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 Chocó 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
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, Cimalón,
Perequeté Chico, Perequeté Grande, Pancho Diablo, Más Vale and Pechuga
de Niña. In the hills with a maximum elevation of 700 m, its is often very foggy, a condition known as garúa.
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, Cañar 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 Canclón Lake
wetland, a fresh-water ecosystem that is made up by a series of smaller
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!
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 Canclón,
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
lowlands and mangroves (87% of the reserve) and flat alluvial plains (2% of the area) located in the lower basin of the Guayas
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 Cimalón (40 meters
above sea level), Estero Churute and Estero de La Zanja;
To the west the hills Más Vale and Pancho Diablo, the Isla de los
Ingleses and Estero Churutillo;
To the East the Cerro
Pecho de Niña,
Perequeté Grande, Perequeté Chico, Cimalón, Mirador and Mate;
To the south the rivers Cañar and Ruidoso, that join with the River Churute,
flows through the Canclón Lake.
Some 1000 local inhabitants use Canclón Lake for fishing
and other purposes.
Isla de Los Inglesesis 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.
The new visitor center.
Raised trail through the mangrove at the main
entrance to the mangroves.
El Canclón 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.
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 Durán - 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, Jambelí 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
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.
8 types of
vegetation formations are present in the reserve:
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.
Red Mangrove trees dominate the
Air roots of Button Mangrove trees,
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
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):
of forest with native trees such as Tabebuia chrysantha,
Triplaris cumingiana, guachapelí, 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, Cimalón, Perequeté, 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,
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
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 Cimalón, Pancho Diablo and Mas Vale
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.
45 species of mammals have been reported, of which:
The Coastal Howler Monkeys, Alouatta palliata, often
seen along the western flank of Cerro Cimalón 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
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
Some important bats are: Molossops aequatorianus,
Amorphochilus schnablii, Lonchophylla hesperia, Eptesicus innoxius.
Collared Peccaris, Pecari tajacu, common in forested areas along the coast, but shy for
Central American Agoutis,
are also common along the coast in forested areas.
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
Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Ara severa.
Conspicuous birds in
the Churute mountain range are
Anhima cornuta, the Rufous-headed
Ortalis erythroptera and the
Aratinga erythrogenys, Pale-browed
Northern migratory birds are occur in greatest numbers in March - April
and late October - November.
The Cattle Egret, Bubulcus
ibis, is common along the Ecuadorian coastal region.
The Black-crowned Night Heron is common along the Ecuadorian coastal region.
nesting in the reserve.
Platalea ajaja, are common in the
Brown Pelicans, Pelecanus occidentalis,
are common along the entire Pacific coast.
Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Ara severa.
Americano Ostrich, Haematopus
palliatus, frequents the beaches.
The Manglares Churute Ecological Reserve
is one of
the few areas that protects dry forest, unique in the world, along the
Ecuadorian coast. Although there have not been any herpetofauna studies
in the reserve, the area is known to protect important threatened
amphibians such as: Ceratophrys stolzmanni,
Trachycephalus jordani, Hyloscirtus alytolylax, Leptodactylus
labrosus, Hyloxalus infraguttatus, Engystomops randi, E. pustulatus ,
Phrynohyas venulosa, Smilisca phaeota. In addition, a
new species has discovered: Physalaemus guayaco sp. nov.
In the lowlands (32 - 92 masl) of Cerro Mas Vale.
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.
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 Canclón Lake. Snakes are
represented by the Pit Viper, Bothrops asper, the Yellow
Spilotes pullatus, and the Boa, Boa constrictor imperator.
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.
Several speciesof crabs live in the mangrove, such as Mangrove Root
Crab, Goniopsis cruentata, Mangrove Tree Crab, Aratus pisonii,
and the very popular Red Crab, Ucides occidentalis, the latter
harvested by local fishermen for consumption.
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
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 Cuyabeno and it is far better than Yasuní!
The Cuyabeno Lake Program
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.
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
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.
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.