kilometers north of Guayaquil on the road to Daule.
© Ben Westwood and Avalon Travel from Moon Ecuador & the Galápagos Islands, 5th Edition