The far north of the Pacific coast is very different from the rest of the country. Near the border with Ecuador, an hour and a half to the north of Mancora, the Tumbes and Puyango Rivers discharge into the Pacific Ocean.
The water flows slowly, with no rapids or shallows, meandering and forming lagoons amid the trees. The American crocodiles observe the world with just their eyes sticking out of the water. Frigate birds fly over the forest canopy. A crab-eating racoon searches for food on the sea shore.
Los Manglares de Tumbes National Sanctuary is named after the mangrove, a widespread tree species that grows in both salt and fresh water. The mangroves are gradually reclaiming land from the sea by taking root in the sediment carried by the river, thus creating a natural barrier that prevents erosion by the tide and swell. This is how the trees expand their territory and preserve an ecosystem that is home to an exotic variety of animals.
There, you will find rustic restaurants selling the signature dish of northern Peru: mangrove scallop cebiche (no self-respecting inhabitant of Tumbes will admit not to liking it), which is said to have aphrodisiac properties.
If you want to go into the core of the sanctuary, where visits are strictly controlled to keep the environment as pristine as possible, you should go to the Protected Natural Areas control point known as El Algarrobo. The park rangers use it as a base and it has certain facilities and an interpretation center for visitors.
Here you will be able to make contact with the area’s diversity of fauna. There are 12 species of mammals, including the mangrove bear, the crab-eating racoon and the neotropical otter, although the monarch of this territory is the American crocodile, a huge reptile that can grow up to 5 meters long.
However, there are other very special ecosystems just a few kilometers away. These are the equatorial dry forest and the Pacific tropical forest, found in the Tumbes provinces of Zarumilla, Tumbes and Contralmirante Villar and extending south as far as the provinces of Talara and Sullana in Piura. This corridor is known as the Northwest Biosphere Reserve and includes the Cerros de Amotape National park (the core), the Tumbes National Reserve and the El Angolo Hunting Reserve (buffer zones).
The Tumbes River crosses Cerros de Amotape National Park, which takes its name from the Amotape Mountains. The west bank of the river is considered to be equatorial dry forest, while the east bank, rainier and higher, is Pacific tropical forest. It is divided into five areas, from 120 to 1,538 m.a.s.l., which give the park an extraordinary variety of ecological zones, leading to an enormous diversity of plants and animals from the coastal desert to the forests of the upper and mid Andes. It is because of this unique ecosystem that the park is considered a world center for plant and bird diversity.
Access to the park is through the National Protected Areas Service control point at Rica Playa, which can be reached on foot through wonderful wooded and cultivated scenery or by car from Bocapan. Once you reach Rica Playa you can hire Creole horses, adapted to the local terrain since the arrival of the Spanish 500 years ago, and ride through the carob woods.
We help you find yourself in Peru. Since 2003, we have led the way as an authoritative and reliable English-language resource for those interested in traveling, living, working, and investing in Peru. We are a team of dedicated individuals who are passionate about delivering reliable and unbiased content and providing amazing experiences for people visiting Peru.