Isla Santay or Santay Island is one of the most attractive spots to visit in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city. Sitting in the middle of Guayas River, Isla Santay is a hidden wildlife sanctuary separated from downtown Guayaquil with a pedestrian and cycling bridge. When I say wildlife, I mean crocodile wild.
The main habitats of the island are humans, crocodiles, and endemic bird species. The indigenous people of Santay live in simple houses elevated from the ground due to humidity. And not only that, the ponds underneath their homes are full of friendly crocs. The land on the island is not for sale, and the only people allowed to live there are the natives.
However, Santay is an ecological reserve, open for visitors, offering bike and walking tours. The fact that not too many tourists know about this exotic hidden gem makes it an exclusive experience for adventurous spirits.
A maze of elevated boardwalks across the island reveals a new surprise after every curve. A variety of birds calling each other from every single tree in the park, a plethora of flowers, and of course, the famous crocodiles who enjoy their days under the beaming sun.
Fed twice a day by the park rangers, the crocs are lazy most of the time, which makes them perfect candidates for epic pictures.
Whenever you get tired, take a break at the island's restaurant, visit the souvenir shop, or learn more about its history at the info center.
After exploring every corner of the reptile empire, you can either walk back to the city across the bridge or get a $2 boat ride across the river. The second option is something you want to try, especially if you have no time to visit the Amazon.
Isla Santay is a unique experience for wildlife lovers who prefer to stay away from the city noise.
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