Welcome to our website ! Our vision is to inspire & promote international understanding through education and cultural exchange between South America - Ecuador and the rest of the world. To help people rediscover life with purpose, integrity and compassion, benefit from our experiences, and acquire knowledge for living in harmony in a globally interdependent and culturally diverse world. To share our "life changing adventure experiences" with family and friends worldwide. We have consolidated a wealth of the best resources on Ecuador, along with travel journals and photos. Our hope is that you will find this a valuable, user friendly resource network, which enriches your life, enables you to learn, challenges your thinking, and empowers you to discover and undertake your own new experiences and adventures.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Ecuador's Spectacular Wildlife

Ecuador has been labeled by Ecologists as one of the world's "mega-diversity hot-spots". This tiny country is one of the most species rich countries on the planet. Ecuador is a tropical country and the tropics harbour greater diversity than other temperate countries. Ecuador's biodiversity results from the distinctly different habitats within its boundaries. The high cooler Andes support different flora & fauna species than do the dry forest plains, coastal regions, the isolated Galapagos Island or the tropical Amazon basis.

On Friday, March 11th, 2011 the 8.9 earth quake in Japan and resulting tsunami, created increased ocean activity with the potential for subsequent tsunamis along the Pacific coast of North & South America. President Correa was very cautious and enacted very strong precautionary measures. He declared a national state of emergency, deployed military and emergency resources and ordered people in the Galapagos Islands and coastal areas to seek higher ground. Roads into coastal areas here were closed at mid-day and our coastal communities placed on evacuation notice. Bahia de Caraquez and the Galapagos were identified as high risk. While the seas flooded several low-lying areas in the Galapagos - the damage was minor. Our ocean swell was predicted for 7:00 p:m corresponding with the daily high tide levels. Late that evening we experienced a 40 cm surge in the ocean's level during a receding tide. While we can count our blessings and say it was an emergency preparedness drill here, our hearts and prayers extend to those families suffering loss in Japan.

In January 2010 scientists working in the rain-forest here in Ecuador discovered 30 new varieties of frogs (including a glass frog);

a snail sucking snake with striking red markings and a blunt snout"made just perfectly for jamming into the hole of a snail shell and providing that suction to suck the snail right out";

A gecko that is small enough to sit on the top of a pencil;

frogs which lay their eggs in trees, rather than in water; salamanders that have dispensed with lungs and breathe entirely through their skin; geckos and least four previously unseen types of stick insect.

About 95% of the trees around the Cerro Pata de Pájaro area of rain and cloud forest in the west of the country where these species were discovered have been felled for farming. These animals' habitat is being threatened by deforestation and climate change. As the area is rapidly being deforested some animals could soon be extinct. The rise in temperatures and drought are forcing animals to move to higher elevation in search of cooler, wetter climates. Frogs which depend on the moist tree cover to protect their eggs could be especially at risk.

While we do not wish to compete with The Discovery Channel, enhance your day by joining us for a "whirlwind" tour to learn of the unique fauna resident in Ecuador.


Large mammals are rare here because plant defenses have prevented the evolution of large herbivores that would serve as prey. Ecuador does host about 370 species of mammals, most which live in the tropical regions. These mammals range from the monkeys in the Amazon lowlands to the rare Andean spectacled bear

found in the highlands. The Galapagos Islands have 12 native species of mammals of which 9 are endemic.

In the Andes there are the rare mountain tapirs

(like a pig weighing up to 300 kgs), the rarely seen spectacled bear which is the only bear species in Ecuador can be found in the higher Andean region of the paramo, white tailed deer, pudu,

rabbits, pumas or mountain lions and the Andean fox, are very similar to North America regions.

The most common mammal of the Andes is the llama,

which is domestic and used as pack animals. The vicuna

which is a wild relative to the llama can be seen while driving or walking through the park in the Chimborazo area.

The capybara,

size of a dog, is the world's largest living rodent and lives in the tropical rainforest of the Amazon. There are 30 endemic species of rodents that call Ecuador home.

There are 132 species of bats

accounted for in the country flitting about in search of insects, small animals, fruit, and blood.

There are 31 species of carnivores in Ecuador, members of the cat family include the jaguar, and the ocelots

which are found in the tropical rainforests. Being nocturnal and hunted for their coats they are rarely sighted. The puma

is the most versatile of all the cats in Ecuador having adapted to all habitats it can be found in all regions of Ecuador.

Ecuador's most delightful mammals are monkeys, which include the marmosets,



spider, squirrel, woolly,

In the Oriente, the town of Misahualli, the central plaza has a group of capuchin monkeys and you are sure to get an up close look at these moneys.

and the titi.

Reserva Produccion Faunistica Cuyabeno and Yasuni National Park which are in the Amazonian lowlands and the Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve are the best places to see these delightful creatures in their natural habitats.

The diurnal three toed sloth

and nocturnal two toed sloth

can be spotted hanging motionless from tree limbs while walking in the Amazon. We also have a sloth that lives at Saiananda in Bahia.

There are also occasional sightings of river dolphins

in the Amazonian tributaries.

Manatees or sea cows are found in the Amazon rivers.

Ecuador has many other mammals such as the otter, peccaries,


anteaters and armadillos.

The Galapagos sea lion

is a relative to the Californian species, although it is smaller. The females are friendly and inquisitive and a favourite game is surfing the big waves and they also enjoy water polo but instead of using a ball they will use a marine iguana.

The Galapagos Islands are home to many marine mammals, there are 16 species of whales (including the blue whale,

Bryde's whale,

the orca, pilot whale, sperm whale, humpback whale, false killer whale, the Cuvier's beaked whale,

the minke whale and the sei whale). There are also seven species of dolphin the most common including the bottle nosed dolphin,

the common dolphin and the tursiops truncates dolphin.


Ecuador has 350 reptile species of lizards, snakes, crocodiles and turtles which are found in the Pacific coastal plains, and the rainforest of the Amazon.

The Galapagos Islands is the most special location in Ecuador for reptiles. Some snakes and lizards can also be found in the Andes.

The largest snake in the world ( 10 meters in length ) is the green anaconda

found in the fresh water of the Amazon. The green anaconda is an aquatic snake and hunts in the water for it's prey. It can also be seen on the shores of the rivers warming up to digest its prey. These are difficult to find even for trained experts, just as well as we think this is one we would care not to experience personally.

We have 210 different snakes that range from tiny ones of about 15 cm long, up to 6m long.

Lizards are very well represented in Ecuador with many lizards, chameleons and geckos.

Guayaquil at Parque de las Iguanas is a great place to visit to get an up close view of the green iguanas that make the park their home.

The Galapagos Islands has two endemic species of iguanas: the marine iguana

& land iguana.

The marine iguana is a prehistoric looking species and is the only sea going lizard in the world. There are two species of the land iguana found on the Galapagos Islands – the Conolphus subcristatus which is orange yellow in colour and the Conolphus pallidus which is whitish to chocolate brown and is only found on the Santa Fe Island of the Galapagos.

There are 20 different species of turtles including marine, aquatic and terrestrial species. The Giant tortoises

are the best known and are found on the Galapagos Islands. The Pacific green turtle is one of the eight species of marine turtle in the world and is only found on the Galapagos Islands.

We actually have a displaced tortoise from the Galapagos Islands resident in a local school in Bahia. Migulita

was washed ashore here many years ago. When she was returned to her natural habitat in the Galapagos, she fell sick and was brought back to Bahia. Migulita is now the school's mascot and when visiting her we usually take some fresh fruit and vegetables to feed her.

The rare American Crocodile

is the only species of crocodile and can be found on the Pacific coast. The spectacled caiman

is common in the Amazon region.


Over 460 species of amphibians are frogs, who fill the still evening air with their sounds. Tree frogs

spend their lives in the tress and lay their eggs in the water that is trapped inside of bromeliads. Poison dart frogs

that are amongst the most brightly coloured species of frogs around the world, their neon colours range from bright red orange with black spots to neon green with black wavy lines. Some of the poison dart frogs have skin glands that exude toxins that can cause death and paralysis to both animals and humans. We have had several dozen different types of frogs visit our garden.

In the second part of our review we will cover the unique birds, fish, and insects resident in Ecuador.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Carnaval 2011 en Bahia de Caraquez

February is our hottest month – the peak of summer - this year has been unusually warm with mid day temperatures in the high 30's C - and it is continuing into our Carnaval long weekend ( March 5 - 8, 2011 ).

Celebrated right across South America this is the biggest festival each year. A time of masquerade, excessive eating, drinking, music and dancing. Up all night, night after night. Dancing 'til dawn...then starting all over again at sunrise! For a brief history on the origins of carnival see last years post.

On this holiday long weekend thousands have again made a break for the beaches for some fun and rest.

Many interior cities resemble " ghost towns. " Coastal accommodation is scarce with homes and apartments swelling with occupants. Mattresses cover any available floorspace, and still many others sleep in hammocks. During this long weekend social boundaries and ethnic and gender differences vanish as people have fun together. Diabillios, young and old, seek out their unsuspecting targets with water squirt guns, a shaving cream spray , or a water balloon or bucket bath.

Rays of sunshine fill the warm festive days making the beaches a pleasant and fun diversion.

An army of red & white Penguino ice cream bicycle carts patrol the beaches, malecon, and local streets. The Navy and the National Police have increased uniformed personal for patrolling and crowd control. The Civil defense, Firemen and paramedics have established numerous emergency stations.

The beer lorry's are unloading thousands of crates at the many newly established stands and stalls along several miles of beach and malecon which will serve as bars & eateries. And several major event stages have been set up for artist performances, presentations, and dancing bands.

Leonidas Plaza has an extensive agenda of activities ( including surfing, beach volleyball, and soccer tournaments ) focused on the beach of Punta Bellaca, San Vicente, Briseno, and Canoa also have many events. On Friday the opening parade kicks off festivities with a bang.

Saturday evening's gala had 12 ambassadors from coastal communities vying for the title "Carnaval Queen for the coast of Ecuador".

The beautiful contestants represent Guayaquil, Esmeraldas, Portoviejo, Manta, Jipijapa, San Vicente, Leonidas Plaza, & Bahia de Caraquez. Ms Vanessa Loor was proclaimed the new Queen of the Carnival for Bahia de Caráquez.

Each candidate models their carnaval suit of fantasy, and a bathing suit. There was also modeling of a line of swimsuits by a local modeling agency.

There is such an influx of activity in town that we experienced two power outages that evening each lasting about 30 minutes. The silence from the music was deafening, and the now pitch-black evening sky filled with many bright stars.

Sunday evening featured a variety of musical artists sponsored by Sunset purified water, and the municipal tourism board. Minongo, and the Kimba Girls.

Recently the government enacted legislation prohibiting the sale of alcohol on Sundays, and restricting the opening hours of bars - this was either lifted or the enforcement ignored for Carnaval weekend.

The main stage on Monday March 8th three musical groups with different repertoires and styles were presented. First we enjoyed the classical rock tunes by "NS7"; then Heavy Metal of " Detonation" - not so much; finally the orchestral set "Portoviejo New Band" celebrating Carnaval.

Dancing, and cauldrons of tropical fruit liquor, grilled chorizo and other festive food was enjoyed by all.

This long weekend was more importantly a gathering and social time for families. Many traveled many miles from throughout South America and Europe to be together for the four days. Large tables and shade tents could be found in many homes where conversation, card games, water games, bar-b-qued food and music filled the day.

Local authorities published, and announced, a plea to the people who offer the services of lodging, feeding, transport and other necessities, not to abuse prices and to provide the tourists the best possible treatment.

This will be the first Carnaval in Bahia since the bridge has been completed - which has facilitated higher volumes of traffic. San Vicente & Canoa on the northern coast seem to have drawn much higher volumes of tourists on this long weekend much to the chagrin of local merchants. In fact most mornings there was two lanes of traffic backed up for several miles into Leonidas Plaza, merging congestion for the single entry lane onto the bridge.

Many popular festivities are held in different regions of the country. In Ecuador the most famed carnival festivities are in Ambato - "Fiesta de las Flores y de las Frutas ." And if you would like to escape and view some awesome photos from Rio De Janeiro's 2011 Carnaval the grandaddy of them all !

If you might be considering visiting South America for a future Carnaval, you should book your accommodation well in advance.

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Bahia de Caraquez, Manabi, Ecuador