Ecuador is famous for its incredible diversity of microclimates. One of these is the cloud forest, where the mountains trap the clouds at lower levels, resulting in incredible jungles in areas that are often quite cool. We journeyed to Mindo, only a couple of hours away from Quito yet seemingly a totally different world.
Mindo has butterfly farms, white water rafting, ziplining, hiking and some of the best bird watching in the world. It’s been described as a “little Switzerland” in some guidebooks but that’s pushing it – yes, it’s more attractive than the big city, but the town still looks typically Ecuadorian. It only comes alive on weekends apparently, and we were there midweek, so it was really very quiet.
Our first stop was the butterfly farm, which Gal absolutely loved. The place literally farms butterflies – they collect the eggs, incubate them, and then when the butterflies are born they are let out to fly free around a big aviary – the cycle goes on and on.
We wanted to go tubing – riding in huge inner tubes down the river, but the river level in December was too low and the water was freezing, so we opted instead for ziplining, which was amazing. Gal was quite calm- she’d been ziplining before, but this was my first time, and I found it exhilarating, yet simple – you don’t do anything, just sit back and enjoy the ride – zigzagging around fifteen times across a canyon at various heights and at various speeds. We were accompanied by two extremely helpful and efficient employees of the zipline company.
To end the day we took a short hike down a canyon to a river. What is really interesting is that many of the nature reserves in the region are privately run – so each has its own entry fee and rules. At “our” river the owner had built a couple of little swimming pools into the rocks which looked like a lot of fun – but the water was really cold so we didn’t last more than a few minutes.
Our stop for the night was at Bellavista, one of the cloud forest lodges set high up above the valleys. Often shrouded in mist and fog, it was hugely atmospheric. Hummingbird feeders were placed everywhere and we saw hundred of birds feeding, both late in the afternoon and the following day.
The following morning we went for a hike through the cloud forest. It is real jungle – bromeliads and other exotic jungle trees were everywhere, and Gal and our guide managed to see some very unusual birds – antpittas, Cock of the Rock, toucans, parrots – but I managed to miss most of them somehow. I loved watching the hummingbirds – they are right there in front of you, and so many different varieties. The hike we took was fairly gruelling – up and down the mountainside, wading through the river – but real fun!
Our time in Mindo was great – a mix of fun activities and lots of great nature – yet so near the big city.
This was our last stop in Ecuador. The following morning we were on the 6am flight to the USA.
Our Ecuadorian summary:
Gal fell in love with Ecuador. We both agreed that the Galapagos was the greatest safari /animal adventure we’ve ever been on, and that includes safaris in Africa and India. The Mainland was great too – nice people, beautiful sights and packed with exotic nature. Our time on the mainland was just way too short – I’d love to go back to spend time on a hacienda, hike near a volcano, explore the Amazon…
I’m planning great trips to the Galapagos and Ecuador. Click here for more info.