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MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK

TOURS [11 THINGS TO DO]

  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

10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Road Map.10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Park Map.

Geology

Machalillas National Park includes part of the Cordillera Chongón-Colonche, Mountain Range, a coastal mountainous range that rose during the Oligocene (36 million years ago) emerges in the Guayas Province and extends through Manabí Province until  it ends in Esmeraldas. Its elevation rises from0 - 840 meters above sea level and its mountain ranges.

 

The park limits extend into the sea, where it includes islands and islets such as Punta Pedernales, Punta Salaite, Sucre, Punta Lloradora, Punta Los Frailes  and Punta Cabuya and Pan Oven. It also includes on the of Drake Bay Beach and other narrow beaches with steep cliffs such as: Punta Escalera, Punta Machete, Punta Palo Santo and El Faro.

 

Along the continental coast of the park as well as of the North and East face of Isla de La Plata are cliffs which are important roosts for oceanic birds. The main beaches are: Los Frailes, Salango, Puerto López, Salaite and Drake Bay.

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Hydrology

The distance from the Cordillera Chongon Colonche to the coast is very short and as a result, there are only very small watersheds with just seasonal creeks. With climates ranging from semi-desert along the coast to semi-humid at the higher elevations, the rainfall varies from 161 - 1,120 mm, while showing great  yearly fluctuations. Especially at higher elevations, the vegetation receives much of its water by absorbing humidity from the mist produced by humid air from the sea. The average annual temperature fluctuates between 23.5 - 24.5 ° C along the coast, with lower temperatures at higher elevations.

 

The main watersheds are those of the Rivers Jipijapa, Salaite, Seco, Punteros, Buena Vista, Piñas and Ayampe. 

 

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.

 

There are two differences climates zones: tropical arid, from the mouth of the Buena Vista river, to subtropical in the hills higher up in the hills of Perro Muerto and Punta Alta.

 

There is a thermo-mineral pool in the village Agua Blanca within the park.

 

10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Agua Blanca Hot Spring.10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Agua Blanca Trail Head.

The thermal pool at Aguas Blancas.

In the Aguas Blancas zone are different touristic opportunities.

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Conservation status

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.

 

The fauna list shows 81 species of mammals, 270 of birds, 15 amphibians and 143 of fish, but these data are dated and based on very limited inventories.

 

Due to the presence of towns and villages within the park limits, many parts of the park suffer from severe human impacts.

 

10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Local people.10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Frailes Beach Trail Head.

Residents of the park on their way to the forest to collect products.

The Playa los Frailes Beach is among the best protected zones in the park.

 

In spite of that, the park is of great significance, being located in the transition  zone between the geographical Chocó province with the highest rainfall in the world, and the deserts that start south from the border with Peru. Because of these circumstances, Machalilla National Park is one of the most significant protected areas in Ecuador, with many species of flora and fauna found only in this climate transition region.

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Machalilla National Park Tours and other things to do

The park is one of the most visited mainland protected areas of the country, particularly, for its famous natural beaches. Also, whale-watching is very popular, which may be part of our Machalilla National Park Tours during the season, while during other seasons, we offer many other things to do in Machalilla National Park.

 

Los Frailes Beach: Located just south of the town of Machalilla and 12 km north of Puerto Lopez. You will get to this natural beach without any buildings and shielded by cliffs at both ends, by crossing a beautiful dry forest with lots of plants and animals that are typical for the area. This beach is the most popular site in the Park. You can also walk a self-guided trail of 4 km that gets you to the beaches of Tortuguita and Playita. There is an overlook at the highest point of the area, from where you get a spectacular view of the park and the coast, including the Sucre and Horno de Pan Oven islets.

 

10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Frailes Beach Entrance.10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Frailes Vigin Beach

Los Frailes Beach park entrance.

Los Frailes Beach is totally natural without any buildings of infrastructure.

 

Puerto López: Down town, at the main square is a park visitor center. The town is also the main port of departure for whale watching tours, visiting Isla de la Plata and scuba-diving. In Puerto López you can find all food and lodging services you need in a variety of qualities. There is also a local fleet of small fishing boats and a market on the beach from where the fresh fish is sold and trucked off to the larger towns.

 

10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Puerto Lopez Fish Market.10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Puerto Lopez Fish Catch.

The local fish market at the beach of Puerto López

 

5 km north of Puerto Lopez you will find Agua Blanca: It is a village within the park with archaeological remains of pre-Columbian pottery and some architectural remains. Archaeological research unearthed the ruins of the ancestral capital of Señorío Salangóme, which was inhabited by some 5,000 people living in hundreds of houses, which were organized very differently from Andean dwellings. There is a little archaeological museum and a 2.5 km self-guided trail.

 

10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Archaeological Museum.10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Burial Urns, Agua Blanca.

The archaeological museum at Agua Blanca.

Burial urns of the Manteña culture.

 

When at the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Spaniards arrived at the coast of Ecuador,  they encountered the Señorío Manteño de Salangóme village, which was a complex of cities from whose capital, Salangóme, exercised administrative, political and religious control of the area. Archaeological research recognizes the present town of Agua Blanca as the former capital, which, at its peak, consisted of more than 600 buildings and was highly organized.

 

Spondylus shells, a symbol of prestige, were used as payment in trading. Its inhabitants dominated the art of navigation and maintained commercial relations with other indigenous cultures along the coast of South America, as far north as Mexico and south to from Chile.

 

The remains of this fascinating native past are found in more than 500 archaeological sites along the Julcuy Valley. They include very ancient cultures, predecessors of the Manteño-Huancavilca (500 a.C.-1532 AD), such as: Bay, Chorrera, Machalilla and Valdivia. The latter is considered the oldest in South America (2600-1650 BC). Of these cultures, the items that stand out are the Venus de Valdivia, the Power Seats and the anthropomorphic pottery, which reflect the physical characteristics of the former inhabitants.

 

San Sebastián: 10 km south of the Community of Agua Blanca, is a road that leads to San Sebastian, which can also be reached from Río Blanco. Along this road you can observe three different life-zones: the deciduous dry forest, at sea level; the semideciduous dry forest, at higher elevations and in the highest parts of the hills, the semi-humid evergreen forest. The area can be visited on horseback.

 

Salango: 5 km south of Puerto López you will find the small town of Salango, with a small archaeological museum showcasing remains of the pre-Columbian cultures of the region.

 

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.

 

10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Isla de la Plata Harbor.10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Landing at Isla de la Plata.

Covered picnic areas.

Arrival at a beach at the island.

 

10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Isla de la Plata excursion10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Isla de la Plata Sea Lions.

Guided excursion at the island.

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

 

Ahorcado and Salango Islands: At about half an hour from the coast, these islands are  becoming increasingly popular for snorkeling, scuba diving and watching marine birds.

 

Sendero Ecológico el Rocío: Ubicado a 5 km al norte de Machalilla, cercano a Pueblo Nuevo. Llaman la atención en este sendero los longevos árboles de cascol y guayacán (hasta 300 años de vida) que se encuentran al interior de un bosque seco tropical con sus flores amarillos espectaculares.

 

El Rocío Ecological Trail: 5 km north of Machalilla, near Pueblo Nuevo is a trail with very old Casco and Guayacan or Golden Trumpet Trees, Tabebuia chrysantha, (up to 300 years) in a dry tropical forest which have beautiful spectacular yellow flowers when in season.

 

10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Golden Trumpet Tree flowers10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: yellow flowers Pacific Coast, Ecuador.

Guayacán or Golden Trumpet Tree in bloom.

Flowers of the Guayacán or Golden Trumpet Trees, Tabebuia chrysantha.

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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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Vegetation

The flora of the park reflects its position between the rain-drenched areas in the north and desert in the south which has caused the development of lots of endemic species: More than 150 endemic species have been recorded in the park, but many more are likely to exist. The large timber trees at the higher elevations of the Park are threatened by illegal logging.

 

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.

 

10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Dry coastal scrubland Ecuador.10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Cactus forest.

Dry coastal scrubland.

Dry lowland scrubland dominated by cacti.

 

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.

 

Bosque deciduo de tierras Bajas (50–200 masl): Se caracteriza por perder sus hojas durante la estación seca. El estrato superior no sobrepasa los 6–8 m de altura, excepto por los árboles de ceibo, que pueden medir hasta 15 m. Las especies más comunes son: ceibo, Ceiba trichystandra, Armathocereus cartwrigtrhianus y algunas plantas espinosas como el algarrobo, Prosopis juliflora y la acacia, Acacia macracantha, laurel, Cordia alliodora.

 

Lowland deciduous Woodland (50-200 masl): Characterized by shedding its leaves during the dry season, the upper stratum not exceeding 6-8 m in height, except for Ceibo trees, which can measure up to 15 m. The most common species are Ceibo, Ceiba trichystandra, Armathocereus cartwrigtrhianus and many thorny plants like Carob, Prosopis juliflora and Acacia, Acacia macracantha, Laurel, Cordia alliodora.

 

10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Ceibo or Ecuadorian Boabab trees.10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Pink shrub flower Pacific Coast Ecuador.

Lowland deciduous Woodland.

The predominant vegetation stratum is formed by shrubs.

 

10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Epifytes dry forest.10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Bromeliad dry forest, Ecuador

Trees are densely covered by epiphytes
 

Semideciduous Lowland forest (100-300 masl): Consisting of small groves left on slopes where total deforestation has not taken place. The thorny deciduous undergrowth is very dense and the evergreen tree layer reaches 10-15 m high. The diversity of this formation is relatively high with trees like: Triplaris cuminga, Coccoloba mollis, Trema micrantha, Heliconia latispatha, Piper amalago, Philodendron purpureiviride.

 

10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Strangler vine coast Ecuador

10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Gallery forest.

Gallery Forest on river banks have the characteristics of semideciduous forest. Rich in species, these forests have lots of strangler trees, Ficus sp. While species diversity among epiphytes is not all that high, they trees are covered with dense layers of lichens and bromeliads, even on their leaves. These epyfytes collect moister from the atmosphere and transfer it to their host. Four species of endemic orchids have been reported: Dimerandra rimbaxhii, Erythrodes equa dorensis, Macrolobiun manabinum, and Rodriguezia strobelli.

 

10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Strangler fig coast Ecuador.10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Mountain forest.

Evergreen montane lowland forest (450-840 masl): this formation grows at the higher elevations of San Sebastián and Salaite Mountains. The effect of drizzling rain and fog allow large trees to grow, and species diversity is much greater than in the semideciduous forests. The topography is very steep; The soils are clay loam, shallow and relatively rich in organic matter (7%). The tree stratum exceeds 20 m high and trees are covered with moss and epiphytes (ferns, bromeliads and orchids). The undergrowth is very humid and is covered entirely by ferns of the genus Adiantum and Selaginella, and other species of the families Piperaceae, Oxalidaceae, Araceae and Cyclanthaceae and shrubes of the families Ericaceae and Gesneriaceae.

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Mammals

69 species of terrestrial mammals have been identified.

 

10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Giant Anteater, coast Ecuador.10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Hognose skunk, coast Ecuador.

Northern Tamandua Anteater, Tamandua mexicana.

Striped hog-nosed skunk, Conepatus semistriatus a common animal in much of Ecuador.

 

10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Red Brocket Dear Coast Ecuador.10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Puma coast Ecuador.

Red Brocket dear, Mazama americana, common in forested areas along the coast, but shy for hunting pressure.  

Pumas, Puma concolor, occurs in natural areas throughout Ecuador.

 

The most representative mammals are: Mono Machin Colorado, Cebus albifrons aequatorialis, Red Brocket Deer, Mazama americana, both Pecary species, Pecari tajacu and Tayassu pecari, Ocelots, Leopardus pardalis, L. wiedii, Armadillos, Dasypus novemcinctus, Cabassous centralis, Kinkajou, Potos flavus, White-nosed coati, Nasua narica, Procyon cancrivorus, Red-tailed squirrel, Sciurus granatensis, Northern Tamandua Anteater, Tamandua mexicana, Brazilian rabbits, Sylvilagus brasiliensis, Lowland Paca, Cuniculus paca, and Central American Agouti, Dasyprocta punctata.

 

10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: White Colared Peccaris in the Amazon Jungle10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Central American Agouti, coast Ecuador.

Collared Peccaris, Pecari tajacu, common in forested areas along the coast, but shy for hunting pressure.  

Central American Agoutis, Dasyprocta punctata, are also common along the coast in forested areas.

 

The most abundant and diverse mammals order is that of bats, with 21 species. The most common are: Artibeus fraterculus, A. hartii, Carollia brevicauda, Platyrrhinus helleri y Myotis sp. , followed by the rodents.

 

As for the mammals that inhabit the low zone can be mentioned: White-tailed Deer, Odocoileus virginianus, Sechuran fox, Lycalopex sechurae, Guayaquil squirrel, Sciurus stramineus and bats. It should be noted that many highland species move down during the rainy season.

 

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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Birds

En el Parque se han registrado 270 especies de aves, que incluyen endémicas del Chocó, tumbesinas y de los bosques nublados andino.

 

Las principales especies de la zona alta son: perdiz, Crypturellus soui, gavilán valdivia, Herpetotheres cachinnans, pava, Penelope purpurascens, loro de cabeza negra, Pionus chalcopterus, colibríes, Thalurania colombica, Damophila julie, trogones Trogon melanurus, T. collaris, T. violaceus, tucán, Aulacorhynchus haematopygus, carpintero negro, Dryocopus lineatus, trepatroncos, castaño, Dendrocincla fuliginosa, bían bían, Euphoniala niirostris. En la zona baja destacan especies típicas de los bosques secos, tales como: caracara cretado, Polyborus plancus, tucupilla, Columbina cruziana, viviña, Forpus coelestis, pedrote, Momotus momota.

 

10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Chestnutp-fronted Macaw.10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: American Oistercatcher Coast Ecuador.

Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Ara severa.

Americano Ostrich, Haematopus palliatus, frecuents the beaches.

 

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.

 

10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Blue-footed Booby, Ecuador.10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Brown Pelican coast Ecuador.

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

Among the terrestrial reptiles are the lizards, Tropidurus occipitalis, Sternocercus iridescens, Ameiva septemlineata, snakes equis, Bothrops asper and Northern Leptodeira. Also occurs the Green Iguana, Iguana iguana, a common species along the Pacific coast.

Of the four species of marine turtles occurring in Ecuador the first 3 nest on the beaches of the park:

  • Green Turtle, Chelonia mydas agassizii;

  • Carey Turtle, Eretmochelys imbricata;

  • Leatherback Turtle, Dermochelys coriacea; y

  • Olive Ridley Turtle has is known from Isla de La Plata.

Also living  in the park, the only species of sea snake, Pelamis platurus.

 

10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Green turtle Coast Ecuador.10 MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK THINGS TO DO: Green Iguana, coast Ecuador

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.

 

Given, the dry climate in most of the park, amphibian diversity is low with only 15 species, which include: Scinax quinquefasciatus, Trachycephalus venulosus and Leptodactylus ventrimaculatus, Ceratophrys stolzmanni. Recently new endemic species were found: Eleutherodactylus walkeri, Engystomops pustulatus, E. montubio, Epipedobates machalilla, Hyloxalus infraguttatus.

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. These will get you to all points of interest.

 

In Puerto Lopez, many tour operators sell excursions to Isla de la Plata, leaving between 9:30 and 10:00 and returning around 16:00.

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Best Tour

We organize Machalilla National Park Tours.

Dear visitor, our website gives you info about our National Parks Tours, Cuyabeno Loop, as well as our Cuyabeno  and Cofan Lodges in the Amazon.   For those who want to combine the Exuberant Nature of Ecuador with the Famous culture of Peru, we even have a 7 days Highlights of Peru extension! Here you can find our Prices. Our website has hundreds of high-resolution pictures of National Parks and monuments of Ecuador, with thumbnails that open by clicking on them. If you love our pictures or find our info useful you can help others finding our pages too you can share them from the mobile menu bar with a

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Alto Quito

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