National Park Machalilla
- Area: 136.049 acres (55.059 ha)
- Date of Creation: July 26, 1979
- Altitude: 0 2.788 ft (0 850 m)
The area of Machalilla National Park covers not only
the beaches of Machalilla, but also the islands of La Plata and Salango,
the area of ocean between them and land, and the more humid forest that
rises up to the mountain range. In this area many native cultures prospered,
like the Manteña culture which had a city complex with more than
600 buildings and an intricate political, social and religious system
when the Spanish arrived in the sixteenth century.
This park is the only one that shares many species
(not endemic, of course) with the Galapagos Islands. Among the mammals
there are sea lions in Isla de La Plata, and humpback whales
are present in the zone between June and September of each year. On the
strip of beach and especially in the islands La Plata and Salango, which
serve as refuge to seabirds, the most common birds are the frigate,
the blue-footed booby, the masked booby and the albatross.
There are many cactus and palo santo species in the
lower zones, which are drier, and the islands of La Plata and Salango
are almost completely barren. However, as one rises higher in the park,
the vegetation starts to look more similar to the humid tropical forest,
although this type of life zone is actually not found in the park. The
quantity of rain depends on the presence of ocean currents.
- Desert Tropical thicket: an area between sea level and 100
feet of altitude, which includes the islands of La Plata and Salango.
The dominant species are different cactus species, covering only small
areas of the beach. The temperature is on average between 75 and 80°
F, but on some months it somewhat rises or lowers, depending on the
behavior of cold Humboldt Current and warm El Niño Current that
- Thorny Tropical thicket: this life zone is located below 100
ft above sea level. It covers the area just east of the beach, specially
the valleys of the rivers Salaite, Buenavista, Ayampe and Plátano.
Here there are less cactus and more shrubs and vines. The usual temperature
is in the range from 75 to 80° F.
- Thorny Pre-Montane thicket: this area above 100 ft of altitude,
serves as a transition between a very arid lowland and a more humid
highland. The trees have greater heights and are persistently covered
by fog. There are some epiphytes, ferns, orchids, mosses and
lichens present. The temperature is between 65 and 75°
F on average.
Places of Interest
- Archeological Museum: located in the town of Salango, it covers
thousands of years of Ecuadorian history just by showing the remnants
of old civilization that were established in the area. It is a very
interesting site to visit, and guides from the museum can take one to
archeological sites. The wounded or captive animal rescue team is also
- La Plata Island: the island is well conserved because it was
opened for tourists not long ago. On the boat trip to the island one
can sometimes see dolphins, manta rays and humpback whales. There
are blue-footed, red-footed and masked boobies
in the island, and a small group of sea lions that comes and
goes regularly. While snorkeling one can see many colorful fishes and
corals all around. There is a legend that Francis Drake hid one of his
Tourism and Recommendations
- Arrival: the highway between Puerto Cayo and Puerto López,
that runs along the beach before arriving to Salinas, passes right through
the park. The usual place of arrival is Puerto López, because
it holds the Administrative and Environmental Interpretation Center.
From here is where the main boat rides for whale watching and going
to La Plata Island part, and very good lodging is found in the town.
- Los Frailes Recreation Area: to the south of the town of Machalilla,
there is a beach famous for its pristine waters, high reefs and completely
clean sand. One can see typical fauna and flora in the area, and at
the same time enjoy a period of relaxation under the sun. There is a
parking lot to leave the car and take a 4-km walk in the beach. There
are also camping spots.