Many kilometers of new water supply tubing has just being installed from Estancilla to Bahia de Caraquez in order to improve the domestic water situation. Unfortunately poor planning and higher pressures are breaking many existing older service pipes resulting in no community running water for many areas, for two months now. Needless to say the water delivery business with " tanqueros " is booming.
You probably take for granted a reliable water supply, reliable electricity, " on-demand " internet, and a reliable postal service ( here we use airlines and buses ) . We have learned to appreciate when we have these services in a developing country.
Like any country, Ecuador celebrates several national holidays. Many people are simply excited to have a day off work and school but of course, behind every nationally-proclaimed holiday, there is history. On May 24th La Batalla de Pichincha ("The Battle of Pinchincha") is celebrated all across Ecuador in a variety of ways. In Bahia we had a large military ceremony in the church square, a parade, several marching bands and several vintage aircraft flying maneuvers over the city. It is a day of national pride and of Ecuadorian patriotism.
The last battle of independence for Ecuador took place during the Spanish colonial period in 1822 on the Pichincha volcano.
In early June a group of local expat residents adventured to Isla Corazón. There are several tour operators to choose from. Essentially they only vary in transportation logistics, snacks or meals, and price ( $ 15 to $ 95 per person ) . National Park Guides for the actual tour by canoe are underemployed fisherman from the small community of Puerto Portovelo. While one can arrange for the tour directly from this community, transportation logistics, and arrangements may be a little difficult for the visitor who is often short of time. You must enter the island at high tide in order to successful navigate the mangrove waterways, and high tides advance by one hour daily. 6:00 a:m or 6:00 p:m tours are not very popular. After carefully weighing the feedback from others who have taken the tour over the last several years, and the various options available we chose to originate our tour from Saiananda.
The timing was also important as this is the start of their annual three month mating season.
From Sainanda we traveled for 20 minutes by Panga up the Chone estuary to Puerto Portovelo.
In Puerto Portovelo is the interpretive centre. There you will see marine aquarium species most representative of the Chone River estuary, as well as an exhibition of photos and a video about the mangroves and the history of the community.
Isla Corazón is a 60 hectare heart shaped island of endangered mangrove swamps located in the estuary of the Chone river.
Consisting of red mangrove, black mangrove, white mangrove, and mangrove red shell.
It was extended thanks to the efforts of restoration of the mangrove swamps by the local fishermen. This same group of fishermen began the tours. We learnt about the local Mangrove Forest and estuary ecosystem, while interacting (and giving back to) the locals.
We then transferred into canoes to silently paddle the entire length of the island through a tunnel of mangroves.
Our ever-friendly and outgoing guides Julio and Luciano pointed out resident bird species, and explained the importance of this rare Río Chone estuary ecosystem.
Mangrove Forests form the transition between sea and land, where their interwoven root systems offer living space, and provide food to a number of animals and plants. The mangroves biological "waste" (leaves, blossoms and fruits), supply the first components of the food chain. The daily tide action washes this mud away to the sea to supply new organic substances for the sea life. Seaweed, snails, shells, fish, birds, crabs, insects and other tiny animals find protection from predators, food and a suitable place for reproduction in these tidal forests.
Many fish species use the mangroves for reproduction. They provide protection, from the open sea, from large predatory fish, and a rich variety of food. The Snapper spends its entire youth in the tropical coastal mangroves. About two thirds of all fish species living in the sea grow up under the protection of mangroves.
Without the mangroves our marine ecosystem breaks down ultimately affecting you at the top of the food chain.
It is a National Wildlife refuge which is home for one of the major colonies of frigates in the Pacific Ocean, and more than 60 species of birds.
Among them, the most common are ibis, herons coroniamarillas night herons, night herons coroninegras, snowy egrets, herons, egrets buyer, cocoi herons, grouse, cormorants,
doves, egrets fluted, butterflies, white bat, big kingfisher kingfisher green, Whimbrel, shoelaces, the Clariona coligrande.
You may also find other species such as iguanas, boa constrictor, the white bat, a wide variety of crustaceans, molluscs and curious insects. We didn't observe any snakes or iguanas.
Exiting the mangrove tunnels we encountered a multitude of birds that live on the isolated natural island and their nesting sites.
The frigates are related to the pelican and have long wings, ( wingspan can reach 4.5 metres ) tails and bills. The males have a red gular pouch that is inflated during the breeding season to attract a mate. With their mating season well underway we observed plenty of quivering puffed red sacks of the male frigate birds who are searching for a suitable (or willing) spouse. ( information on their breeding behaviour )
A boardwalk trail leads to the middle of the mangroves where the native guides tell us about species of plants, crustaceans, molluscs, fish and other organisms that inhabit the mangroves. There is an 18 meter high observation tower, where you can see the full extent of the large mangrove.
We returned by panga to Saiananda's tranquil nature park and enjoyed soup, delicious entre, freshly squeezed juice and key lime dessert.