Isla Corazon – An island shaped like a heart


Text and photos by JP Verdesoto – Metropolitan Touring Ecuador

An island shaped like a heart, with the heart and passion of its people

There are only a handful of places in Ecuador that make you wonder about how things were in the coastal shores of the Pacific back in the days before “we” arrived here, beginning a one-way process that can often be irreversible –in terms of progress and development– when there is no ethos of conservation or sustainability.  Nature will hardly ever give you a second chance.

One of these places is Isla Corazón (Heart Island) in the Province of  Manabi, about one-and-a-half hours’ drive from the provincial capital of Manta.  Isla Corazón is located near the the town of Bahía de Caraquez, in the estuary of the Chone River.  An estuary is a partly enclosed coastal body of water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea. This magical place is full of life and friendly local people, who are the main characters in this play of environmental conservation.

The fishermen of the village of Puerto Portovelo, through the local Association of Naturalist Guides and Mangrove Conservation (“ASOMANGLAR”), aim to protect their natural resource in order to provide more eco-friendly economical alternatives to their communities.  Through their efforts over 12 years of management, the community has managed to reforest the area that was affected by many shrimp farming corporations that built their shrimp pools, pretty much cutting off the whole mangrove line along the estuary. Once the native mangrove forest began to be destroyed, the harmful effects on local wildlife and also on the low-scale artisan fishing taking place got worse. The local people realized that their catches were decreasing. They were faced with a choice: work for the shrimp companies or cut more mangroves to sell as wood and get some cash to survive.  But this would not be enough to make a living over the long term, as already the mangroves were already being decimated…

By 1998  “El Niño” came – El Niño is characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific, an oscillation of the ocean-atmosphere system in the tropical Pacific having important consequences for weather around the globe. Among these consequences are increased rainfall across the southern tier of the US and in Ecuador, which has caused destructive flooding, and drought in the West Pacific, sometimes associated with devastating brush fires in Australia. This particular El Niño almost wiped the entire community off the face of the earth due to the heavy flooding.  Some of the wildlife, already affected by the consequent problems of the mangrove reduction, was on the verge of extinction.  Protecting the mangrove banks along the estuary and coast line is paramount because it forms a shield which stops erosion from flooding and also provides a refuge for many species in the area.

This tragedy awakened a new state of mind and consciousness in the local fishermen, who swore to protect what was left of the mangroves and make them grow for the benefit of all.  Today,  they have successfully achieved the growth of the mangrove from 50 hectares 200 hectares in the area of Isla Corazon since the project began in 1999.  This outstanding hard work has been done entirely by hand, and has considerably increased the numbers of marine birds, as both are directly related.  The frigate bird colony that lives on the island has more density per square meter than any other colony, including the Galapagos Islands.  The undeniable truth is that birds, mammals, reptiles, plants, fish and other species have found here, once again, a natural refuge, and this time with the help of the people, once their fiercest enemy and now its closest guardian and sponsor.

These natural elements and the personal stories told by the native guides as they take you paddling through magical mangrove tunnels, showing the wildlife with passion or visiting their community and its organization, will indeed have an impact in your life and they way of appreciating your surrounding.  It leaves you with the good sensation that we are still on time to save these and other spaces of life!  You will undoubtedly have a great experience…

But let’s add to this the good service provided by the local Hotel Casa Ceibo (www.casaceibo.com), with outstanding cuisine with the chef’s personal touch in preparing seafood and using the most flavorful local ingredients, great wine and spacious, cozy social areas that will make you think twice before checking out.  Add smiley, friendly staff and you will never want to leave this hideaway of peace and tranquility that everyone always looks forward to from time to time.

I cannot guarantee that you will experience exactly the same as I did, but I do guarantee that, if you have the chance to visit here, give yourself the opportunity to explore just a little bit further along the beautiful Ecuadorian coastline!  You will be pleasantly surprised.

Text and photos by JP Verdesoto – Metropolitan Touring Ecuador

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