On April 16 2016, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 occurred around 190 km north of the town of Manta, The very large thrust earthquake was the worst natural disaster to hit Ecuador since the 1949 Ambato earthquake and at least 661 people were killed and 27,732 people injured.
Manta was hard hit with its central commercial shopping district completely destroyed and the airport control tower so badly damaged the airport was closed. There were over 300 fatalities in Manta alone. The devastation caused from the earthquake is still visible around areas of Manta today. We were told that Sea Princess was the first cruise ship to return to the port of Manta following the earthquake and, importantly for the town, the return of cruise tourism and a much needed injection of tourist dollars.
Which for me meant some early morning shopping with a capital S (without guilt) at a nearby local craft market …
While Dave went off to photograph the wonderful (feathered) birdlife along the shore … including brown pelicans, snowy egrets with bad hair days, and circling frigate birds.
All in all we had a fantastic time in this lively port town that is centred around its fishing fleet and tuna fishing industry, before jumping in a taxi with friends to visit nearby Montecristi about 20kms away. Anyway, we think the photos of Manta and Montecristi speak for themselves – so hope you enjoy the photos below and get a sense of the great time you can have in this region if you visit.
Sea Princess docked near the town and a shuttle bus took us to the nearby market place.
At the port we were given such a warm welcome by the people of Manta, and found so much to do during our day ashore; we watched the huge tuna catches being unloaded, went shopping for alpaca knitwear and jewellery made from ivory nuts. We watched how Panama hats are made and found just the right one for me! ($20). I couldn’t resist buying one. I really love it – so light and cool.
We visited a bustling fish market …
And watched fishing boats, their holds filled with Tuna, return to Manta and tie up alongside Sea Princess to unload their catch.
We had a wonderful South American welcome at the dockside with Latin American music and dancers to greet us …
Manta has a mega tuna monument!
Shopping at the market for alpaca knitwear …
Dave took a walk along the waterfront and took photos of the abundant birdlife Below is a Snowy Egret in plumage display.
Driving to Montecristi we saw an amazing mosaic statue at a roundabout.
Montecristi is the birthplace of the Panama Hat (Panama hats are actually made in Ecuador!).
The best quality hats are known as Montecristis, after the town of Montecristi, where they are produced. We visited a Panama hat factory (above) and watched the local women painstakingly weave these iconic hats of the region (below).
A Panama hat is a traditional brimmed straw hat of Ecuadorian origin. Traditionally, hats were made from the plaited leaves of the Carludovica palmata plant, known locally as the toquilla palm or jipijapa palm, although it is a palm-like plant rather than a true palm.
The art of weaving the traditional Ecuadorian toquilla hat was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists in 2012.
The two main processes in the creation of a Panama hat are weaving and blocking.
The quality of hats are largely determined by the weave.
The rarest and most expensive Panama hats are hand-woven with up to 3000 weaves per square inch. In February 2014, Simon Espinal, an Ecuadorian 47-year-old Panama hat weaver considered to be among the best at his craft, set a world record by creating a Panama hat with four thousand weaves per inch that took eight months to handcraft from beginning to end.
We had the most delicious seafood meal with our neighbours on board, Kerry and Di who were great company. We were serenaded at our table with Latin tunes, had wonderful fresh seafood washed down with South American beer, Cerveza, and for the four of us the whole bill only came to $50 – unbelievable value for fresh fresh seafood at a great local venue on the beach.
The view looking back on the town later that afternoon (when we got back on board Sea Princess) when we were told by friends on board that they’d spotted a Humpback Whale close to the ship as well as giant turtles.
As the sun dipped over the horizon, so Sea Princess sailed away. A loud burst on the ship’s horn signified our departure, and we were off, cruising towards Peru.
I’m travelling as a guest of Sea Princess but all opinions are my own.