The Galapagos Islands are famous for their marine iguanas, but while I was in Guayaquil in southern Ecuador, I found that this city has its own collection of iguanas? Green iguanas to be exact, and you can find them all hanging out in the wild at Seminario Park, right in the middle of downtown Guayaquil.Now I used to be really afraid of lizards. As a child, I walked into a dark room one day and a house lizard dropped down my back as I reached for the light switch. I carried that trauma with me for years. I got over it eventually, and even went to Indonesia to check out the world’s largest lizard species – the scary carnivorous lizards that are Komodo Dragons. But I have definitely never hung out in a park with a bunch of iguanas chilling at my feet like I have in Guayaquil.
The park looks pretty unassuming at first glance. Once called Bolivar Square for the Simon Bolivar statue right in its midst, Seminario Park is a lot more well known today as Iguana Park as you notice that amidst the flocks of ever-present pigeons lie many green and grey bodies of these reptiles, often with pigeons perched on top of them. Look more closely around the park and you’ll realise just how many of them are lying around, casually camouflaged amidst the greenery, perched atop rock formations and even in the treetops.
Hot tip: do NOT stand under any of these trees, especially if an iguana is in it. I saw them relieve themselves several times during my visit and let me tell you, it’s a sudden and passing rain shower that you do not want to get drenched by.
An enterprising local lady sat on one of the park benches, with a basket full of bird feed and another full of lettuce, apparently a favourite of these lizards as several tried to sneak some bunches when her back was turned. These iguanas are pretty indifferent to people and happily crawl around your feet without being overly worried about your presence; they just want to bask in the sun and enjoy the warmth, or eat the lettuce that people throw at them. Lean in and take all the pictures you want – they’ll mostly give you a hairy eyeball.
Besides iguanas, the park is also home to a lot of pigeons and turtles. If you’ve had enough of wildlife encounters, pop into the neighbouring Guayaquil Metropolitan Cathedral which is quite a grand sight.
Honestly, there aren’t any particular iconic must-see sights in Guayaquil – it’s the largest city in Ecuador and also its trade and commercial hub. I’d recommend maybe 1-2 days there should be enough time for most travellers passing through onward to Galapagos or other Ecuadorian cities. Also, the weather is a little too close to Singapore’s weather – hot and humid – for my liking, spray yourself liberally with mosquito repellent here (I love Detar, you can pick it up in any Ecuadorian pharmacy and I have seen mosquitoes fly away when you put it on)
But definitely make time to check out the Iguana Park. You know hang out with the friendly lizards and it will probably be one of the weirder sights you’ll see here in Ecuador.
Location of Iguana Park
Seminario Park is very centrally located in downtown Guayaquil, Ecuador, at the junction of Chimborazo Avenue and Clemente Ballen Street. It’s a short 5-10min walk away from the Malecon 2000, the main boardwalk in the La Bahia district.