The four worlds of Ecuador

There it is right on the Equator.  Ecuador is not the only country in the world to have the Equator run right through it, but it is the only country to boast about it by including the Equator in its name.

Ecuador is one of the smallest countries in South America. Located on the Pacific coast it shares border with Columbia and Peru, and also administers the Galapagos Islands, that remote natural oddity which so inspired Charles Darwin to write his On the Origin of the Species.

The country is remarkably diverse, and Ecuadorians refer to their country as having four worlds, which consists of the Andes, the Amazon, the Coast and the Galapagos.

The first of these is the Ecuadorian Highlands in the Andes Mountains which run through the middle of Ecuador from Loja province in the south to Carchi province in the north. There you can explore mountains such as Mt.Cotopaxi (it’s name means “smooth neck of the moon”), which is the highest active volcano in the world at 5,897 m (19,347 ft), and Mt.Chimborazo, and relatively inactive volcano, which is Ecuador’s highest mountain at 6,268.2 m (20,565 ft).  One other interesting fact about Mt. Chimborazo is that, due to the Earth bulging at the Equator, its summit is the spot that is considered to be furthest from the centre of the Earth.

The second of Ecuador’s four worlds is the Amazon. The Amazon is one of the earth’s richest natural resources. Reserves and national parks are home to hundreds of bird and fish species. They are also home to tapirs, anacondas, boa constrictors, turtles, lizards, armadillos, bears, monkeys, giant rodents and infinite bird species. Ecuador is home to the largest diversity of animals and plants per square kilometre in the world, and it is third in the world for its variety of amphibians, and fifth for butterflies.

Beautiful beaches are found from north to south on the Ecuadorian Pacific coast. Alongside ports, fishing villages, and modern cities, dense protected forests grow with their gigantic and moist terracotta roots. The tallest mangroves in the world 64 metres (194 feet) are found in the Majagual forest in the Cayapas-Mataje Ecological Reserve. In Machalilla National Park, the sea, virgin beaches, and forests combine with the history of pre-Incan cultures. The waters around Isla de la Plata are a paradise of multicoloured fish and the island’s fauna is similar to that found on the Galapagos Islands. From Puerto López, you can see the humpback whales that arrive from the Antarctic waters to mate between June and October of each year. The biggest refuge for marine birds in Ecuador is Santa Clara Island off the southern coast.    

And so to Ecuador’s fourth world, the Galapagos. It has 13 main islands and dozens of islets and minor volcanic islands. This archipelago, 97% of which is protected by the government, is located almost 620 miles from the Ecuadorian coast and is characterised by its white-sand beaches, cactus forests, giant turtles, and coloured birds – such as the blue-footed, red footed and masked boobies, flamingos, and penguins. The Islands are also home to finches, frigate birds, albatrosses, and pelicans.  The marine reserve, which like the archipelago, was declared a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site, features on the list of the seven best places in the world to snorkel and scuba dive. During such trips, visitors can swim with whales, rays, manta rays, swordfish, marine turtles, sea lions, hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, and other impressive species.

So, there you have it.  Four good reasons to visit the four worlds of Ecuador.

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