Home > Ecuador > Nature, culture and fine gastronomy blend on Ecuador´s north central coast, Part Oneh

Nature, culture and fine gastronomy blend on Ecuador´s north central coast, Part Oneh

March, 17, 2012

The comfortable 4-wheel drive car devours kilometers of a good paved road as it brings me from the vibrant seaport city of Manta’s airport, to Bahìa de Caràquez, Ecuador’s first “Eco-city” and historically known as the “cradle of the Ecuadorian nationality”.  After a scenic fifty minute ride past cultivated fields of maize, palm oil, bananas, coffee and cocoa, plus picturesque coastal towns, we enter the well guarded gates of Casa Ceibo, a sumptuous Boutique Hotel and Spa, located less than ten minutes from the center of the city of Bahìa, at the western shores of the vast delta of the Chone River.
Rossy, one of the resident managers, greets me cheerfully and, while I do a rapid and efficiently handled check-in, Fernando, from the bar staff, brings in a delightful welcome drink, a non-alcoholic combination of passion fruit and raspberry juices, exotically decorated. The property is indeed outstanding.  A main building houses the 18 spacious and luxurious rooms along with the indoor public areas.  The Hotel is a mix of an Art Gallery and Museum, adding charm and style to its international-class facilities.  I am shown to my ample and magnificently equipped and decorated room, with direct access to a fine wood terrace overlooking the superbly trimmed gardens and, beyond them, the estuary of the Chone River.  The bathroom features a full-size Jacuzzi and every detail is in place to speak of quality and luxury.
I have a lunch appointment with Daniel, one of the young owners of the Hotel.  While we indulge on a superbly delicious fish ceviche, “Manabi style”, prepared by the house’s Golden Medal Chef, Hugo, we start talking about the phenomenal potential of the area as a new tourism destination in the north-central coast of Ecuador. Easy air and road access, great birding venues within just minutes from the city of Bahia and the Hotel; important archaeological sites nearby and a host of activities to do, from splendid beaches, snorkeling, diving and marine sports to inland bird watching expeditions; protected natural areas, patches of the last remnants of the unique dry tropical forests; horseback rides or biking routes; it all combines into a perfect “bombshell” for travelers looking for the unusual, off-the-beaten-track destinations, with plenty of options for all tastes and interests.
The rest of the afternoon is spent visiting the unique habitat of the Cerro Seco Protected Forest Reserve, where its Director, Marcelo, a passionate biologist and conservationist, and a good old friend of mine, shows Daniel and I, the northern entrances to the nature trails one can take, whether hiking, on horses or mountain bikes, just from the outskirts of Bahìa City. He tells us fascinating stories of the conservation programs which are conducted in the area, to protect the unique plant and animal life of such a unique habitat…. It had rained a lot on the recent days so the “dry” forests looked unusually lush, but still intriguing, with its large and twisted-trunked giant kapok trees.  Colorful trogon birds and tanagers, as well as mockingbirds show up to evidence the avian richness of the area, as Marcelo shows us a Pacific Hornero nest under construction now for over twenty days.  Two roadside hawks hover above us as we climb the hilly terrain up to an observatory that allows us for a unique near-sunset time view: to the west, the blue Pacific Ocean stretching beyond the range of our eyes and, to the east, the city of Bahìa and the large estuary of the Chone River, a spectacular sight.
Back from our expedition to Cerro Seco, we cross Ecuador’s longest bridge, over the Chone River, which unites Bahìa with the popular beach resort town of San Vicente, at the opposite shore.  We continue on for some twenty minutes north, to the fishing village of Canoa, now becoming a new “mecca” for surfers, para-gliders and adventure sports lovers.  We pull into one of the typical thatch-roofed beachside bars to sip a cold beer, before returning to the Hotel.  The day couldn’t be over without a remarkable dinner treat: a delicate, buttery raw tuna “tiradito” with balsamic vinegar; an out of this world roasted cream of coconut soup, served on a small tequila glass; followed by a main course of jumbo shrimps with a combination of exotic sauces and brown risotto. The gourmet meal deserves a good sauvignon blanc wine, which enhances its flavors.  The grand finale is a mini-tiramisu with truffle bonbons.  Who said you cannot combine nature adventures with luxury and top-class dining…..???  The story will continue on the next issue…….

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