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  1. Geology

  2. Hydrology

  3. Conservation status

  4. Things to do

  5. Submarine ecosystems

  6. Vegetation

  7. Mammals

  8. Birds

  9. Other critters

  10. How to get there

  11. Best tours


Machalillas National Park limits extend into the sea, where it includes Isla de la Plata.


The North and East face of Isla de La Plata are cliffs which are important roosts for oceanic birds.

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During most of the year, the dominating cold Humboldt current from the South causes very low rainfall, while the warm current from the North, makes the relative humidity rise, resulting in increased rainfall during the rainy season.


The thermal pool at Aguas Blancas.

In the Aguas Blancas zone are different touristic opportunities.

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Estado de conservación

Machalilla National Park is one of the largest protected areas along the Ecuadorian coast and is made up of two parts: the mainland of 56,184 ha and the marine area o 14,430 ha. Decreed on July 26, 1979, by Interministerial Resolution A-322 and 376, it was published in the Official Registry of November 20, 1979 R. O. No. 069. The park is administered from its headquarters in Puerto López.


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Things to do

Isla de la Plata: Located at a distance of 37 km from Puerto Lopez. According to legend, the name refers to the famous sailor of the sixteenth century, Sir Francis Drake, who supposedly left his treasure, conquered from Spanish ships, somewhere hidden on the island.


During the trip to the island you can watch dolphins and with some luck, Stingrays. From June to September the Humpback Whales, Megaptera novaeangliae, come to the region  to reproduce.


Just like Galapagos, Isla de La Plata has a very interesting birdlife, which includes nesting colonies of Blue-footed, Red-footed and Masqued Boobies as well as of Frigate Birds. The organized excursions include a visit to the islands as well as snorkeling. Small beaches and cliffs are roosts for oceanic birds. Whale-watching and scuba-diving excursions are organized seperately.


A covered picnic open picnic building offers shade. From this center you begin the excursions to the colonies of birds, and see the natural vegetation.


Covered picnic areas.

Arrival at a beach at the island.


Guided excursion at the island.

Seals resting at a rocky shore at the foot of a cliff.

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Marine ecosystems

The marine area is divided into:

  • Intertidal zone;

  • The coastal zone;

  • The Pelarctic or oceanic zone.

Each has a different fauna.


There are two different rocky ecosystems in the coastal zone:
Rocky and coral reefs down to a depth of 25 m.


Additionally, there is a shallow reef, between the mainland and Isla de la Plata, the Bajo de Cantagallo, which is a rocky submarine plain. Humpback Whale, Megaptera novaeangliae, mates near the Bajo de Cantagallo and it also appears to be on a migration route of other marine mammals. These reefs have a great diverse ichthyofauna, as well as a rich invertebrates fauna and macroalgae flora.

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The following vegetation formations are recognized in the park:


Dry coastal srubland 0 - 20 masl: The coastal vegetation from the beaches up to 20 masl. Characteristic are associations of species such as the seaweed, Maytenus octogona and salt marsh, Cryptocarpus pyriformis, while on cliffs above sea level, Galvezia leucantha can be observed.


Dry coastal scrubland.

Matorral seco de tierras bajas.


Dry lowland shrubland (20 - 150 masl): The shrubs are dry, spiny and low (1 - 6 m high), such as Monvillea diffusa, Manzanillo, Hyppomane mancinella, Palosanto, Bursera graveolens, Muyuyo Cordia Lutea, Barbasco Jacquinia sprucei, intermixed with tall cacti. This vegetation is found in large parts along the road and also on the Silver and Salango Islands.

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The marine area of the park is frequented by 12 species of cetaceans (whales and dolphins): Humpback Whale, Megaptera novaeangliae, Sperm Whale, Physeter macrocephalus, Bottlenose Dolphin, Tursiops truncatus, Common Dolphin, Delphinus delphis, Pilot Whale, Globice phalamacrorhynchus, Pantropical Spotted Dolphin, Stenella attenuata.


Occasionally Galapagos Seals are seen on Isla de la Plata.

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Seabirds are divided into three groups: shore birds, coastal birds and oceanic birds. In the first two groups: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Blue-footed booby, Sula nebouxii, Great Ffrigate Bird, Fregata magnifcens, Osprey, Pandion haliaetus.


Pelicans and boobies feed mainly on fish and squid at sea for which you see them often diving into the water from considerable heights. Both species form large colonies. Birds of the order Procellariformes are exclusively pelagic or oceanic birds that they feed in the ocean and only fly to land to nest. A good example is the Galapagos Albatross, Diomedea irrorata, which live in small colonies at Isla de la Plata.


Blue-footed Boobies, Sula nebouxii, breed on Isla de la Plata.

Brown Pelicans, Pelecanus occidentalis, are common along the entire Pacific coast.

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Other critters

Of the four species of marine turtles occurring in Ecuador the Green Turtle, Chelonia mydas agassizii; is always see in the harbor of the island, where they are fed by the tour operators for which they come to the surface. The Olive Ridley Turtle has is known from the island.


The other species occurring in Ecuador, Carey Turtle, Eretmochelys imbricata, and Leatherback Turtle, Dermochelys coriacea  live in the sea surrounding the island.


Green turtles, Chelonia mydas, submerge at Isla de la Plata as operators feed them.

The Green, Iguana Iguana, is very common along the Pacific coast, including in the park.


The ichthyofauna of the park can be divided into: reef, pelagic and demersal (bottom) fish. 143 reef fish species have been recorded, 94% were bony fish and the rest were cartilaginous (spine, mainly sharks) fish.

There is a large variety of invertebrates in the sandy and rocky intertidal zones which is a different ecosystem with many species that only occur in that zone.

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Getting there

The park is located at a distance of 435km (8 hours) from Quito, (185 km) (3.5 hours) from Guayaquil  and 90 km (1,5 hours) from Manta. The most convenient way to get there from Quito, is to fly to Manta and from travel to Puerto Lopez in private transport.


Main access is by the roads connecting Puerto López - Jipijapa to the north and La Libertad to the south.


Many tour operators in Puerto Lopez sell excursions to the island, leaving between 9:30 and 10:00, to return around 16:00.

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Best Tour




PARKS & TRIBES and the COFAN LODGE have their sales office in:

Calle Mariano Cardenal N74-153 &

Calle Joaquín Mancheno Carcelen,

Alto Quito



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