We took a tour from Puerto Lopez to Isla de la Plata. Isla de la Plata is a national park and the only way to get there is with a guide on a tour. The island is a sanctuary for birds and the name (Island of Silver) is said to refer to the silver reflection from all the bird poop!
We left Puerto Lopez on relatively small boat with two huge outboard motors. We had 10 times the power of any of the fishing boats. It’s a 50 km trip by sea. We were not there at the right time of year but in season whale sightings are very common. Puerto Lopez is not the closest land port to the Island but it’s the only one you can use to get there. A government plan to keep the local business people happy?
We were not the first group to arrive on the Island and when we pulled up to the Island we saw Giant Tortoises swimming around the boat. An impressive sight but I am pretty sure they were being feed by the tour guides to make sure they came back.
We did a walking tour around the island. Our guide spoke excellent English (definitely something you have to ask for as the majority of the guides on these trips speak Spanish only). It was VERY HOT and dry on the Island.
We saw lots of Blue Footed Bobbies which nest right on the ground and have absolutely no fear of people even when they have young.
The only major predators for them are rats. The park service has rat traps all over the island.
We also saw frigate birds and birds of paradise flying by the cliffs and some cool little crabs on the beach, An excellent trip and well worth doing. Bring water and wear shoes.
We booked a second trip to kayak, snorkel and visit Los Frailes beach. Rather than getting someone at the hostaria to book it we tracked down one of the tour companies in Lonely Planet. Bad move. The guide they claimed spoke English spoke almost none. They may have been having a bad day but we ended up sitting at the tour office for an hour waiting. Eventually someone arrived with a car and drove us to the pier in a different town. A minivan full of 20 somethings was already there. We got onto a boat went about 800m out, toured very slowly around a couple of very small islands and the anchored. We snorkelled and kayaked from the boat for an hour and then went back.
From there we were to go to Los Frailes beach by van but there was not room in the van for everyone. They piled as many people as they could into a van (think clown car) and called a taxi for the extras.
The beach was very nice, we spent some time there and were assured that they would get us back to Puerto Lopez. When it came time to leave they once again stuffed everyone they could fit into the van but it was not going to Puerto Lopez. The guides left with the van and assured us a taxi would come for us. Eventually one did ( it was not an official taxi- Ecuador has many “unofficial” taxis OK if you know what you are doing but I would never take one under normal circumstances). We made it home safely and despite the hiccups we enjoyed the snorkeling and the beach. We paid the same amount for both tours.
The next day we decided to go back to Los Frailes beach using local transit. We wanted to snorkel from the shore so the first step was to find a snorkel to rent. After much discussion and research we tracked down a tour company that was willing to rent us snorkels. We only wanted one because we though one of us would have to stay on the beach to watch the stuff while the other one snorkeled. They wanted to rent us two sets and in a case of “unintentional bargaining “ we ended up paying what they had origionally quoted us for one for two.
We used a combination of books and advice from the owner of the Hosteria to figure out which bus to take and where to catch it. By this point we had been down the road past the beach a couple of times so we had some idea of where we should be going and when we would have to get off. We asked in our best really bad Spanish if the bus wet to Los Frailes and were told it did but It was still a relief when we saw the gates for the park.
Los Frailes is a state park and they control the number of people entering each day. You pay a small fee to enter the park they also record your name, where you came from and your age! You can take a taxi from the gates to the beach but we opted for the walking trail which is listed in a number of the tour guides. We walked through the forest which was dry and looked mostly dead but during the rainy season it all comes back to life.
The walk took us to two of the less known beaches where we snorkeled, watched sand crabs and enjoyed the views. We ended up on the main beach which was “full” by park standards but by our standards we had the place to ourselves!
We gave in and snorkeled together leaving our belongings on the beach. Nothing was taken. At the end of the day we tried to negotiate a taxi ride to the gate but we ended up walking because we had been in Ecuador too long to pay $2 each for a ride!
We managed to get a bus back to town. It dropped us off at the bus station which was close enough.