The south-western province of Ecuador offers some of the top agro-tourism and eco-tourism sites in South America. Home to the nation’s largest city, Guayaquil, the region Guayas (pronounced gwī-äs) attracts travelers year-around.
The Canton of Bucay:
Located east of Guayaquil, the Bucay Canton boasts more natural resources than any other canton in Guayas. The most visited attractions include El Bosque Humedo de la Esperanza (The Rainforest of Hope), and El Balneario de Agua Clara (The Clear Water Spa), where scenic waterfalls flow into the Chimbo river – a great place for rafting and tubing.
The Botanical Garden:
Throughout the year, visitors to the Botanical Garden north of Guayaquil can observe more than 60 butterfly species, 70 bird species, 80 varieties of orchids, unique stones and minerals, and several medical plants.
Cerro Blanco (White Hill) Forest Reserve:
Home to more than 200 species of birds, the Cerro Blanco (White Hill) Forest Reserve in Guayaquil serves as a shelter for plant species and animals such as the jaguar and howling monkey. With a large network of nature trails, three guided walking tours, camping and picnic spots, and an exhibit hall specifying the area’s ecosystem, Cerro’s guests can choose between many ways to experience the reserve’s abounding biodiversity.
Puerto El Morro:
Often called “Las Pequeñas Galápagos” (The Mini Galápagos), Puerto El Morro acts as a start point for boat tours to the island of Manglesito and La Isla de los Pajaros (Island of Birds), home to more than 50 migratory bird species. Puerto El Morro is located about an hour and a half drive from Guayaquil, along the southeast coast of Guayas.
The Manglares-Churute Ecological Reserve:
Considered one of the most important ecological reserves in South America, the Manglares-Churute Ecological Reserve situated in the Naranjal province features numerous ecosystems. Almost 70% of the park is covered in protected mangroves, where visitors can spot shorebirds such as egrets and laughing gulls.
Apart from observing protected ecological reserves, beautiful plants and wildlife, visitors to Guayas can enjoy cultural festivals, kayak and horseback ride along the coast, and tour banana, cacao, mango and coffee “haciendas” (plantations”). To make the experience more personal, plantation farmers often invite guest home for a traditional meal with their family.
In an effort to prevent deforestation in Guayas, the region and Fundación Natura launched the “Amigo Árbol” (Friend of the Trees) program in May 2008. Up to now, everyone from local school children to employees of large corporations have helped keep Guayas green for generations to come by planting miles of trees throughout the region.
Travelers wanting to help can visit the organization’s site www.amigoarbol.org (Friends of Trees) for more information.