Ecuador – Mindo Cloud Forest, 2D/1N, Daily from Quito, Includes Accommodations and all Meals
The region of Mindo is within the protected Mindo-Nambillo forest, located a short two-hour drive to the northwest of Quito. Mindo cloud forest has an incredible diversity of avian fauna, particularly hummingbirds, as well as butterflies. This area of primary forest with an immense biodiversity also has some of the highest rates of plant endemism in the world: orchids, bromeliads, heliconias, ferns, vines, mosses and lichens grow in abundance here. Specially trained guides introduce guests to the mysteries of the Cloud Forest, pointing out the unique flora and fauna and leading excursions along nature paths flanked by crystalline rivers.
Starts with a stop at the brim of the crater of the dormant Pululahua Volcano, just north of the equator, and considered by the natives as the Earth’s navel. It is a physical and energy-filled planetary center, probably responsible for the Pululahua’s (meaning cloud of water) quasi mystical power of attraction. Its huge crater, with its own microclimate, is inhabited and its rich soil farmed in colorful patches; it suddenly disappears from view among the clouds, only to appear a few minutes later. This is an overwhelming experience! Then a stop is made at a private property whose owner is a fan of hummingbirds and has installed many feeders that attract large numbers of these fantastic birds -many of then endemic to the area.
Next visit is to Bellavista, deep in the heart of the cloud forest, where guests don rubber boots and get ready to immerse in the cloud forest, along hiking trails that wind through this natural sanctuary, where the sight of brightly colored tanagers and the Mountain Toucan will thrill nature lovers. Your guide will assist you to spot the wildlife and the vast variety of birds that inhabit this area of Ecuador. There are binoculars for rent at Bellavista. Then guests will enjoy lunch, served among clouds that come and go creating an aura of mystery and magic, while at close range, a multitude of hummingbirds hover around the feeders. In the afternoon, arrive to the lodge for room assignment and freshen up before an optional hike to observe a lek (a place of courtship of birds) of the very attractive cock-of-the-rock, where up to 12 birds flying from one branch to another, displaying their red feathers to attract the females amid loud calls, is an awesome and seldom seen sight! At the end of the day, return to the comfortable lodge for dinner and overnight.
On the second day, alter a hearty breakfast at the lodge, a one-hour hike will lead us to find nature’s undiscovered treasures on a trail through lush, epiphyte-laden cloud forest. Then, it’s downhill by car to the Valley of Mindo, past the quaint little village of the same name and on to the Butterfly Vivarium, housing 25 varieties of butterflies. Flight areas simulate the outside forest with water streams, mineral deposits, and a wide range of wild flowers. Hundreds of caterpillars feed on their host plants in their natural environment to assure the best development of pupae and butterflies. Lunch is served and then drive to El Pahuma Reserve for a 45-minute nature hike alongside a lively, sparkling creek to the 40-meter (135 foot) Pacaya waterfall. El Pahuma Reserve is a privately owned forest of an Ecuadorian family who is searching for a viable economic alternative to destructive activities such as logging or cattle raising, and protects over 600 hectares (over 1500 acres) of tropical forest. At El Pahuma you can also view their orchid garden where you have a representative collection of the many types of orchids of the area. On the way back, a stop is made at the Equator, on the site where the original monument marks Latitude Zero. Arrive to Quito late afternoon.
Dress in layers (T-shirt, blouse, sweater, and coat). Bring your bathing suit. Binoculars are a must! Rain ponchos and rubber boots are provided. This tour includes walking at altitudes between 2,700 to 1,400 meters, (8,800 to 4,600 feet). Sun protection (SPF 40). Hat or cap. Good walking shoes and extra pairs of socks. Rain occurs throughout the year, although the climate is driest from May to September.
Day, average 15° to 28° C / 59° to 82° F
Night, average 10° to 15° C / 50° to 59° F