Isla Santay, across the river lies a hidden treasure

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Many a visitor to Guayaquil is struck by the green, indistinct mass on the opposite bank of the river. “What’s that? Who lives there? How do you get there?” they ask.

Well, it turns out there is a hidden treasure in Guayaquil and it’s called Santay Island, a parallel world that provides visitors and residents alike with an escape from the hectic bustle of the big city. It manages to marry nature, ecotourism and adventure all in one. This little paradise harbors hundreds of species of birds, dozens of species of plants and several species of animals such as reptiles, amphibians and mammals. A natural trove a (literal) stone’s throw from the Malecón.

Conscious of its unique location and properties, the small community that inhabits the island made the decision to protect it from urban depredation while also ensuring their long-term quality of life and survival. They therefore organized themselves into the “Association of Residents of San Jacinto Santay” in the late 90s as a means of having a political voice in the city and achieving their aims. Over the years, they have worked on various productive projects related to ecotourism and education, as well as infrastructure initiatives that have improved their standards of living immeasurably.

Recycled materials and solar panelling were used to make the homes at Eco-Aldea in Santay.

Following these successes came the “Santay Eco-Village” project, which embraced 56 families and 245 inhabitants. The aim is to place the community on a truly sustainable footing using modern techniques that will minimize their impact on the surrounding environment and provide an example for others to follow: water is pumped from the Guayas River, processed in a water treatment plant employing a reverse osmosis mechanism; wastewater is treated and returned to the river, closing the circle; electricity is produced by solar panels; everyday tasks involve recycling activities that promote the reuse of organic waste and the proper classification of solid waste.

The project has been given a welcome added impetus with the creation of two bridges which will connect the island: one from Duran and the other from the south of the city. From a distance, the bridges appear like two arms reaching out to shake hands on the island, promising to care and respect it. Very soon you’ll be able to cross the River Guayas on foot or by bike – unthinkable until recently. The route includes more than 14 km of elevated trails, with the backdrop of majestic trees and rambling mangroves.

The community welcomes visitors to the islands and its residents make warm and informative hosts. We encourage you to visit and see all the projects for yourself, and, not least, discover this unexpected green oasis.

ISLA SANTAY, Visitor’s information

http://guayaquilecologico.netne.net/islasantay-home.html / www.islasantay.info

(+593) 98 654 7034 / (+593) 268 3995 ext. 3542

Regular departures from the Malecón, next to the Yacht Club Dock Naval. The cost of the round trip is $4. Visits are organized Friday to Sunday it is open from 09:00 to 17:00.

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