Ecuador // The northern lowlands and coast //

Reserva Ecológica Mache-Chindul

At the western edge of the Bilsa reserve, 700 square kilometres of coastal tropical wet forest are protected as the Reserva Ecológica Mache-Chindul. It’s characterized by extraordinary biodiversity and an unusually high level of endemism – more than ten percent of all its species are thought to be unique, though research is still in its early stages. Covering the northern half of the Mache-Chindul coastal mountains, which reach 800m in altitude, this remote area is one of the least-visited places in the country and has been inhabited for centuries by only a few small groups of Chachi and Afro-Ecuadorian peoples, who were largely overlooked until a road was built between Santo Domingo and Quinindé in 1948. Colonists have since slowly been encroaching, chopping down trees and selling Chachi lands illegally to lumber companies – hence the creation of this reserve in 1996.

With no tourist infrastructure inside the reserve, the easiest access is through the Reserva Biológica Bilsa, whose forests blend into those of Mache-Chindul. All other access points are quite remote and involve making long hikes, hauling food and camping gear, and hiring a guide or possibly even a mule ($10–15 per day, $20 for both). You can do so at the village of Boca de Tazones, 15km south of Atacames, the communities southeast of El Salto, 15km east of Muisne and 23km south of Tonchigüe, and San José de Chamanga, halfway between Muisne and Pedernales.