Isla de la Plata
) is one of the major attractions of Parque Nacional Machalilla (Machalilla National Park)
. Both its unique population of resident and migratory birds
and its stunning scenery make this idyllic place the perfect eco-tourism
destination. The Island also boasts huge historical and cultural importance as it was used as a refuge by the pirate Sir Francis Drake
, and as a hiding place for treasures stolen from Spanish galleons. It was also a ceremonial site for Manta culture leaders. In order to visit the island, Puerto López
has a number of tour operators
offering trips to Isla de la Plata
all year round.
Once you have boarded your boat, the tour
lasts all day, allowing you to enjoy some birdwatching
of species such as frigates
and blue-footed boobies
, as well as diving
in the Island’s marine territory. Between June and August, our tour operators
can offer you our most famous eco-tourism
attraction – the chance to watch humpback whales
, which come to mate along the Ecuadorian coastline. This is one of the major tourism
attraction of Parque Nacional Machalilla
. Goggling-lovers will gaze in wonder at the coral reefs
around Isla de la Plata
and neighbouring islands Salango
and El Ahorcado (The Hanged Man)
, as well as nearby islets and rocks.
Since prehistoric times, the island had been used as a sun-worshipping site by many pre-columbine cultures. Tourists can thus see archaeological remains found on the site. It was also a trading point for the famous Spondylus conch, considered a nectar of the gods and used as an Exchange currency by pre-Hispanic cultures. The site also served as a refuge for pirates and privateers who used the island as a base from which to attack Spanish galleons. At the end of the 16th century, pirate Francis Drake supposedly stole a treasure from Spanish ships and hid it on the island. Legend has it that a large portion of this treasure is still hidden somewhere on the island. In the distant past, a group of pirates travelling by night noticed a silver light shining from the island. They navigated towards it, convinced they had stumbled upon treasure, but were soon to be disappointed. On arrival, they realised that the light was coming from the droppings of birds living on the island, whose white colour shone under the moonlight. The island was thus named after this silvery colour seen in the distance, stemming from the abundance of guano (bird excrement) covering the site. Isla de la Plata is also known as “mini Galapagos”, as it is home to many of the same species living on the distant, expensive Galapagos islands.
The island has been renowned for its fauna for many years. Its key characteristic lies in its diversity of native birds. As well as being a perfect mating site for migratory birds, it is home to colonies of blue-footed, red-footed and Nazca boobies, frigates, tropical birds and albatrosses. On the boat to the island you can also see dolphins and manta rays. There are large schools of coral fish such as angel fish, scorpion fish, butterfly fish, trumpet fish, seabass, flutemouths, jacks,footballfish, moray eels, snappers, pufferfish, triggerfish, parrotfish, manta rays, guitar rays and the oceanic shark. You may also see green turtles, various species of sea urchin, starfish, sea lions, sea cucumbers and iguanas, among others.
Humpback whales: every year, these mammals migrate from the Antarctic to the warm Ecuadorian coasts. Puerto López and Isla de Plata are ideal sites for them to mate and reproduce.
Visits to Isla de la Plata are carried out solely along specially marked routes. The journey takes around three hours.
- Blue-footed boobies: At this time of year, blue-footed boobies come to the island to mate and build their nests. It is easy to tell the males and females apart. The females’ plumage is dappled beige and black while the males’ have bright white feathers. You can tell their age from the blue colour of their feet – it is bright in the young and lightens with age. To attract the females’ attention, the males vibrate their necks, spread their wings and begin to dance on alternate feet. The females respond to the courtship display by approaching. Once the female has laid her egg, the pair takes turn in incubating it and foraging for food, thus preventing turkey vultures from stealing them.
- You will reach Punta Escalera and Punta Machete by crossing areas populated by birds, flanked by lush vegetation and stunning scenery.
Bahía Drake (Drake Bay) is a perfect spot for lovers of submarine life. To go on these guided tours you will need a professional tourguide.
- Scuba diving: the excellent safety of Isla de la Plata makes it a favourite destination for diving lovers and the best place to enjoy scuba diving on the Ecuadorian coast. The island is surrounded by coral reefs making the undersea life beautifully lush, with an average temperatura of 20º over the course of the year.
- Humpback whale-watching: Humpback whales congregate in this area every year between June and September, and so visitors during these months can combine a visit to the island and whale-watching within the same tour. In the months of July and August, you are guaranteed good opportunities to see whales, whereas sightings may be shorter or more distant in June and September.