Puerto Lopez is a charming little town in coastal Ecuador. The main industry here is still fishing but tourism, especially to Isla de la Plata in the Machalilla National Park is becoming more important. I’d read about Machalilla, sometimes called “poor man’s Galapagos’, while planning our trip and decided that a visit to this park, where we could experience some of the biodiversity for which the Galapagos is famous but at a lower cost was perfect for us.
A day trip to Isla de la Plata includes a two-hour cruise to the island, about 30 minutes of whale-watching, a two-hour hike on the island with a naturalist guide, lunch, an hour of snorkeling and then the return trip to Puerto Lopez. To fit all this in the day starts early, particularly for us because we had to catch a local bus from Curia to get to Puerto Lopez. CAM was barely awake on the bus and happily resumed catching some zzz’s on a bench while waiting for the tour to start.
Although the day was grey and cold and the water was very choppy, we were treated to a spectacular display by some whales on our way to the island. We saw many whales playing and then this once-in-a-lifetime view of a whale beaching just beside our boat. (I also proved that I’m a very crappy wildlife photographer managing to get many photo of whales just after they’d jumped or whatever. This stunning photo was taken by one of our fellow passengers).
Isla de la Plata is home to Blue-Footed Boobies, Nazca Boobies, some breeds of Albatross and a variety of pelagic seabirds. There are two hikes on the island, a shorter, easier hike and a longer, more difficult hike. We chose the latter. The path itself was never an issue, but the many pairs of mating Boobies who’d made their nest on the path made things interesting. By taking this path we were also lucky to see a very rare Wave Albatross trundle towards the cliff and then take off right in front of us. Although very clumsy-looking on land, this bird has a 2.4m wing-span and is incredible to watch in flight.
After we returned to the boat, we were taken around the island to a shaded cove for some snorkeling. Claiming that it was way too cold to swim, CAM wouldn’t go snorkeling, but the temptation to squeeze in a swim was too great for me so I joined Murph and BigB in the water. There wasn’t a large variety of fish at the reef but there were a couple of shoals of fish feeding in the area. Swimming above a column of fish is a very unusual experience and since it was BigB’s first time to see this I’d call the snorkel a success.
It was dark by the time we got home and we were all pretty tired from the day’s activities. The visit to Isla de la Plata was the first tour we took on our family world trip. It was an excellent start to what I hope are more great experiences together.