ISLA DE LA PLATA
Isla de la Plata is a small island of less than 6 square kilometers some 25 kilometers off the coast of mainland Ecuador. The island is uninhabited -except for the park rangers on duty. It is part of the Machalilla National Park since 1979 and belongs to Manabí Province. Spaniards visited the island already in the early 16th century, while Francis Drake is said to have gone ashore in 1579. Many believe that the name of the island shown as “Sir Frances Drakes Isle or Isla de la Plata” on a 17th century map goes back to the silver obtained during his exploits along the coasts of Chile, Peru and Ecuador in 1578-79 –supposedly he buried his treasure on the island. Others see the ample greyish-white guano on its rocks as the origin of the name. A third explanation would be the pre-Colombian silver artefacts found on the island. In any case, to get ashore one has to use the only landing site in Drake Bay. From there a steep trail leads up to a viewpoint from which four different trails and an additional loop on the eastern end start through the tropical dry forest and cacti landscape. The island is sometimes designated “The poor man’s Galapagos” as 32 bird species, including Blue-footed and Red-footed Boobies, Magnificent Frigatebirds and even a handful of Waved Albatross breed there. Humpback whales can be seen offshore between June and October and snorkelers often encounter colorful reef fish and Pacific green turtles.