The Cloud Forest like no other tropical eco-system exudes an air of magic and mystery. Occuring at both the eastern and western slopes of the Andes at relatively low elevations, between 600 m to 2,500 m above sea level, it is a misty montane forest, shrouded in clouds formed by the humidity of the steamy lower elevations as the hot air rises up the andean slopes. The annual precipitation is about 2,000mm to 2,500 mm. The canopy reaches to about 20 to 25 m above the forest floor. Due to its high humidity this forest is exceptionally rich in bromeliads and other epiphytic species, that give it this magical feel, which is quite unlike that of any other type of tropical forest. The cloud forest is also a very important habitat for birds and mammals.
This region is characterized by craggy mountains covered in thick, lush forest, cascading waterfalls and crystalline streams. A serenely magical place that not only appeals to the spirit of adventure, but is also a perfect place to relax, immersing oneself in the beauty of nature and listening to her song.
During this adventure we will visit the beautiful private reserves of Bellavista, located on the edge of the Choco region, considered one of the most biodiverse places in the world. The 600 hectares (1,500 acres) reserve is home to a great variety of birds (approximately 302 species) and plant life. Bellavista has an impressive number of botanical treasures: bromeliads, orchids, and fascinating families such as the Gesneraceaes, and the Melastomataceaee; there are always flowers in bloom in this subtropical environment. Mammals include the endangered Spectaled Bear, rarely seen but protected by the reserve; mountain lion, Andean coati, tayra, and many others.
Mindo, a pleasant town set in a valley at 1,300 m above sea level is situated on the lower flanks of the western Andes. Mindo area supports an extremely rich and diverse avifauna, and now has a well developed ecotourism infrastructure. Mindo Nambillo reserve offers a rich ecosystem full of butterflies and other insects that have co-evolved with the orchids, ferns and flowers. Besides this rich fauna and flora, there are also many waterfalls and crystalline rivers.
At Maquipucuna witness our ongoing conservation and research efforts to preserve one of the Earth's most biologically diverse forest networks; here you can discover a wealth of natural attractions, a community of caring and determined people in a peaceful and tranquil setting not often found in our fast-developing world.
Maquipucuna with its open air design, allows intimate contact with nature and the soothing sounds of the rushing Umachaca River. The Maquipucuna Lodge is surrounded by 35,000 acres of both primary and secondary forest-located within the Choco-Andean Bioregion, one of the World's top-ten biodiversity hot spots. The staff of guides and service personnel originates mostly from the local communities.
All these places offer comfortable lodges with excellent services and delicious meals in a peaceful setting surrounded by spectacular birds.
We will travel to the northwest of Quito, crossing the western Andes range to reach Nono. Watch the landscapes and vegetation change and transform into a completely different ecosystem: the Cloud Forest.
From Nono we will travel through this magic forest to Bellavista Reserve, where we will take lunch while watching the colorful hummingbirds fly around us. In the afternoon we will visit the famous 'Tony's House'. With a cup of coffee and accompanied by Tony, we will have the opportunity to observe a great variety of birds, especially hummingbirds.
Return to Bellavista Lodge for dinner and overnight. Optional nocturnal hike to discover the secrets of the darkness.(L,D)
After breakfast, we will hike into the forest to learn about its plants, animals and the close relationship that exists between them. Departure to Sachatamia Lodge, located near Mindo, where we will enjoy a delicious lunch. Later we will drive to the town of Mindo to visit its butterfly farm. Here the local guides will explain the metamorphosis of this insect and introduce us to a different world: the butterflies' world. Watch as they fly around or rest on beautiful tropical flowers or eat from your hands. Return to Sachatamia for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Very early in the morning, we will have the opportunity to visit the cock of the rock lek, one of the most sights, where during breeding season, the males produce a special sound and fly like acrobats to impress the female audience, hoping to be chosen as a mate. (optional activity)In the morning, we will hike the trails of Mindo-Nambillo Reserve searching for bromeliads, orchids, some bird species, insects and if we are lucky, mammals. Later we will visit a beautiful waterfall where we will have time to swim. Lunch In Mindo Garden and departure to Maquipucuna Reserve for dinner and stay overnight.
During our last day we will walk around the area learning about the different projects of this NGO to protect the forest and how they work with the local communities. After lunch we will visit a local raw sugar processing mill and an interesting project that focussed on scientific orchid production. Return to Quito.
For questions and booking inquiries please email Sacred Earth