I wish I could properly put into words what it’s like to hear wild howler monkeys for the first time in a rainforest in Ecuador. It’s the type of sound that goes straight in your ears and immediately reappears on your mouth as a huge smile.
We visited Pacoche Marine and Coastal Wildlife Refuge, about 20 miles southwest of the bustling port of Manta, with Mauro and Fernando from Manta SOS Guide. Bypassing the path chosen by the big tour buses, they instead took us a little deeper into the reserve, to the much quieter Pasaje del Mono Trail.
For the next hour and a half we hiked down a virtually dry valley through the forest, heading for the coast. Along the way, local guide Javier kept up a fascinating commentary (translated by Fernando) on the refuge’s plants and animals.
Sadly, there are never any guarantees on wildlife tours, and we didn’t got a close-up encounter with any monkeys. Yet looking on the bright side, early on we did get a brief glimpse of one running off down the path ahead of us. And a bit later we saw a group taking a siesta high in a tree, away from the path. So at least we saw something!
And to be honest, just the howls of tantalisingly close monkeys made our visit to Pacoche one of the highlights of our time in Ecuador.
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