Protected natural areas

National parks

Ecuador has an outstanding array of protected natural areas. National parks and other government reserves cover almost five million ha of land plus another 14 million ha of marine reserves. These are distributed throughout the country and include many unique tracts of wilderness. But the term 'protected' may not mean what it does in other parts of the world; native communities, settlements, haciendas, and even oil drilling camps can be found in the heart of some Ecuadorean national parks. Park boundaries are seldom clearly defined, and less often respected. What park facilities exist, along with most park rangers, are concentrated at the access points to a very few frequently visited areas. Elsewhere, infrastructure ranges from very basic to nonexistent.

National parks are administered by the
Ministerio del Ambiente
. This administrative head office might provide some limited information but you are better off contacting their local office in the city nearest the park you wish to visit, for example the Loja office for Parque Nacional Podocarpus, Puerto López for Machalilla, and so on.

Private reserves

In addition to national parks, there are many private or NGO-run nature reserves throughout Ecuador. Most cater to birdwatchers but are also of interest to hikers or anyone with an interest in nature. In healthy forest where birds abound, chances are that you can also find orchids, frogs, butterflies and many other fascinating plants and animals.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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