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Ecuador's Spectacular Spotted Eagle Rays

The biodiversity of Ecuador's Galapagos Islands is well known internationally, particularly among nature lovers, and visitors are never disappointed in a tour of this amazing archipelago. The Galapagos Marine Reserve is listed among the world's best diving destinations, and for good reason as there are a number of sites for divers to choose from, most of which are suitable for all levels of experience. Marine creatures that divers are likely to see include hammerhead sharks, reef sharks, green sea turtles, sea horses, puffer fish, golden rays, manta rays, sting rays and spotted eagle rays, as well as a wide variety of mollusks and invertebrates.

Considered by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) to be 'near threatened', the spotted eagle ray (Aetobatus narinari) is an impressive sight. With their excellent swimming skills, spotted eagle rays are known to leap clear out of the water as though in flight, before splashing back in again. They typically measure up to 2.5 meters from tip to tip of their wing-like pectoral fins, and up to 5 meters long from the tip of their snouts to the tips of their tails, which feature between 2 and 6 spines. Their undersides are white, with blue-black, white-spotted upper surface.

Spotted eagle rays have strong jaws and specialized tooth structure for crushing the mollusks and crustaceans they feed on. They are known to dig in sand with their snouts in search of food. Females give birth to between four and six live young in a reproductive mode known as ovovivipary, where the young develop within their eggs inside the mother's body, but are nourished by egg yolk and not via a placenta. When fully developed, they hatch within the mother and are born live, as tiny replicas of the adult. Unfortunately, they are hunted and eaten by sharks, some of which will follow the female ray and eat her pups as they are born.

Spotted eagle rays are found in tropical regions around the world. As they favor shallow waters of coral reefs and bays, divers exploring the waters around the Galapagos stand a good chance of seeing one or more of these fascinating marine animals.


Catch Some Waves in Ecuador

With its coastline stretching over 2,237 km, Ecuador has many spectacular beaches where surfing is an all year round activity. Ecuador's mild climate, particularly in the northern regions, along with varying surf conditions, offer options suited to beginner surfers, experts looking for a challenge, and everyone in between. Because surf tourism is vital to the economic wellbeing of communities along the coast, surfers are assured of well-priced accommodation and warm hospitality, as well as expert tuition if needed.

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Birding in El Cajas National Park

Situated in the Ecuadorian highlands, around 30 km west of Cuenca, El Cajas National Park features varied habitats that are home to an amazing variety of bird species, some of which are considered to be endangered by conservationists. Covering an area of more than 285 square kilometers, with altitudes of between 3100 and 4450 meters above sea level, El Cajas was added to Ecuador's list of official National parks in November 1996, and has become a popular destination for birding enthusiasts.

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