A Unique Adventure on Puna Island
The Island of Puna has a rich and fascinating history. It was home to the Tumbez people, who still inhabit the island. During the sixteenth century, the island became a regular stop for the Spanish conquistadors, which included Francisco Pizarro. The Tumbez people were known for their tenacity and dedication to their land, so much so that not even the Inca Empire could overrun them. Yet, in 1531 the Spanish engaged in the Battle of Puna, which the Tumbez Indians fought and won. Vincent de Valverde, the first bishop of Cuzco, was executed in 1541 by the Tumbez Indians. By the 1930s, however, the island became known as the location where English merchants played the first rugby union game in the country.
Puna Island can be found off the coast of Guayaquil, and is situated in the Gulf of Guayaquil. The Morro Channel runs to the west of the island, with the Jambeli Channel along the east, both connecting to the mouth of the Guayas River. The island covers an area of three hundred and thirty square miles, and most of its inhabitants reside on the northeastern tip in the village of Puna. The southwestern side of the island is home to a hunting and fishing resort called Punta Salinas. There is an estimated one thousand residents on the island at present. Most of the inhabitants are either shell collectors or fishermen. Once the biodiversity of the island and its mangroves were recognized in 2009, the island became a protected area. The locals are very welcoming to visitors, and there are guides that will escort visitors and take them on a journey of discovery and wonder.
Meeting some of the local islanders, who are descendants from the earlier tribes, is a very unique experience, as it offers visitors the opportunity to learn new skills. Climbing coconut trees, learning to pick oysters and being trained in the art of casting fish nets is a fun and educational experience. Climbing coconut trees might sound simple, but visitors will be amazed at the speed and agility that the locals have mastered. Visitors’ efforts are rewarded with a fresh coconut cut open for them to drink. Locals also sell tasty meals that include rice, fresh fish and shrimp and the money received by tourists keeps the economy and history of the Puna Island alive.