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All around us, a peaceful humming sound prevails amid a rainbow of color. Nearly twenty hummingbirds are swooping in on feeding platforms. This is what we came for, and we aren’t disappointed. Little finches—which appear enormous in this environment—cannot edge their way in to the feeder and merely fade into the backdrop of the real show-stoppers: the flitting colibris. Try as you might, you cannot take it all in, there is too much fluttering and color.

 

This is Bellavista Cloud forest Reserve, one of the few times in your life when you might actually want overcast weather. The cloudier the skies are, the more active the hummingbirds. And the gray skies make for a perfect backdrop for the multi-colored friends whom you have come to admire. That said, the butterflies prefer the sunnier weather. Well, you can’t have it all.

 

Bellavista, an eco-friendly resort, is located approximately 90 minutes northwest of Quito. As you leave behind the smog and dirt of the city, you head out into the cloud forest, where the road snakes around mountains and gorges, the landscape changes and greenery dominates. Forest spreads for miles in every direction further than the eye can see. It looks like jungle, but looks are deceptive. This is not jungle but bosque nublado, or cloud forest, a very specific type of ecosystem, loosely defined as being a forest where there is cloud cover at the vegetation level. On the southern edge of the Choco-Andean biodiversity hotspot, the Bellavista Reserve itself is part of the Mindo area of international importance for birds.

 

It’s not hard to see why. It is thought that there are at least 330 different species of bird in this region. Everywhere you look there are hummingbirds of all shapes and colors. The site is literally buzzing with them. The hotel has leaflets to help you identify them. The Booted Racket-tail is easy. It has little white fluffy booties and is much smaller than the others. But there are countless other species here—the Speckled Hummingbird, the Andean Emerald, the Tawny Bellied Hermit, the Green Violetear and the Collared Inca to name but a few. It is truly a birding paradise, with no effort required.

 

While you take lunch in the 360º dome restaurant, you can continue to watch the birds all around you—the feeders have been strategically located around the restaurant to maximize opportunities for watching these pretty creatures and the sugared water within them ensures that they keep coming back. As we eat, a Blue Winged Mountain Tanager makes a clunk as it lands at one of the feeders, dispersing the hummingbirds momentarily. Also beautiful, it seems huge in comparison to its smaller cousins. On one of the many guided walks that are available, Toucan Barbets can be spied squawking in the trees above. The numerous winding trails and maps allow for fascinating self-guided walks. At night, the harder-to-spot owls perch on posts, seemingly undisturbed by the goings-on, and it is possible to take pre-dawn hike to spot the Cock of the Rock, a most unusual sight.

 

Birds aside, this environment also fosters an incredible variety of butterfly and orchid species, and this ecosystem is known for its wealth of mosses and ferns, in particular a large diversity of epiphytes, or “air plants” that grow on trees. Taking a trip away from the resort, in Mindo village it is possible to visit a butterfly and orchid farm. The butterflies compete with the hummingbirds for beauty, variety and color. Finally, a few minutes drive from the village takes you to a waterfall, where after a sweaty half-hour hike in these hot and humid conditions you can pause for a dip in the refreshingly cool river at the bottom of the hill.



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