I bob in the choppy Pacific, watching whale spouts drift across the horizon. As our divemaster Marcelo turns to check on the other divers preparing to roll off the rail, a dark shape flashes in my periphery.
The black mass climbs out of the sea directly in front of me.
It’s a whale. It rises until its left eye crests the surface where it pauses, hanging on the waves. It scans me and, satisfied, slips back into the comfort of the depths.
Perhaps this was the humpback that owes its life to Marcelo’s father.
With a warm face and easy smile, Ambrosio Yagual has much to be proud of. Yet when this selfmade man who runs the premier tour operator in Ecuador’s most popular non-Galapagos dive spot talks about his work, he speaks of happiness.
“To have my children with me every day is a dream.”
Ray Aguila Dive Shop is a true family business, run by Ambrosio and his wife Janet, their son Marcelo and his three siblings. Each one was born and raised in Ayangue, a serene beach town two hours from Guayaquil along Ecuador’s Ruta del Spondylus. They even have their own Ray Aguila soccer team.
To dive here with locals offers a more intimate encounter with the ocean environment than your typical transplantrun dive operation. Guides tell stories of growing up free diving, the artisanal practice of hunting their backyard waters for commercially viable crustaceans – without the benefit of supplemental air.
It’s also how Ambrosio learned to love the sea. He says visitors often comment that he lives in paradise. There are moments here when it’s hard to argue with that sentiment. Families flock to Ayangue’s wide, flat beach to sink their feet into the light sand. Kids play in the mellow waves while fishing boats loll on the turquoise swells. Meanwhile, cliffs that ring the horseshoe-shaped bay hold the secret to a local culinary delight: fresh lobster.
I ask Ambrosio what he wants visitors to take away from their time in Ayangue’s waters. He responds with a quick smile: “What you take from the sea, you can give back.”
Like when he and a friend freed a trapped whale from a stray fishing line. The five-hour ordeal was possible thanks to their ability to dive in the open ocean without modern equipment.
After the day-trippers head home, Ayangue’s beach is blissfully empty. Uncrowded bars serve exotic cocktails, fresh juice and cold beer. Watching the twilight dissolve into darkness, tomorrow feels like a long way away.
But morning comes early here. The fishermen depart in the pre-dawn glow, followed onto the beach by a black pickup adorned with Ray Aguila’s bright red logo. Divers collect, swap tales, then depart with Marcelo and his brothers.
Most days, Ambrosio stays on the shore. He looks forward to retirement, to handing Ray Aguila off to his children. “Who knows where the business goes, you can’t know life’s path. But to share what we love, is a blessing.”
Contact the Yagual family in Ayangue (at their spot in front of the beach) or at their branch in Montañita (next to Banco Bolivariano) for unique sea adventures.
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+(593 4) 459 1175 / +(593 9) 90 23 9104