Fishing is the dominant enterprise in Puerto Lopez, which also provides access to nearby highlights. Dry tropical forests and scrub, with Opuntia cactus, Algaroba trees, Kapok trees, and Palo Santo trees, grow in this region of Ecuador. Machalilla National Park protects one of the last stands of dry forest and scrub remaining after centuries of farming activity. The fauna also benefits from protection. People have lived in the area for a long time. Villages of the pre-Columbian Manteño civilization flourished from 850 to 1600 CE (AD). View more
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Start the excursion leaving the port on a 20 minute drive to Agua Blanca, a small community situated approximately 6 miles from Puerto López in Machalilla National Park.
In Agua Blanca, visit the small archaeological museum that holds some artifacts from ancient pre-Columbian civilizations that settled in the area. The ruins here form a solar calendar once used to hold ceremonies on the summer and winter solstice. The museum also holds cremation urns from the Manteña culture, the last pre-Columbian civilization to settle in Ecuador near the city of Manta (hence the name Manteña).
After visiting the museum, explore Machalilla National Park in the Manabí province. This park is truly unique and home to the only dry tropical forest in the world. As you pass through the park, notice mangroves, cactus, cotton plants, as well as unique local fauna. Inside the park, we will also visit a small village inhabited by the descendants of the Manteña culture, who still live as their ancestors did. The inhabitants of the village are proud to show their lifestyle and customs, which also include shared use of the land.
After this visit head back to Puerto Lopez to a local venue for a refreshment and a demonstration of the process of the weaving of toquilla straw hats, or 'Panama' hats. These hats are famous for their durability and flexibility, declared by UNESCO as Cultural Patrimony of Mankind. One of these hats takes at least three months to make and when rolled up fit through a wedding ring! Once the weaving has finished the hats are shaped, ironed and fitted with a traditional fabric band. Finally, we learn how the hats are rolled so that you can take them home in a little balsawood box.
Drive back to the pier.
Sail from the ship for to Salango Island for a 2 hour snorkling tour where you will get a chance to see beautiful colored marine life in the protected Machalilla National Park. On the island you will also get a chance to see many wild life similar to that of the Galapagos islands including Blue Footed Boobies, Frigate Birds, Pelicans and sometimes Sea Lions. After diving into the crystal clear toourquoise waters, enjoy a local snack of fruit before heading back 30 mintues to the pier.