Cayapas Mataje Ecological Reserve is located in the province of Esmeraldas, northwest Ecuador. It has an area of 51,300 hectares and the altitude ranging goes from 0 to 35 m over the sea level. This reserve was created on October 26, 1995.
The historical sources tell us an important event that happened in this region. In colonial times, a ship full of slaves arrived in what nowadays concerns the province of Esmeraldas. The boat reef and sank near the shore. Afro-descendants who survived escaped to landscape and settled in an environment similar to their African environment. Subsequently they dominated some Indian tribes, like the Cayapas, who viewed the African as "malaba" (bad) or "juyungo" (devil). It is also said that this region was shelter of slaves who fled the forced labor in the Sierra Region, seeking freedom.
Cayapas Mataje has a wonderful terrestrial habitat such as remnants of tropical rainforest, mangrove forests, inland and coastal waters in the islands between” La Tola” in the delta of the river Cayapas Mataje, on the border with the Colombian Republic. Additionally, Cayapas Mataje is located within a region rich in marine food resources of which stand out: the shells, shrimp and blue crabs, which are distributed in various parts of the country. Along with a great diversity of animals, exist such as the green iguana, the Pierrot, the anteater, the white heron, and others.
It must be said that the mangroves form the appropriated habitat for procreation and feeding of various fish species, mollusks and crustaceans; this one’s are the primary resources for more than 15,000 people in the region who depend on their marketing and consumption.
Mangroves are also the base of important ecological functions such as the reuse of nutrients, litter production and exportation, the maintaining of purity of water, the coastal protection and the protection of banks in the estuaries, which confront the erosion processes and accumulation of sediment.
For these reasons, and to avoid environmental impacts, the President Sixto Duran Ballen, declared by Executive Decree No. 2619, March 27, 1995,that the Ecuadorian Institute of Forestry and Natural Areas and Wildlife - INEFAN, prepare the study of management alternatives for the area between the rivers Cayapas Mataje.
The study of management alternatives (INEFAN / ECOCIENCIA, 1996) justified the inclusion of this magnificent area within the Heritage Ecuadorian National Protected Areas as Ecological Reserve, for its outstanding natural features, cultural and archaeological resources, landscape and the significance of ecosystem mangroves from the ecological point of view and the satisfaction of basic needs of the local population. In this way, the area was designated Ecological Reserve by Executive Resolution No. 001 INEFAN-DE (052-A-DE) in January 16, 1996.
There are two way of access by land to the Mangrove Ecological Reserve Cayapas-Mataje. The first is by the highway from Ibarra to San Lorenzo, the closest major town to the Reserve.
The second pathway is the road Esmeraldas-Borbón. For the access road to Cuicocha lake you can visit the upper region of Cotacachi Cayapas Reserve, besides being able to climb the Cotacachi volcano.
The second highway is located in the town of Borbon, 130 km. from the city of Esmeraldas on the coast of Ecuador.