For several years there was a suspicion that the coastal strip and the marine environments that they are located in front of the towns of Galera, Estero de Plátano, Quingue and San Francisco, located in the southwest of the province of Esmeraldas– harbor a biological wealth comparable to that of the Galapagos waters. This suspicion was confirmed in 2008 after several years of work by various entities. By this, and with the active participation of the local populations, it was declared as the first marine reserve of continental Ecuador.
The reserve is located between the coves of Atacames, to the north, and Mompiche, to the south. The marine area includes shallow waters, located on the continental shelf, to areas located at 800 meters deep, where the sun’s rays reach. This area is one of the few places on the continental coast of Ecuadorian coast where the sites at 200 meters depth are very close to the coast, that is, only 11 kilometers from the coast, that is, only 11 kilometers from the coastline. Around the reserve there are several populations that, because of their economic activities, are considered by the National Fisheries Institute as “fishing coves”.
A very important feature of this protected area is the active participation of the surrounding communities. the surrounding communities. This marine reserve is one of four in the country. all of them are important both for the richness and abundance of fish and invertebrates, as well as for their function as spaces where species of fish and invertebrates and invertebrates, as well as for the function they fulfill by becoming spaces where commercially valuable species reproduce commercially valuable species reproduce and their populations recover.
The reserve protects three types of ecosystems: marine, coastal and estuarine. Marine ecosystems. The rocky reefs, coral zones and deep aquatic environments are undoubtedly its most outstanding characteristic. Of these, the reefs stand out for their extraordinary biodiversity and because they are believed to harbor the most important black coral community in continental Ecuador. Some of the fish are the Cortés angel, the humpback parrotfish, the yellow snapper, the king angel, the grunts and the rock bass. Marine mammals include the bottlenose dolphin, the spotted dolphin, the snub-nosed dolphin and the humpback whale; the latter reaches the coasts of Ecuador between June and September of each year.
Coastal ecosystems: These are the cliffs and the different types of beaches that exist within the reserve.
the reserve. Here, for example, the presence and nesting of four species of sea turtles has been reported. sea turtles: leatherback, hawksbill, green and olive ridley. In the intertidal zone, which is uncovered at low tide, octopuses, sea urchins, starfish and small snails can be seen. Estuarine ecosystems. These are found at the mouths of the Galeras estuary and the San Francisco and Bunche rivers. Here estuarine environments have been created that are ideal for the growth of mangroves. for the growth of mangroves.
Sandy beaches and beaches with intertidal pools
More than half of the reserve’s 37 kilometers of coastline are sandy beaches. It is accessed by a road that passes through the towns of Galera, Estero del Plátano, Quingue, Caimito and Cabo San Francisco. In all of them there are beaches that, in addition to being beautiful, are sea turtle nesting sites, so tourism must observe all regulations for the protection of their nesting sites. In Estero de Plátano and Quingue there are rocky beaches that can be explored at low tide; in each pool you will discover a small underwater world inhabited by octopuses, sea urchins, anemones, sea lilies, churos and small fish.
Every year, between June and September, the visit of the whales is another important attraction. another important attraction because they reproduce at that time.