I love flamingos. So you can imagine my excitement upon seeing the distinctive birds standing knee high in the salt water ponds found on the south side of Salinas. They weren’t very close to the road but their almost unnatural, bright pink color was easy enough to spot in the distance. We double parked along the road, in between a couple of small hatcheries where they raise shrimp larvae for the multiple farms along the coast. The large pools in which the flamingos were feeding seem to be waste ponds for the hatcheries. And it wasn’t just flamingos that loved them. Closest to us in a small stream were Black-necked Stilts, White-cheeked Pintails, and a lone Snowy Egret. In the pond across, were the flamingos, more stilts, and some birds we couldn’t quite identify. But we could make out a viewing stand with a sign… we had discovered a yet unknown to us wildlife reserve!

We drove around to another connecting road to see if we could get any closer. We had discovered an entrance to the Lagunas de Ecuasal, part of a larger network of wildlife sanctuaries belonging to RHRAP and Bird Life International. They describe the area on their website:

The lakes are currently home to thousands of resident and migratory water birds throughout the year, and this already prompted its designation as Important Bird Conservation Areas (IBAs) (Birdlife 2005). The lakes are an important stopover place for migratory birds, particularly during the months of August and September when they gather in large numbers. Up to 32,000 individuals of the same species –Wilson’s phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor)—have been counted in the area (more than 2% of the total population). Additionally, the site is home to over 20,000 water birds.

Laguna de Ecuasal, Salinas, Ecuador

While there was no official parking place at this entrance, we decided to return to this exact location a couple of months later and to better explore the area. Of course, this time we were without a vehicle but managed to arrive via a bus and taxi combo.

Our goal, of course, was to get closer shots of those flamingos. But I also wanted to see how far we could walk into the protected area and how many different kinds of birds we could spot. On our way in, we saw kids fishing in the muddy ditch to the right-hand side. We waved and they smiled and waved back. We passed some older kids and a couple of adults coming out on the muddy road on their bicycles, holding fishing nets and buckets full of their catch of the day. All the while, we were seeing more birds – lots of egrets and herons; definitely Black-necked Stilts, pelicans, grey-headed gulls, terns, and cormorants. The flamingos were in the same pond as before but we decided to take that detour on our way back. I can tell you right now that it wasn’t a good idea.

Our goal, of course, was to get closer shots of those flamingos. But I also wanted to see how far we could walk into the protected area and how many different kinds of birds we could spot. On our way in, we saw kids fishing in the muddy ditch to the right-hand side. We waved and they smiled and waved back. We passed some older kids and a couple of adults coming out on the muddy road on their bicycles, holding fishing nets and buckets full of their catch of the day. All the while, we were seeing more birds – lots of egrets and herons; definitely Black-necked Stilts, pelicans, grey-headed gulls, terns, and cormorants. The flamingos were in the same pond as before but we decided to take that detour on our way back. I can tell you right now that it wasn’t a good idea.

We kept hiking and the ground got muddier. We came to a spot where the road gave way to a small canal with a stone dam that we walked across. On the other side were a couple of men fishing with nets. The more official looking fellow approached us and asked what we were doing. It’s days like this that our Spanish may not help us. While we were able to explain that we were photographing birds, we were also able to understand his response, “No pasan los turistas aquí. La entrada esta en el otro lado.” Basically, “No tourists allowed here. The entrance is on the other side.”

Then he pointed back behind him, the direction where we were trying to head. According to this so-called security guard, we had used an illegal entrance and were trespassing. But we couldn’t go forward so our only option was to head back the way we came, across the land he said we were trespassing in the first place.

I was a little disappointed but still thought we could manage to take a side trip to see those flamingos. After all, the side trail was much closer to the original entrance and nowhere near the guard who seemed more interested in keeping us away from his fishing friends than actually protecting any property. But we turned doubly unlucky that day. The gray sky with had dark threatening clouds decided to open wide and the occasional raindrop turned into a solid drizzle. We were not prepared for such rain. Salinas, after all, is known for its desert-like conditions. My sunhat became protection for my camera and the rest of me just got wet. But the rain coming from the sky was only half the problem. The already muddy ground was turning into a bog. And the earth had enough clay that even our hiking boots were not providing good traction. The last thing either of us wanted was a fall with our camera and gear into the yellow-brown mud.

I still hope to visit Salinas again and, if I do, the Lagunas de Ecuasal are high on my list of must visit places. We will attempt to find the “official” entrance but barring that, I would still try the small gate on the road. If you hear of a “legal” way to enter, please let us know so that we can share on the blog!

Ecuasal

To view the pools from the main road, use the main Ecuasal address and continue driving towards Via Punta Carnero. You will notice some empty lots where you can park along the highway. With a short walk into the lot, you will manage some views of the birds with the city skyline in the background.

Unofficial Entrance

There is a sign at this location explaining the Ecuasal pools and their partnership to help bird conservation. We entered at this location and walked the pools until we were told to leave.

Information For Your Trip

Use sunscreen, wear sunhat and shoes for dusty trails. It can be muddy after rain. Take plenty of bottled water.

  • Direction by Car, use WAZE and look for Ecuasal, Salinas (be careful as there is also an Ecuasal in Guayaquil).
  • Direction by Public Transportation Take the bus from Salinas into Libertad and exit at the La Peninsula Shopping Mall. Catch a second bus going towards Punta Carnero Beach and ask to be dropped off just past the gated neighborhood named Ciudad Punta Carinero.

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