On day 11 of the trip, we began our two day stay at Puerto Lopez which is a city surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and dry forest. Our hotel was amazing. It consisted of great views of the ocean, great food, and a very unique maze that led us to our rooms. We began the day heading to Machalilla National Park. It essentially is your typical beach state or national park but so much better. The crystal-clear waters, clean beaches, and the cliffs surrounding it gave the place a special feel that I have never experienced before. It was amazing to see how fast the tiny crab on the beach could run. We began a hike up one of the cliffs through the dry forest, as the flowers flourished on the side of the path. We finally reached the top of the cliff, as we got a fantastic view of the surrounding area. Vultures, pelicans, and many other different kinds of birds swept across the cliffs using the wind patterns to stay airborne. It was truly amazing to see how these birds mastered flight and how glider companies study these birds. We headed back down to the beach where we swam in the water. Afterwards we headed into town. While we were in town, we noticed about 100 boats docked in the ocean, a wide variety of restaurants, and people desperately trying to convince a bunch of hungry Americans to eat at their seaside restaurant. We stopped and ate at one of the restaurants. I was feeling a breakfast for some reason, so I ordered a pancake topped with Oreos and chocolate. We headed back to the beach again where we enjoyed a beautiful sunset over the ocean.
We spent most of day 12 on an island in the Pacific Ocean called Isle de la Plata. This island is also a national park, as it is home to many different bird species. Only 200 people are allowed on the island every day, so it was a unique opportunity to take advantage of. We arrived at the island after a one-hour boat ride over choppy waters where we began our hike. Before we saw any birds, we saw an abundance of wildlife which included stick bugs, lizards, and spiders. Once we got to the top, we got amazing views of the cliffs overhanging the oceans and a bunch of boobies (the bird). We were able to spot many of them of different ages. I have never seen a baby bird as large as the baby boobies. They almost looked to be the size of the adults. We saw a male and a female mating, as we were able to easily tell the difference due to the sound they make. The boobies were far from the only bird that called the island home. We saw a large black bird where the males inflate a giant balloon to attract females. I have never seen so many large birds in one area in my life. Our tour ended, but there was still a lot to do before we headed back to Puerto Lopez. We took a boat ride to our snorkeling destination. Here we saw sea turtles, sea lions, and a lot of fish. As we began snorkeling, this was a moment when I wish that I was a better swimmer. I had no idea what I was doing when diving underneath the water. This did not take away from what we were able to see underneath the water. I was surprised to see so many fish and coral in such shallow water. I did not realize how amazing it was until one of my group members said it was the best snorkeling spot he has ever been at. Our ride back did not disappoint. We saw so many dolphins, and a few of them ever popped up a few yards from our boat. Unfortunate that was our last major stop on an Ecuador trip that I will never forget.