Isla de la Plata

We already visited one ‘poor man’s Galapagos’ in Peru, when we took a boat trip to Islas Ballestas, but in Ecuador we had the chance to visit another: Isla de la Plata. The 5km2 island lies off the west coast, near to the town of Puerto Lopez. Many of the same species in the Galapagos are also found here (but sadly not iguanas), including my most favourite sea bird ever; the blue-footed boobie!

Take a look at that fabulous colour scheme!

The females are actually the ones with brighter feet, and they’re also a little larger, with bigger pupils too.

We were able to get really close to them as they were unafraid and trying to stake out their terrritory for breeding.

The island is part of Machalilla National Park, and in order to protect the wildlife, you’re not allowed to go wandering around by yourself. The boat trip took about an hour and once on the island you’re split into groups and taken down different pathways whilst a guide points out different animals and plants.

We were led down Sendero de las Fragatas – Frigate Bird Trail. And boy did we see a lot of frigate birds!

It was both fascinating and repulsive to watch the big, noisy, stinking creatures splay themselves out in the flimsy-looking branches of their roost. I remembered from watching David Attenborough programs that frigate birds don’t have waterproof feathers, so I guess they were drying themselves out in the sun. I also remembered that they attack other birds and steal the fish they’ve just caught. With this thought in my head, I couldn’t help thinking that their sharp beaks and beady eyes looked rather evil.

We also got to see pelicans, another of my favourite birds, that I’d become familiar with in Valdivia, Chile.

I watched a group of them fishing together, which I had never seen before. The noise when they hit the water was really loud! It was interesting to see their strategy of scaring the fish into moving in one direction, making them easier to scoop up.

When we first arrived, we spotted at least five turtles popping up to the surface very close to the boat. It really seemed like they were greeting us, and made me smile a lot as I’d never seen them in the wild before.

After walking around the island, we got back on the boats for lunch and then went snorkeling. There weren’t any turtles around, but I did see forests of seaweed and some big fish. Since this was only the second time I’d ever been snorkelling, I was pretty excited. Although the ocean was calm, I still felt a bit nervous as the water was so deep and every time I lifted my head I was a lot further from the boat than I expected.

I’m really pleased that we made the trip to Isla de la Plata as our budget didn’t allow us to go to the Galapagos. But it was on the way back to the mainland that we experienced the real reason I had wanted to make this trip.

Humpback whales come to these waters to mate and give birth. We were here at the perfect time of year to observe their displays of fin- and tail-slapping.

It was really hard to take pictures as the boat was rocking quite a bit. When one whale jumped completely out of the water, my hand went flying, but I did get a few shots using the sports setting.

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The trip cost $45 pp, including snorkel gear, boat, guide, lunch, snacks and drinks. There are lots of tour agencies in Puerto Lopez, but they aren’t all that helpful. We finally went with one on the Malecon (near the Ruta del Sol hotel) because it was the only place which could actually tell us what time the boat was leaving the following day.

What’s your favourite marine animal?

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9 thoughts on “Isla de la Plata

  1. OMG I cant believe you got so close to the footed boobies and saw whales, I love them!! This place is a little paradise, and it really reminds me of the time I spent in the Galapagos Islands…sadly I didnt see whales while I was there!! Great pictures šŸ™‚

    • I would love to go to the Galapagos. Sadly, we didn’t have the time or budget on our trip, but maybe next time. We certainly had a fantastic time with the boobies! šŸ™‚

      • Ohh no, you have to come back then!! But you saw more footed boobies than I did in the Galapagos haha…so cool, they are so cute!

  2. Fabulous! So enjoyed your pictures – it looks like the whales were leaping near the boat. Seemed like such an exciting trip I would like to make it myself – esp. as the Galapagos are getting hard to book even if you can “damn the cost”! We snorkel a lot and have had turtles come up underneath us so close we had a hard time getting out of their way.

    • I’d love to snorkel with turtles! Where did you do that? It was amazing to see all these species that I’d seen on tv nature shows, suddenly alive all around me.

      • Mostly in Maui, but also on the other Hawaiian islands and once in Roatan, Honduras. One place in Maui was easy enough to take my 5 yr old granddaughter out on a boogie board and a turtle swam right up to her. šŸ™‚

  3. Pingback: Agua Blanca | Strolling South America

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