After spending a week in Quito, we were keen to explore some of Ecuador’s more rural areas – especially as it is known for its abundant wildlife and plant species – so our next stop was the cloud forests of Mindo, just a few hours north of the capital.
We were immediately surprised by just how ‘rural’ Mindo is. It’s basically a quiet road lined with hotels, hostels, a few shops (selling things like bread and vegetables) and some restaurants. Surrounding the little town on all sides was the forest – with clouds spilling down over the hills.
Despite it being a very tranquil place, the forests around Mindo are known to tourists as a bit of an adventure playground with a range of adrenalin-pumping activities like zip-lining, canyoning and rafting. We had already decided to do some of these types of things a bit further south in Ecuador (in Banos), but we were keen to see some of Ecuador’s bird species – of which there are 1,600 squeezed into a relatively small country! On deciding upon a guide who would take us into the forest early in the morning to see as many birds as possible, we got an early night ahead of our 5am start.
Up early and ready for bird spotting, we met our guide and were armed with a pair of binoculars. We hadn’t long started walking at all when the guide stopped and pointed out the first of many birds we were to see that morning.
It was very impressive to watch the guide go ahead, listen out for particular bird calls then locate and train his telescope on them so we could get a quick peek before they flew away. Some of the birds he saw were so far away we had no idea how he’d managed to spot them. One of them – a bright green toucan that blended in perfectly with its surroundings – I couldn’t see at all; even though the telescope was trained right on it!
At one point the guide even successfully called a hawk over to a nearby tree after hearing it across the forest!
It wasn’t just birds that we saw during the morning, but an abundance of butterflies – which came in every size shape and colour imaginable!
We would have liked to stay longer in Mindo (and maybe get up even earlier the next day to see more toucans!), but we needed to get back to Quito to start our journey south through the country and our next stop – Laguna Quilatoa.