The Manabí province of Ecuador is famous among Ecuadorians for its beautiful beaches and tasty cuisine. It is also a province rich in wildlife, especially birds. While Manabí was hard hit by an earthquake in April 2016, most hotels, hostels, and restaurants are back in business.

These following photos come from trips to a few of our favorite places in Manabí:

Almost everyone coming from Quito to the Manabí coast drives through Pedernales. Take a few minutes to stop and smell the roses… or at least enjoy the tricycle taxis! From there, it’s a beautiful drive south to many gorgeous destinations.

The Isla Corazón is a small island in the middle of the narrow Bahía de Caraquez. Its habitat is strongly affected by the tide. A visit by boat is best arranged at high tide when canoes and kayaks can travel on small waterways that crisscross the island. The mangrove trees and mudflats provide perfect habitat for tons of birds, including many shorebird species who like to nest in the trees, like herons, egrets, and frigatebirds.

The lodge at Chirije provides a private escape with access to sandy beaches and trails in the endangered dry coastal forests unique to coastal Ecuador. Birds like the Crimson-breasted Finch love the local cactus fruit. The forest also provides cover for the Blue-crowned Motmot, called a relojero by locals because his tail twitches back and forth like the pendulum of a grandfather clock.

Closer to Puerto Lopez, the Machalilla National Park provides several opportunities for wildlife viewing. The dry coastal forest and the cleared farmland belonging to the native people living in Agua Blanca provide different habitats to see a wide variety of birds like the Streak-headed Woodcreeper. Local guides will point out sleeping owls and colorful tanagers while also explaining the cultural and archeological history of their land.

An hour or two boat ride out into the Pacific Ocean takes visitors to the so-called Poor Man’s Galapagos, or Isla de la Plata. This island is home to two types of nesting boobies, the Blue-footed Booby and the Red-footed Booby. Two types of Frigate birds also nest on this desert island. Guided visits are a mixed bag as some tour operators see little reason to ask tourists to provide a safe space for native species. If you plan to visit this island, I suggest going out of  your way to contract a professional birding guide rather than the more inexpensive basic tour operator.

These photos are just a sample of the diversity of offerings in the Manabí province. I hope they inspire you to visit Manabí and explore its hidden treasures.

These photos were published August 2016 in partnership with the Geographic Military Institute of Ecuador in the book Ecuador Por Mis Ojos.