December 2019 OES Beacon

Trip along the Ecuadorian coast

Lady Nicole Macas Mendez, current chair president of the first IEEE/OES chapter in Ecuador and an Oceanographic Engineering student.  

The coastal profile is an emblematic element of the Ecuadorian national identity. In addition, it is a source of various resources, both tourist and fishing as well as biological; allowing a very important development of shrimp aquaculture. The Ecuadorian coasts are 2860 kilometers long, have their most outstanding point in the Puntilla near Salinas and its easternmost inlet at the mouth of the river Mataje, province of Esmeraldas. Its most important geographical accident is the Gulf of Guayaquil, which is the largest in the Pacific profile of South America, being the city of Guayaquil where the trip began.

The geomorphology of these coasts can be classified into three main types: high cliffs with small bays interspersed in areas of tertiary sedimentary reliefs, such as Pedernales to Manglaralto; medium and low with small cliffs and large rectilinear front beaches, such as those located near Manta; and the low coasts of the deltaic type with fluvial-marine arms and with mangrove-covered islands such as those located in the Gulf of Guayaquil and along the south coast.

Due to the mixing conditions of the waters of the Southern Equatorial stream, which are characterized by being low salt and rich in oxygen with the cold Humboldt stream, loaded with nutritious elements, the high fertility of the Ecuadorian sea and the particular conditions are explained of the oceanic environment of the Galapagos Islands.

Our trip began from the city of Guayaquil, at midnight, where we depart by bus to “Atacames” on a trip of approximately 9 hours; after resting and eating we go to the beach of “Súa”, with calm waters, being a beautiful bay surrounded by mountains where they live waterfowl communities such as frigates, blue footed boobies and seagulls. From there we take a boat to visit the Island of the Birds and the Cave of Love, formed by the force of the waves.

The section we visited between the beaches of “Tonsupa” and “Súa” is 20 kilometers, being mostly a cliff coast up to 50 m high. In addition, the low coasts are sandy, and often covered by mangroves that develop in areas near rivers.

After leaving “Súa” we headed to “Tonsupa” where we could observe the rapid erosion of the coast due to the force of the waves; the cliffs present in the area have a base composed of silty sediments, which causes their fall; although this phenomenon is common on beaches around the world, this area occurs quickly and alarmingly due to the strong events of El Niño and the systematic destruction of mangroves.

After viewing both beaches, we go to “Atacames” to rest and have dinner. The next morning we depart to “Bahía de Caráquez” whose entrance bridge, built over the estuary of the Chone River, is the longest in Ecuador with 1980 meters in length, 13.20 meters in width, also has a bicycle path and pedestrian crossing, thus contributing to the tourism and the comfort of the inhabitants of the area.

In the afternoon we arrived at the port of Manta, the one with the greatest draft in the country, with 13 meters deep where Postpanamax ships can dock. There they guided us on a visit of a couple of hours through the different facilities that have recently been repowering as the cabotage docks, the fishing fines and the facilities of the international terminals where cruise ships arrive, which were damaged by the earthquake that hit the country in April 2016. This is also a port considered multipurpose; part of the cargo it mobilizes is solid bulk, liquid bulk, machinery and vehicles and also serves the international and artisanal fishing fleet.

After this we continue the trip to the city of “Montañita”, known for being an important center for surfing. On the morning of the third day we continue the trip to “Playa de los Frailes”, considered the best in the country, for its tourist attractions. Belonging to the Machalilla National Park, however, it is an oceanic beach with a strong swell. It is away from the road, its entrance is controlled and it has three kilometers in length of beautiful clear sands. In the northern part there is a path that goes up to the viewpoint where you can observe the area. With typical vegetation of tropical dry forest, from June to September it is possible to observe migratory whales.

On the afternoon of the last day we arrive at “Ayangue” beach, which is a fishing village, located in a bay that is shaped like a horseshoe. It is known for its clear and calm waters, in addition to the coral reefs, that allow the tourists to dive into the waters. Near this beach is the National Center for Aquaculture and Marine Research (CENAIM), belonging to ESPOL, built in the 90s with financial support from the government of Japan. The center’s mission being the improvement and sustainable development of aquaculture and marine biodiversity of Ecuador through scientific research, technological development, training and dissemination. CENAIM also fosters a close link with the productive sector through experimentation services with shrimp and fish, laboratory analysis, training and training of professionals, and the supply of products for sanitary improvement and feeding of aquaculture crops. The link with the academy and community is developed through thesis offer for students from national and international universities, and internships for students from local schools.

We finished the trip on the night of the same day with the arrival in the city of Guayaquil, this being of great importance and very fruitful in terms of knowledge of the most relevant areas of the Ecuadorian coast for those studying in areas related to marine sciences.

The importance of good management of coastal areas was reflected in April 2016 when an earthquake of magnitude 7.8 hit the north coast of the country, leaving a total of 691 dead and 7216 injured in addition to the countless material damage and the situation of vulnerability and poverty in which many families remained.

Therefore, territorial planning based on risk areas along with disaster preparedness towards the population has become fundamental in recent years.

Ecuador is in a highly seismic zone, with cities vulnerable to rising sea levels, so preparing ourselves to be resilient in the face of future catastrophes and imminent climate change is a priority.

We thank IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society (OES) for financing this trip.

Photo Gallery


Location of beaches visited on the trip
Arriving to the island of the birds
Bird Island
Mangrove area in Súa
Endemic birds of the dry forest
Love Cave
Esmeraldas estuarine zone
Port of Manta (Author: El Universo newspaper, 2018)
Bridge to Bahía de Caraquez
Los Frailes beach
Fishing pier in the port of Manta
Súa Beach
Tonsupa Beach
Aquaculture students and part of the OES-IEEE directive