I wasn’t sure what our itinerary was, I left that up to Mario. By the end of the day though, it was pure serendipity.
Pulling into the dirt driveway, discovering where the tour was starting, I was delighted. Being a chocolate lover (who isn’t? Actually, if you’re not, I’m unsure if I trust you) visiting a cacao plantation is a must-do. Other than knowing that chocolate comes from a bean, I really had no idea what the whole process was. Hacienda El Castillo is about a 45 minute drive from Guayaquil and well worth it.
Mario, my guide from ‘My Trip To Ecuador‘ and I received the royal treatment before hand with appetizers; fried plantains topped with cheese and a drink made from the pulp that covers the cacao beans with a shot of rum added. It was absolutely fricken fantastic! All I needed was a little umbrella in it and a pool to recline by.
Oh, and the fried plantains were delicious too.
Then we donned hats to fit the part as we were taken around the property.
The plantation grows a variety of trees, but its main harvest is the cacao. Did you know that Ecuador is the main supplier of cacao to Switzerland?
The guide gives a great tour (in Spanish, Thank God I had Mario) explaining everything it takes to grow and harvest the cacao. Even showing us how to grow another tree from a cutting. They take a bud and slice it into another then tape it.
Here’s a fun fact: the ant and fly work together to help pollinate the cacao. Mother nature at her finest.
There are 2 different types of pods, red and yellow. The red tree takes 3 years to mature vs 8 years for the yellow. The beans from the yellow are darker and richer in flavor. I tried them both raw, ugh.. SO much better once processed. Hacienda El Castillo produces its own chocolate, giving you a tour of its facilities where you can also purchase bars to take home. A 3.17 oz bar cost $3, and it is delicious.
After leaving the plantation the tour proceeds to Puerto De Morro. Pigs, donkeys and other farm animals run loose in the streets in this fishing village. We stop off to get some fresh-baked bread from a 100-year-old oven, then took a boat ride through the mangroves onward to a little-known land referred to as ‘bird island’.
Approaching, your attention is drawn to the whirling black swarm above. Thousands of Frigates roost in trees and shrubbery on this small island. I thought Mario was joking when he called it “bird island” apparently it is just that.
Male Frigates throats balloon when they are interested in mating. Once he is spent, it will deflate until he decides to find another love interest. The females are rather plan looking, as usual in the animal kingdom.
Take a closer look at the male Frigate on the bottom right corner. He totally is looking and smiling for the camera.
Crab is a major business in Puerto De Morro. I love crab, so I was thrilled to see a fisherman carrying a rack in each hand. My delight soared when Mario, his mom Teresa and I went to lunch and saw what was on the barbie.
Okay, your turn:
Have you ever turned your day over to a guide and allowed him to surprise you?
Have you heard of Frigates before?
*Disclaimer: My Trip To Ecuador graciously sponsored my tours in exchange for reviews and social media promotions. All opinions, as always, are of my own.