My Trip to the Ecological Station “El Congal” Muisne – Ecuador.

March 23 2010

My Trip to the Ecological Station “El Congal” Muisne – Ecuador.

I found the mystical and magic tree of life. My tree of life is the mangrove, specifically the red mangrove.  I was very lucky to have seen this tree in its natural environment, a tree that grows only in tropical areas around the world. This trip showed my friends that I made on the reserve “El Congal”, the value of the mangrove, and the future project to protect the tree of life.

On March 23rd, Kevin and I decided to modify the adventure to the Yasuni; I wanted to show him my special tree. We went to the province of Esmeraldas, which is located on the north-west of the coast of Ecuador. The trip started in Quito on Friday morning. We spent 6 hours on a bus; we saw the fake monument of the Middle of the World, Mindo, and many beautiful towns along the way, until we arrived at the town of Atacames.

Atacames is a beach town, which is very famous for its beautiful beach with the same name, we stayed there at night. The next day, we woke up at 7:00 a.m. to take the “La Costenita” bus to Muisne. We seen many towns and we experienced how friendly the people were on the bus. The trip by bus takes one hour and a half hours.  Finally, we arrived at the pier in Muisne.

The town looks like an old town from the 40’s. People would come up to you and ask you for a ride to the Muisne Island. We went to the opposite site, so we could wait for a pick up and wait for the gathering people to depart to “Lagarteras” but, we couldn’t wait so we took a motorcycle with a box in the front and two rides on the sides for $2, the ride is about 15 minutes and we were there at the entrance of the reserve “el Congal”.

Andres Ledergerber is the director of the reserve “El Congal”, this reserve has 250 ha and protects 650 ha of mangroves. It is part of the non-profit organization headed by Jatun Sacha, who has another projects in the jungle as well as Galapagos Island. As you know, it is hard to get resources for these kinds of projects, inside El Congal there are eco-shrimp ponds, cacao plantations, and “Productive Conservation Area”, but it is not enough. The volunteer activity represents 80% of the income of this project.

I had a short conversation with a guy from Germany, who told me about the fabulous experiences he has in the reserve for more than a year, he is planting mangroves, and helping local people in Muisne, also I talked to a girl from Canada, who stays there only for two weeks at a time, she helps children of Bunche to learn English, and helps in other volunteer activities.

Vicente, our guide, showed us the property.  First of all, you have to wear boots, large pants, and lot of repellent. We were walking on a tiny road up to the hill, we saw many kinds of trees, like palms, banana trees, coconut trees, guaba trees, and bamboo. On the top of the hill is a tower made of wood for the German volunteers, where you have an outstanding view of the entire area. You can see Muisne, Bunche, and the beach.

Then, we went down the hill to discover the mangrove. We saw a lot of snails who were introduced in the 90’s from Africa, and now are plaguing, and destroying everything. Andres can’t deal with them, and the snails have destroyed a small garden of orchids and other plants. In the middle of the forest was rested and drank fresh coconut juice, Vicente is an expert in cutting and peeling this tropical fruit.

The best part had yet to come; this is the first time in my entire life that I was really close to the Mangrove. I learned about the different kind of mangroves you can find here, which are the Manglillo, white mangrove, black mangrove, and the red mangrove.  I took a seed the size of 17cm and I decided to plant my first mangrove. Near the mangroves we saw crabs, short iguanas, and some birds. I was totally surrounded by mangroves.

Why is the mangrove so important? Because it is a natural barrier that protects beaches, shorelines, and inland coastal areas from natural disasters, like tsunamis. The mangrove is the nursery for 70% of marine organisms which without them wouldn’t exist.It protects the lands from erosion, mangroves host a wide variety of organisms (oysters, algae, sponges) and animals (56 species of mammals, 198 species of birds, reptiles and crustaceous).

In addition, the mangrove may have the highest net productivity of carbon of any natural ecosystem. According to Jin Eong Ong, “(it produces about a hundred pounds per acre [45 kilograms per 0.4 hectares] per day) and as much as a third of this may be exported in the form of organic compounds to mudflats.”[1] So mangroves can be recognized as carbon – storage assets.

Leaving the mangroves, we started to listen to the sound of the waves, we had the impression we were conquering a secret beach. In front of us, we were astonished. We could not understand what our eyes were seeing. All that pristine idea we had in our minds about the beach disappeared in seconds. We scream “no garbage!”

Kevin was totally disappointed about the garbage he saw on the beach. A magnificent view destroyed by the garbage. Vicente told us that volunteers help every week to clean the beach. So I felt the importance of how the corruption and the poor leadership of the major of Muisne and near towns don’t do anything to recycle or take control of the garbage.

It is hard to believe, I went to Muisne in 1996, and after 14 years the situation remains the same. Why? Because leaders of previous administrations are blind and corrupted. The last plan organized by the current leader of Muisne called “Muisne Limpio” never worked. People stole the trash cans, and they never cooperated to recycle the garbage.

Kevin told me he is going to start working on the garbage project, and obtain help in the U.S. to change this unfortunate situation. I have to say thanks to all the international volunteers for your help and hard work. I hope that Ecuadorian people can learn from this experience and come here to help. I have to recognize the labor of some students of the University of San Francisco in Quito, but what about the rest?

I’m working on my cause to plant trees in Ecuador. I will be responsible for organizing trips to plant mangroves in this area, this is necessary and mandatory, since 1980 Ecuadorians have lost 50% of the mangroves (17,000 ha). And I am going to need your help. We, students from Ecuador, have to give an example of union and humble work to change this situation. Otherwise, nobody is going to believe in us.


Danilo Luzuriaga

[1] Warne, Kennedy. “Mangroves.” Forest of the Tide. Feb.2007. National Geographic. <>.

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