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Ecuador Cloud Forest Travel Advice

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Cloud forest hike Ecuador

Cloud forest travel advice

The fourth and penultimate part of a brilliant and in-depth blog from Andean Trails’ travellers Jane and Greg Windsor, now in the cloud forest, as part of four fantastic weeks in glorious Ecuador.

We are in the Ecuador Cloud Forest today, having visited the Ecuadorian Amazon, the Galapagos Islands and Quito, with horse riding to follow and we have photos on Facebook too:

 

Cloud Forest in Ecuador

“The cloud forest in Ecuador is an atmospheric and enchanting place, like something out of the Lord of the Rings. Here we walked our little socks off in yellow welly boots provided to all the guests staying at Maquipucuna Lodge.

Brilliant electric blue and green humming birds flitted around the dining table. Early morning bird spotting with the guide opened up a new and exciting world to us, although we won’t admit that to anyone. Brightly coloured birds somehow blended in with the trees and then were miraculously revealed by the guide who seemed to be randomly looking through his binoculars.

One night after dinner, we donned those boots and went on a wildlife spotting walk which took us up the hill where we watched some grumpy toucans settling down for the night in the trees, a little perturbed by our flashing torch lights. We later learned that toucans are actually an aggressive bird which attacks smaller birds and eats their eggs. This was a very disappointing discovery as they look so handsome with rich and vibrant coloured feathers and they also have an almost comical look about them.

Our walk provided us with our first contact with leeches in Ecuador as they creepily searched for some soft skin to latch onto and suck. As if to compensate for these disturbing and distasteful creatures, we also saw the warm, golden glow of the fireflies as they lit up the sky like tiny stars.

 

Santa Lucia Lodge View Ecuador

Santa Lucia Lodge View Ecuador

 

Viper

We climbed steep and high ridges and then dropped down to the fast flowing rivers below. During our walks, the cloud would often envelope us and it looked as if layers of flowing net curtains had been drawn across the landscape. It would then part to reveal a hillside or mountain in the distance. The primary forest consisted of giant trees covered in long, soft old man’s beard and ferns large enough to live under.

In the reserve, we hiked along tiny trails which were made up of thick, leafy, muddy, wet mulch and scrambled over rocks and rotting branches. Greg nearly stepped on a viper (a bushmaster) disguised as part of the forest floor. This was an exciting event for the locals who identified it from the photo which Greg insisted should be taken close up, advice which Jane wisely ignored, using a telephoto lens.

 

Humming bird attacks

One day, we visited Santa Lucia lodge which is situated on a mountain top at 1980m. This was a test of whether we were beginning to become acclimatised. We passed shade grown coffee which was sheltering under banana plants. We went up and up and up on the narrow track and sometimes the sun glinted through the gaps of the dense foliage.

A mule track would follow our path for a short while before taking an easier and wider path in another direction. We also negotiated a knife edge ridge.

We were intimidated by humming birds letting us know that they owned the forest as they zipped past our ears and faces, passing so close we could hear their wings buzzing loudly. We watched these tiny little birds as they dipped their long darting tongues into sugary solution hanging in containers on the trees.

The fascinating birds are different colours, different sizes and have different lengths of tails dependent on the species and habitats, right down to which side of the ridge they live on.

 

Santa Lucia Lodge

On arrival at Santa Lucia, we were greeted by Martha who kindly gave us her homemade fresh lemonade. From this vantage point, there were wonderful vistas across the valley. We also met Pancho, a natural enthusiast with an infectious personality. He gave us an insight into how the area had changed from being heavily farmed to being transformed into an eco reserve which was part of a community endeavour.

He excitedly informed us that many mammals (including puma, oreailurus (cat) and spectacled bears) frequent the area and scientists from all over the world visit them to undertake field studies.

We were introduced to some of these researchers at our own lodge. They demonstrated dedication and commitment to their research and complete passion for their subject matter and we looked forward to listening to their daily antics on the mountain. We all ate fresh, local, homemade and delicious food at the lodge and the local people were charming and looked after us all really well.

 

Santa Lucia Cloudforest Lodge Ecuador

Santa Lucia Cloudforest Lodge Ecuador

 

Tarzan swings

We discovered liana ‘vines’ in the middle of the forest which gave us the opportunity to slip back to our childhood and be ‘big kids’ as we used them as a ready-made Tarzan swing, whooping and hollering as we swung out high above the ground and amongst the giant trees.

Much of the vegetation in the forest hosts its own mini epiphyte garden as beautiful flowers cling to the branches creating a spray of colour amongst the hundreds of greens making up every part of the spectrum.

As we reminisce about our visit to the cloud forest we try to determine what makes it such a special place for us and wonder whether it is because it conjures up a place of tranquillity, beauty and mystery.”

We’ll be serialising more from Jane and Greg in the coming weeks.

Contact us for more.

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