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Travel Guide to Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands

Ecuador Travel - Travel Guide to Ecuador

ECUADOR & GALAPAGOS TRAVEL

Ecuador Travel Guide
Ecuador, named for its position on the equator, is the smallest country of South America with 256.370 sq km after Uruguay and the Guianas. (Roughly the size of the US State of Colorado)
Local Time.-
Ecuador continental territory is on Eastern Standard Time (GMT –5). The Galapagos Islands are on Central Standard (GMT –6). There is no Daylight Savings Time.
 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Overview
The country of Ecuador has 24 provinces, 11 spreading out from the highlands, 6 in the Amazon region, a further 6 in the coastal areas and the Galapagos islands. Travel Guide to Ecuador

Within these 24 provinces the country is divided up into 3 distinct regions which are straddled with the Andes Mountain range, the backbone of Ecuador that traverses the country from north to south as well as dividing it into the western coastal lowlands, the Sierra or Highlands, the Oriente or Amazon (eastern jungles of the higher Amazon) and the Archipelago of Galapagos forming the fourth region respectively. The Pacific coastline of the Western lowlands is situated between the pacific ocean and the Andean mountain range and extends some 300 miles beginning in Esmeraldas spreading all the way down to El Oro. The latter province along with Manabi and Los Rios provinces are the major farmed areas due to their rich agricultural lands while other areas have been the home to many fishing villages spanning the entire coastline. The rest of the coastal areas have various marshes, mangrove forests, tourist resorts along with beautiful beaches as well as major ports for exporting and importing produce.

The major beach resorts in the southern central area worth visiting are Salinas the jewel of the coastline, Montañita (famous for surfing), Manta, Bahía de Caráquez, Puerto Bolivar and Puerto López, many of the beaches are sandy and Palm fringed as well as having all year round warm waters for swimming in comparison to other countries such as Peru and Chile who's waters are much cooler depending on the time of year.

Finally, to the north lies the Province of Esmeraldas, which is much hotter, humid, wetter and is home to a large afro-Ecuadorian culture and from their food to the dancing festivals along with their bamboo more rustic accommodations, the ambiance is unique within the coastal lowlands and well worth a visit.

In contrast the Sierra (highlands) as well as being a bio-natural diverse region of untamable volcanoes, thermal baths emanating from the former, wild animals (many endemic), serene wild landscapes, cloud forests and Paramo highlands all combined makes for excellent sightseeing, hiking, trekking, camping as well as guided day trips arranged from the architecturally delightful capital of the country, Quito along with its two distinct cities of colonial and modern construction.

The Oriente in comparison, offers great jungle towns along with combinations of eco-ethno tourism with the option of staying with the local indigenous cultures along with guided tours allowing you to view the heart of Amazon culture, customs, sport excursions such as white river rafting, cycling down spectacular scenery and the wildest nature of bio-diversity of animal, bird and plant life known to man.

Finally, the Galapagos islands offers the traveler the ultimate in tranquility and remoteness and along with its great climate and un-daunting, fearless human interaction of the animals and mammals who roam the islands making a once in a life time experience in these timeless lands which is a must during your visit.

You can also swim with playful dolphins and often will be joined by the penguins while for divers the ocean's marine world is the pearl of all oceans for viewing many endemic and exotic species. The tour options offering all classes of boat tours throughout the islands is also very appealing for many travellers whom get to visit many islands dotted throughout the Archipelago some with active volcanoes and running lava making your trip complete.
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 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Basics
Official name: Republic of Ecuador

Type of government:
Democracy, Presidential Republic.

Independence:
May 24, 1822. From Spain.

Capital City:
Quito.

Main cities:
Guayaquil, Quito, and Cuenca.

Currency:
US Dollars.

Languages:
Spanish (official) and other native languages such as: Quechua (Incas' language) and Shuar. English is the most spoken foreigner language amongst tourist providers and professionals.

Religion:
95% Roman Catholic.
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 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Population
Ecuador's population is approximately 13,600,000 million (since the last census). Its population has the highest density compared with any other South American countries (50 inhabitants per square kilometer).

Ethnic Division:

Mestizo (mixed Indigenous and Spanish): 50%
Indigenous: 25%
White: 15%
Black: 10%

Indigenous groups: Several indigenous groups including the Achuar, Awa, Epera, Huaorani, Chachi, Cofán, Negro afroecuatoriano, Quichua (highlands), Otavaleño, Quichua (Amazon), Salasacas,Shuar,Siona, Tsachilla, Záparo, Saraguro and Secoya, amongst others.
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 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Geography

Ecuador is located on the northwestern coast of South America. It comprises the continental territory between coordinates of latitude 01 27’ 06’’ N and 05 00’ 56’’ S and longitude 75 11’ 49’’ W to 81 00’ 40’’ W, that covers approximately 104,550 square miles -270,670 km2- plus the Galapagos Islands (1,000 km. off the coast of Ecuador).

Its continental territory borders Peru to the south and the east (approx. 1,420 km), Colombia to the north (590 km.) and the Pacific Ocean to the west (2,237 km. of coastline).

Elevation extremes

Lowest point: Pacific Ocean, 0 meters

Travel Guide to Ecuador

Highest point: Chimborazo Volcano, 6,300 meters.

Natural resources: Fish, timber, oil and mining.

Land use:

Arable land: 6%
Permanent crops: 5%
Permanent pastures: 18%
Forests and woodlands: 56%
Other: 15%

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 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Climate

The Ecuadorian climate has two main seasons with a wet followed by a dry season as well as varying weather patterns which are affected by the dramatically differing geographical boundaries, as a general rule it is far cooler in the sierra highlands and more tropical with humid, wetter climates in the Oriente, Amazon and Coastal areas.

Due to a combination of the dry deserts of Peru in the south and the torrential heavier downpours of the north pacific from Colombia the climate is sandwiched between these two natural fronts, however in addition the country also receives cooler waters of the Humbolt currents which flow from Chile into Ecuador's warmer equatorial waters which in effect divides the coast line up further into two main climates. The result of the former fronts means in effect that the rain levels are less the further south you venture down the coastline from Guayaquil. This latter current occurs during May-December producing less rain but more damp, overcast days although in contrast the northwest sections of the pacific such as Esmeraldas and Manabi provinces which receive torrential rainfall as the current is turned west. The only exception to the rule on southerly and northerly rainfall patterns is when the El Niño effect comes into play which can lead to torrential storms and flooding also in the South as huge amounts of water are scooped from the ocean and thrown onshore disrupting services and agricultural production as happened during the 1990's.

The Sierra (Andes) with its Paramo highlands soaks up the rainfall with its spongy terrain distributing much of the water to the local sierra inhabitants. As a result of the volcanoes and high Andes mountain peaks of the sierra varying mini-climates result for example, the valleys and hollows of the Andes are baking in heat during the day but are much cooler in the evenings with rainfall at its highest during October to May. In contrast the southerly areas of Loja and Vilcabamba towards the Peruvian frontier and although contained within the Andes range enjoy more ambient temperatures ranging between 18-24ºC all year round.

To the eastern foothills of the Andes mountain range lies the Amazon deep tropical rain forests who's rivers are fed and previously formed through the melting snow from the volcanoes populating the area. The vegetation along with the animal and bird life contained in this region are rich in both numbers and species. In addition the rainfall is consistently heavy all year round especially May-December although the humidity levels and heat is omnipresent throughout the year.

There are two main climatic seasons on Galapagos, the hot season from December to May which sees increased sea temperatures and occasional heavy rain fall, worst around January to February, off peak season and the cooler season June to November with more cloud form and misty patches leading to lighter rains, After June however, trade winds can be significant affecting ocean temperatures which can dip to as low as 15ºC although with exception to the 2 months pre-mentioned the islands are favorable to visit for most of the year due to their Latitudial advantage.

The waters of the Archipelago are also affected by southeasterly Pacific cooler waters which move towards the west and the equator and between July-September the recorded temperatures can fall down to 16ºC which can form cloud coverage around the islands as well as lowering the air temperatures.

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 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Social Welfare

Net migration rate: 0.50 migrant(s) per 1,000.

Infant mortality rate: 34.5 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Total fertility rate: 2.60 children born per woman.

Poverty: 30%.

Literacy: Over 15 years old (Male: 91%; female: 88.5%).

Child malnutrition (% of children under 5): 40%.

Unemployment rate: 20%.

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 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Ecology & Environment

The country of Ecuador despite its small area is the most biological diverse place on earth. The Andes mountain range has of course been the major catalyst in this diversity and has effectively divided the country into two parts, west and east which has acted as an explosive catalyst in combining two climatic fronts and helps form new species.

FLORA.- The diversity of Ecuador's flora and fauna is correlated with its diverse climatic differences of the higher and lower Andes combined with the humid eastern Oriente and Amazon regions forming an explosive biological richness of animal, bird and plant life, as well as varied indigenous natives throughout the lands. As well as attracting nature lovers, the world over the eastern Oriente has provided 10% of the world's total plant species and with new life and species growing yearly due to the aforementioned climatic clashes the country has become a paradise of discovery for many of the world's leading botanists, scientists and other professional and green peace organizations.

FAUNA.- For bird watchers of the world it should be noted that around 15% of all protected, endangered and endemic bird species are only found in Ecuador through the Sierra, Amazon and lower coastal areas of the country. Of the 3000 species known throughout the world 50% are represented in Ecuador making it the densest bird population on the planet as well as having over double the birds of the continent such as Australia, North America or even Europe who are all at least 20-30 times the size of this country.

% of habitat remaining:

forests: 96.3
grasslands: 75.9

% of land area protected: 39.2

Total area protected (ha): 11,100

No. of areas protected over 1 million ha in size: 6.6

No. of areas protected over 100,000 ha in size: 46.6

Current environmental issues: Habitat loss, deforestation, desertification, soil erosion, over-fishing, water pollution, shrimp industry, oil, mining industries and endangered species.

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 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Government

Type of government: Democratic Republic.

Capital: Quito

President: Rafael Correa, is the current elected President of Ecuador (January 2007 - 2011).

Administrative division:

The Galapagos Islands and 22 provinces including:

Azuay, Bolivar, Canar, Carchi, Chimborazo, Cotopaxi, El Oro, Esmeraldas, Guayas, Imbabura, Loja, Los Rios, Manabi, Morona-Santiago, Napo, Orellana, Pastaza, Pichincha, Sucumbios, Tungurahua and Zamora-Chinchipe.

Infrastructure:

Main phones lines: 910,000

Cable TV subscribers: 200,000

Cellphone subscribers: 700,000

Internet dial-up accounts: 50,000

Internet Service Providers: 40

PC ownership: 5.5 per 1,000

Roads paved: 20.5%

Paging subscribers: 75,000

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 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Economy

Ecuador is considered the premier exporter of Bananas to the entire world and in addition is also forefront in the fishing sector due to its fine shrimp farming areas down the pacific coastlines as well as high tuna, sardine and white fish exports with the latter providing much sushi to the Asian and North American Catering industries.

The country's main export is still however petroleum which specializes in crude and other quality oils for exporting as well as supporting the local inhabitants and light industry infrastructures.

Although income was good from Petroleum exports in the 70s the mid 80s on proved a difficult time for the economy and its stability due to declining oil prices and the catastrophic result of the el Niño effect around 1983 which disrupted coffee, banana, and agricultural harvesting of other fruits and vegetables due to severe coastal flooding when el Niño dumped tremendous levels of water from the ocean onto the lands.

The geo-economic influences from petroleum prices combined with climatic detours that result in loss of agricultural production countered with growing eco-ethno tourism and the introduction of a stabilizing policy through dollarization from the volatile Sucre, through the United States and World Monetary fund in 2000 has left the country in better shape and along with the I.M.F (International Monetary fund) and along with Brady bond loans the country has kept afloat and has shred its past Banana republic image away these days as more and more travellers prefer to visit this country in preference to many other countries, it is still one of the cheapest countries to visit, not only in South America but most other continents also, as well as being incredible value for money and quality time away.

Main agriculture products: Coffee, bananas, rice, potatoes, cacao, manioc, sugarcane, plantains, cattle, pigs, sheep, beef, pork, shrimp, balsa wood, dairy and fish.

Main industries: Mining, oil, textiles, food processing, paper products, wood, metal work, plastics, chemical production, fishing, tourism and lumber.

Trade (US$ M)

Total imports: 3,000

Food: N/A
Fuel and energy: 245
Capital goods: 820

Total exports: 4,400

Oil: 1,300
Bananas: 950
Manufactures: 1,200

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