Orientation In one day, you will learn how to catch crabs, ride a canoe through the mangrove forest, bird-watch, see howler monkeys during a jungle hike, and experience the process of turning cacao into chocolate on a local farm. Need we say more? OK, we’ll say a bit more. Manglare Churute is a 50,000 hectare […]
In one day, you will learn how to catch crabs, ride a canoe through the mangrove forest, bird-watch, see howler monkeys during a jungle hike, and experience the process of turning cacao into chocolate on a local farm. Need we say more? OK, we’ll say a bit more. Manglare Churute is a 50,000 hectare nature reserve, just southeast of Guayaquil in southern Ecuador. It has one of the best preserved mangrove forests in the world, as well as several different eco-systems, including: coastal tropical dry rain-forest, mangrove forest, and sub tropical dry rain-forest. Tours through the reserve are administered exclusively by locals from the 14 communities that it touches, making it one of the best and most authentic community-based eco-tours in Ecuador.
(Please note that for the tours that do not include lunch (all but the first listed below), the Churute staff can cook a typical Ecuadorian lunch for you for $5.50, or you can have a more elaborate lunch for $10. If you prefer not to take public transport to the reserve, you can also hire a reserve vehicle for $60 for the day).
This tour begins with a canoe ride down a river through the mangrove forest. Here you will see many species of birds (listed below) and receive an explanation as to how the reserve preserves their habitat, as well as that of the local Mangrove Ghost Crabs. You may also see a Coastal Crocodile, though most likely not.
The tour continues with a hike on the ‘Howler Monkey Trail,’ where you will most likely (though are not guaranteed) to hear/see howler monkeys, as well as White-Fronted Capuchins. Your guide will also show you which trees and plants have medicinal or other useful purposes. The hike takes a little less than an hour and is not particularly strenuous, though there is an uphill portion and there are a lot of bugs. Administer bug spray. After the hike, you will receive a typical Ecuadorian lunch, cooked by a local community member.
In the final part of the tour, you will go to a local organic cacao farm and learn the process of making cacao into chocolate. Eat the cacao raw, see the different stages of the tree’s growth, the steps in the process, and of course, try some 100% cacao, as well as processed chocolate.
Price: $25 per person for groups of 4 or more – includes the guided tour, plus lunch, not transport. If you have less than 4 people, you should call ahead and see if you can get in on another larger tour. If you can’t, or don’t want to, you will pay more, but get a very intimate experience (e.g. a tour for 2 will cost $90 total).
You have two options:
Lagoon and Forest: a guide who specializes in bird-watching will take you through the forest and to a lagoon on the reserve for the day and you will have a chance to observe the birds listed below, as well as others.
Price: $45 for the day; includes the guide, but not food or transport to the reserve
Guayaquil Gulf: A local bird-watching specialist will take you for a 6 hour boat ride on the Guayaquil Gulf to observe birds for the day. You will have a chance to see the birds listed below, as well as other coastal species.
Price: $150 total for 1-6 people; does not include food or transport to the reserve
This tour is the most unconventional and a bit more intense than the others. You will essentially join a local guide for two days in the mountains of the reserve, where you will hike, observe locals plant and animal species, and camp for the night. This tour is extremely informal and flexible, so if you are interested, definitely call ahead to coordinate your interests with their abilities.
Price: $50 per day pays for the guide and nothing else – you bring your own food and gear. You can also call ahead to arrange meals prepared for you. The reserve does have some gear available to borrow, but you must call ahead to see what’s available.
*Indicates animals Keteka’s representative saw on one day trip
Can also see:
Jairo Lara (first name pronounced ‘Hi-row’)
From the Terminal Terrestre in Guayaquil: Go to the Ejecutivo SAN ticket window (#11 last time we checked) and tell the attendant ‘La Reserva.’ The bus will be bound for Naranjal. After about 45 minutes, you will see forested hills (as opposed to flat land) – now is a good time to remind the driver that you are getting off at La Reserva, because he might have forgotten. They will let you off across the street from the entrance; carefully cross the highway and walk inside and to the right.
Price: $1 for a local bus, $2.50 for a “direct” bus.
Trip Time: about 50 minutes