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  1. Geology

  2. Hydrology

  3. State of Conservation

  4. Things to do

  5. Vegetation

  6. Mammals

  7. birds

  8. Other critters

  9. Getting there

  10. Best tours

Along the Pacific coasts of the Americas, mangrove forests are quite rare, and considered as their total area, these are extremely rare coastal ecosystems. There are some small mangroves along the Mexican and Guatemalan Pacific, but the first well-developed mangroves are found from El Salvador to Costa Rica. From Panama to northern Colombia, mangroves are present, but only from the southern half of Colombia to northern Ecuador, mangroves have developed to their full potential with extensive networks of streams and tidal canals. However, in Colombia, the mangroves along the Pacific Ocean lie on the Choc?coast, which is still part of the FARC's last bastions. Thus, in fact, of all the mangroves in the South American Pacific, only the mangroves in Ecuador are open to the public.




The Churute Mangroves Ecological Reserve, Guayaquil, has mangroves and rare lowland forest, with very tame monkeys and birds. It owes its name to a small chain of coastal mountains, the Cordillera de Churute.

The main hills are Mate, Cimal?, Perequet?Chico, Perequet?Grande, Pancho Diablo, M? Vale and Pechuga de Ni?. In the hills with a maximum elevation of 700 m, its is often very foggy, a condition known as gar?.

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The annual average temperature is 28 ? c and the average annual rainfall, mostly during the rainy season (January to April), is 960 mm in the hills, much less at sea-level.

Churute mangroves are part of the estuary of the Gulf of Guayaquil and the lower basin of the Guayas River. Here, the salty ocean waters and fresh water of the rivers Taura, Churute, Ca?r and Naranjal are mixed, forming an extensive complex of canals and islands. To the west of the Reserve, the Taura River (which is the merger of the Boliche and Culebra Rivers) is the main source of fresh water for mangroves, creating brackish water with salinities that fluctuate with the discharge of fresh water from rivers.

Apart from variable salinity, the estuaries are laden with sediments, partly because they bring the rivers as suspended sediments and partly because of the flocculation of dissolved salts in fresh water.

The greater part of the Reserve is mangrove and estuary; Another part,  constitutes the El Cancl? Lake wetland, a fresh-water ecosystem that is made up by a series of smaller lakes.


CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: Landscape of the reserve from the water.

Contrary to popular belief, mangroves do not have a high biodiversity. On the contrary, its diversity is relatively low compared to other coastal ecosystems and especially compared to tropical terrestrial ecosystems. This is due to the high dynamics of this ecosystem. Only few species can live under those conditions of continuous change of salinity, currents of tides, muddy water loaded with sediments, etc. However, what they lack in diversity, is compensates in numbers of the species present, which can be very impressive.

Floods during high tides make mangrove ecosystems and estuaries among the most productive natural ecosystems in the world. Ecologically, mangroves are considered the nurseries of the oceans!

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Conservation status Churute Mangroves Ecological Reserve, Guayaquil

Manglares Churute Ecological Reserve was created on July 26, 1979,  by interministerial agreement n ? a-322, published in the Official Register of November 20, 1979 r. or. N ? 69. The total area is ​​55,212 ha.

The reserve protects three very different ecosystems: Lake El Cancl?, the Churute Mountain Range and mangroves. These three zones present the following geological features: Remains of forests in the hills (occupying 11% of the area) rising from 10 - 600 masl; Estuarine lowlands and mangroves (87% of the reserve) and flat alluvial plains (2% of the area) located in the lower basin of the Guayas River.

It should worth mentioned that mangrove ecosystems are among the most threatened in the world due to their worldwide scarcity and the use by coastal communities, often changing them to shrimp farms and cutting the trees.

Currently the boundaries of the Reserve include: to the Northern the lower end of the northern flank of Cerro Cimal? (40 meters above sea level), Estero Churute and Estero de La Zanja; To the west the hills M? Vale and Pancho Diablo, the Isla de los Ingleses and Estero Churutillo; To the East the Cerro
Pecho de Ni?, Perequet?Grande, Perequet?Chico, Cimal?, Mirador and Mate; To the south the rivers Ca?r and Ruidoso, that join with the River Churute, flows through the Cancl? Lake.

Some 1000 local inhabitants use Cancl? Lake for fishing and other purposes.


CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: Fishermen hauling in their nets.CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: Fisherman casting net in Mangrove estuary, Ecuador

Fishermen hauling in their nets.

Fisherman casting his net.

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Things to do

The Isla de Los Ingleses is an important nesting site for birds, between December and May.

The Reserve has four guided trails hosted by official guides of the administration of the reserve.

Departing from a modern jetty, the mangrove can only be visited by motorboats hired from the the local community that has the privilege of transportion, accompanied by official guides of the administration of the reserve.


CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: New entrance of the Reserve with visitor center.CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: Raised path through the Mangrove.

The new visitor center.

Raised trail through the mangrove at the main entrance to the mangroves.


CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: Tourists on our National Parks Tour.CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: The boat landing in the reserve serves both fishermen and tourist boats.CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: Local crab fishermen bringing in their harvest.CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: Crab fishermen showing their day's catch.


El Cancl? Lake: Located to the northeast of the Reserve, you can reach the lake by following the the trail surrounding Mount El Mate, after an hour's a hike. It is a rainfall lake of about 800 ha. It is a charming open lake between several low hills.

Lots of water birds can be seen, particularly during migration bird seasons. In
November and December turtles can be found burying their eggs.

El Mate Trail: Starts next to the Visitor Center. The almost 5-kilometer trail crosses tropical dry and humid tropical forest ecosystems, with typical species of flora and fauna of each one formation.

Cerro Pancho Diablo: Its main access is a secondary road off the highway. Along this trail you can find a sample of a tropical humid forest grove, with typical species for that forest, like monkeys, squirrels, agoutis and a variety of forest birds. During the rainy season, on the southeast slope of the hill forms a small waterfall, which can be reached in an two hours hike.


CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: trail through the Pacific forest.CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: Tour guide with visitors on one of our National Parks Tours.

CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: Fascinated with the roots of a ficus tree.

El Mirador Trail: It is connected to the Pancho Diablo trail and is an easy ascent  (70 - 80 masl), where you can see a panorama of almost the entire reserve.

Cerro Mas Vale trail: The hike up to the top of the hill allows you to appreciate the flora and fauna of the Reserve. One of the biggest attractions of this route is the possibility to watch the Howler Monkeys and, on the north slope of the hill, a 30 m high waterfall during the rainy season.

Along the Dur? - Boliche Highway, at Km. 21, 64 grave hills can be found, the largest being 120 m long and 12 m high from the Valdivia, Chorrera, Guangala, Jambel?and Guayaquil cultures, some of the oldest in the country, whose archaeological remains correspond to the period between the years 2,400 and 1,800 BC

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The floristic composition, varies with the ecological conditions in the reserve. The the lower hills of Churute are covered with secondary forests; while in the upper hills partially original forests - though heavily intervened - may still occur. Species diversity of the latter is lower than in the previous formation. Above 300 m forests prevail.


Some 450 species of trees and plants are known to the area, including five species of mangrove and 25 species of timber trees, belonging to the families Bignoniaceae, Caesalpinaceae, Fabaceae, Mimosaceae, Lauraceae, Rhizophoraceae and Sapotaceae. Among the endemic species of the dry forest, we mention: Eriotheca ruizzi, Macranthisiphon longifolium and Picramniatum besina, the latter known only from Cerro Mas Vale, between 200 - 400 m.


Vegetation formations

8 types of vegetation formations are present in the reserve:

Mangroves: Within the mangroves are the following structural formations: Tall mangrove, with trees of more than 15 m and straight trunks, homogeneous crown density and open upper canopy; Mid-sized mangrove, with trees varying between 5-15 m, with homogenous canopies closed canopies; Shrub mangrove, with canopies less than 5 m. Main species are: red mangrove, mangle pava, mangle Button Mangrove and Black Mangrove. Floristically these three formations do not vary all that much. Mangroves in the Gulf of Guayaquil have  less rainfall compared to the northern mangroves, but being flooded ecosystems, this does not necessarily translate in distinct floristic and / or faunal compositions.


CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: Stilt roots of Mangrove forest on the coast of EcuadorCHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: Red Mangrove trees dominate the mangroves.CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: Red Mangroves in the tidal zone.CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: Red Mangrove forest, Pacific Ocean, Ecuador

Red Mangrove trees dominate the mangroves.


CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: Conocarpus erecta Mangrove with air roots, Pacific Coast, Ecuador

Air  roots of Button Mangrove trees, Conocarpus erecta.


The lowland deciduous shrubland (100-300 masl): Remnants of shrubs up to 6 m high from left from original deciduous forest, dominated by thorny plants and low species diversity. The predominant species are Mimosa pigra and Cordia lutea. The common trees, Inga sp., Carob, Inga sp., Prosopis juliflora, P. pallida, Bursera graveolens and Trema micrantha, which are occasionally covered by epiphytes.

Lowland herbal marshes: Dense herbaceous (non-graminiform) plants in continuous contact with water of thelake may  reach up to 2 m in height.

In flooded areas the most important floating species are Coralolian Azolla, Water Hyacinth, Thalia genicula and Hydrocotyle ranunculoides.

Lowland semi-deciduous forest (100 - 300 masl): Patches of forest with native trees such as Tabebuia chrysantha, Triplaris cumingiana, guachapel? A. guachapele, Inga sp., Clarisia racemosa, Poulsenia armata, Spondias purpurea as well as pioneers and introduced species.

Lowland deciduous forest (50 - 200 masl): Located in the foot hills of Cerros Mas Vale, Cimal?, Perequet? Mate and Pancho Diablo. The rest of the vegetation iconsists of secondary forest in different stages of transition, caused by human intervention and deforestation. The dominant species are, Cochlospermum vitifolium, Triplaris guayaquilensis, T. cumingiana, Guazuma ulmifolia, Cordia alliodora and Muntingia calabura. In certain places the area is invaded by grasses, cyperaceas.


CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: The Golden Trumpet tree, Tabebuia Chrysanta, covers the lowland hills in a golden robe.CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: Golden Trumpet tree, Tabebuia Chrysanta, flowers.

The Golden Trumpet tree, Tabebuia Chrysanta, covers the lowland hills in a golden robe.

Premontane semi-deciduous forest (100-300 masl): occurs between the moist (foggy) forests of the mountains and the dry lowland deciduous forests. Develops on inaccessible steep stony soils, which have been less disturbed. Trees are scattered and the undergrowth very dense, indicating a high degree of deforestation. The canopy may reach up to 15 m. soils are semi-dry soils and species include: Terminalia oblonga,  Zanthoxilon sp., Cissampelos pererira, Ceibo (another species from those found to the north, Bombax millei), Cynometra sp.,

Golden Trumpet Tree, Tabebuia chrysantha, etc.


Premontane Evergreen Forest (300 - 450 masl): Located on steep slopes with trees over 25 m high. Soils are humid with species like Carica erythrocarpa, Acalypha sp., Alchornea sp., Croton sp., Hyeronima, Phytelephas aequatorialis and ferns of the families Aspleniaceae, Cyatheaceae, Adianthaceae, Thelipteridaceae Polipodiaceae, etc.


Premontane semi-deciduous forest (450-700 masl): It is occurs near the top of the Cimal?, Pancho Diablo and Mas Vale mountains. Trees are higher than 20 m, covered by mosses and bromeliad epiphytes. Soils are moist because of the influence of fog known as garua, often present during day time. Possibly due to human intervention in the area, this formation has the same species as the previous lower formation, like the Royal or Chivila Palm, Attalea colenda, and epiphytes like, Guzmania wittamacki and Espacia psitticina.

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Some 45 species of mammals have been reported, of which:
The Coastal Howler Monkeys, Alouatta palliata, often seen along the western flank of Cerro Cimal? and in the northern sectors of the hills Mas Vale and Pancho Diablo. This species is the largest primate of the Pacific Coast. It is severely threatened by hunting and deforestation. There are also
White-fronted Capuchin Monkeys, Cebus albifrons, still present in both the hills and the mangroves.

It has also been recorded:
Crab-eating Raccoons, Procyon cancrivorus, Hoffmann's Two-toed Sloth, Choloepus hoffmanni, Guayaquil Squirrel, Sciurus stramineus, and occasionally Bottlenose Dolphins can be seen in the canals of the estuary.

Some important bats are: Molossops aequatorianus, Amorphochilus schnablii, Lonchophylla hesperia, Eptesicus innoxius.


CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: White Colared Peccaris in the Jungle of the Pacific coast.CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: Central American Agoutis, Dasyprocta punctata, are also common along the coast in forested areas.

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.

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Bird diversity  in mangroves is not as high as in tropical forests, but the species composition of the is totally different, and birdwatchers who like to have a representative list of tropical birds of South America or Ecuador, need to spend some time in a mangrove. A great advantage of mangroves is that many of the birds are relatively numerous and large. A trip to a mangrove can easily add some 50 species to a visitor for the first time in the tropics.

More than 300 species are known from the reserve, of which 27 are endemic to the coast. In the wetland part of the reserve occur migratory shore birds from both the North and the South, as well as resident species
like: Phalacrocorax olivaceus, Ardea cocoi, Egretta alba, Egretta caerulea, Nyctanassa violacea, Eudocimus albus, Pandion haliaetus, Aramus guarauna y Gallinula chloropus.



Snowy egret, Egretta thula.

Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Ara severa.


Conspicuous birds in the Churute mountain range are the Horned Screamer, Anhima cornuta, the Rufous-headed chachalaca, Ortalis erythroptera and the Red-masked Parakeet, Aratinga erythrogenys, Pale-browed Tinamou, Crypturellus transfasciatus.


Northern migratory birds are occur in greatest numbers in March - April and late October - November.


CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: The Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis, is common along the Ecuadorian coastal region.CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: The Black-crowned Night Heron is common along the Ecuadorian coastal region.

The Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis, is common along the Ecuadorian coastal region.

The Black-crowned Night Heron is common along the Ecuadorian coastal region.


CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: Great egret, Ardea alba, nesting in the reserve.CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: Roseate spoonbills, Platalea ajaja, are common in the mangroves.

Great egret, Ardea alba, nesting in the reserve.

Roseate spoonbills, Platalea ajaja, are common in the mangroves.


CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: Brown Pelicans, Pelecanus occidentalis, are common along the entire Pacific coast.CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: Brown Pelican in Mangrove waters.

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


CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Ara severa preening its feathers.CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: Americano Ostrich, Haematopus palliatus, frequents the beaches.

Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Ara severa.

Americano Ostrich, Haematopus palliatus, frequents the beaches.

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Other Critters


The Manglares Churute Ecological Reserve is one of the few areas that protects dry forest, unique in the world, along the Ecuadorian coast.


The most impressive species is the crocodile, Crocodylus acutus, but during the day, sightings  are infrequent. The most common lizzards are the Green Iguana, iguana iguana, the common lizzard, Anolis sp. and the Iridescent Iguana, Stenosercus iridescens. On trails through the forest you may see the Ameiva Lizard, Ameiva edracantha) and the Black-and-white Worm Lizard, Amphisbaena fuliginosa. The Common Snapping Turtle, Chelidra serpentina, lives in El Cancl? Lake. Snakes are represented by the Pit Viper, Bothrops asper, the Yellow Rat Snake, Spilotes pullatus, and the Boa, Boa constrictor imperator.


CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: The green Iguana, Iguana iguana, is very common in the mangroves of the reserve. CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: Hardly seen in the day time, the American Crocodile, Crocodylus americanus, is present in the mangroves.

The green Iguana, Iguana iguana, is very common in the mangroves of the reserve.

Hardly seen in the day time, the American Crocodile, Crocodylus americanus, is present in the mangroves.





In the Reserve, 22 species of crustaceans were identified, such as: shrimp (Penaeus sp.), thoracic shrimp (Balanus sp.), fiddler crab (Uca princeps), ghost crab (Ocypode sp.) and hermit crab (Pagurus sp.) . It should be added that the largest family of crabs is Xanthidae (Romero 1998). All the species recorded are typical of the mangrove, beach or infralittoral zone. Only one, the minchilla, (Macrobrachyum sp.) is typical of freshwater, although it has the capacity to withstand low or high levels of salinity (Romero 1998).

The most common estuarine invertebrates are: red crab, Ucides occidentalis, oysters, Cassostrea columbiensis, and mussels, Mytella guayanensis. The local population collects the crabs for sale, mainly in Guayaquil.


CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: Mangrove Root Crab, Goniopsis cruentata.CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: Mangrove Tree Crab, Aratus pisonii.CHURUTE MANGROVES ECOLOGICAL RESERVE, GUAYAQUIL: the very popular Red Crab, Ucides occidentalis,  harvested by local fishermen for consumption




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Getting there

Main access to Churute Mangroves Ecological Reserve,

Guayaquil is by the highway Guayaquil - Machala: turn off at Km 49. From there you can get there by two roads: the Guayaquil - Boliche road or the Duran - Tambo road.

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Best tours

Dear visitor, our website gives you info about our National Parks Tours, our Galapagos programs, the 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! Our website gives you the best information on the internet, because we are the only tour operator run by professional biologists. Take a look:



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AMAZON RIVER CRUISE ECUADOR: In Ecuador, birding is for all ages.


For those that are limited in time, we are now organizing the Cuyabeno Day Trip that takes you at 9 AM from the park entrance to the surroundings of Lake Cuyabeno, to the Siona village and back by 5 PM.



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RÍO NAPO LODGE TOUR, ECUADOR: La plataforma en el árbol de Ceibo de la comunidad Kichwa Añagu.


Lodges along Yasuní National Park are exesively expensive and just orgazide along each lodge. We decided to organize a fabulous and affordable tour to all the highlights along the Napo, while staying in 2 different decent Quichua lodges



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3 days

viaje a Cuyabeno


The most remote part of the Amazon is the Lagartococha lake system at the border with Peru. Hosted in a Sequoya Indian Village



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 4 days

admirando la increíble vida silvestre


The Cuyabeno Loop explores the breathtaking scenery of lower Cuyabeno and Zábalo Rivers and the Cuyabeno Lake. Watch the amazing birds and wildlife. Pass 2 nights with the amazing Cofan Indians in the Cofan Lodge and enjoy 2 nights of comfort in the famous Cuyabeno Lodge.

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5 days


admirando las increíbles aves


The Lagarto Cocha Expedition on hidden creeks and lakes is the best Amazon journey in Ecuador! Discover Indian tribes in Ecuador, Monkeys, Sloths, Dolphins. No other Amazon rainforest in any of the Amazon-Andean countries can match the wildlife viewing of Lagartococha!



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4 days

Laguna Cuyabeno


The Cuyabeno Lake Programs explores all the wild places surrounding the Cuyabeno Lake. Bonsai-shaped Macrolobia trees with the whispering of the mysterious prehistoric Hoatzin birds and the noisy Blue and Yellow Macaws. Our Cuyabeno Lodge is on the best location, because we were the first and chose the best location on a seasonal island in the Cuyabeno Lake itself.

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4 - 5 days


Chimborazo con Lamas


Our Northern Andes Tour lets you get a taste of some of the best Andean National Parks, visiting the highest groves in the world: the Polylepis trees, the highest mountain in the world calculated from the center of the Earth, the Chimborazo with Vecuñas and Lamas, the highest active volcano in the world, the Cotopaxi.



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5 days

Cascada San Rafael


Our National Parks Tours take you on a fantastic journey along the best possible sample of Andean and coastal parks. They have been designed to complement Galapagos and/or Amazon cruises. They can start from different places, particularly Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca. While the full program lasts 9 days, it is possible to make a limited selection of parks, like the 6 days' "Andes and Coast" module.

Precio: $ 1999

9 days


Bartelome ent Galapagos


We have a fabulous selection of Galapagos programs, including cruises, island hopping, scuba diving or relaxing on one of the many different hotels varying from modest inns to deluxe resorts.




Price: from $ 550

From 3 days



A fabulous program for visiting the most famous cultural highlights Lima, Cusco, Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. At the same time it serves as the Lima hub for the Peru National Parks Tour. This module is an extension to our National Parks Tour Ecuador and/or Galapagos National Park and/or Amazon Cruises.

Precio: $ 1199

7 days

Continuation of the current theme

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PARKS & TRIBES Travel Agency

Street: Las Casas, Side street: Jose Coudrin, 2 blocks above the Occidental Highway

Cantón Quito, Prov. Pichincha, Parroquia Belisario Quevedo

Tel: (++593)(02) 2 2324 4086, Cell phone: (++593) (0) 99 283 2187 Whatsapp: (++)1 304 901 0718

Email: info@parks-and-tribes.com