A Walk in the Clouds ~ Bellavista Cloud Forest ~ Ecuador

 “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” ~
John Muir

Bella Vista

Leaving the main road and driving the winding one lane gravel track for twelve miles was an adventure in driving, but worth the effort. The four of us had arrived mid afternoon for our one night stay at the Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve.

Bella Vista

Stepping out of the car I could smell the earthy aroma of moss and decaying vegetation while being enveloped by a fine mist…the clouds. It was ever so still. I didn’t want to break the silence of this intrusion into the natural world, but we were welcomed most heartily by one of the staff.

Bella Vista Lodge

Perched at an altitude of 6500’ in the Tandayapa Valley region near Mindo, Bellavista has grown from 136 acres in 1991 to its present 1800 acre reserve and eco-lodge. Owned by a British/Columbian couple, Richard and Gloria Parson’s, their mission is education and preservation. A cloud forest is a pre-montane/subtropical forest in the roughly 3000 to 8200 foot range. Its biodiversity attracts serious researchers as well as bird and plant lovers from all over the world. According to their website, Bellavista is part of the Mindo Area of International Importance for Birds, the first area so designated in South America, by Birdlife International in 1997.

The iconic landmark of Bellavista is its geodesic dome, designed by the owner. It is a four story dwelling built with precisely cut glass panels and wood. The dining room and living area are on the first floor. Its walls are largely glass which leads to viewing decks surrounding the building. I had the feeling I was in a tree house looking out into a green world teeming with bird life, orchids and bromeliads. The 360 degree view from the dome allows the rugged peaks of Pichincha and Cotacachi in the distance to be seen on clearer days.

Bella Vista-10Bella Vista

Our rooms were located on the second floor of the dome…accessible by climbing a ladder, one at a time. The dorm and family rooms are on the third and fourth floors. The rooms were simply furnished with handsome wool blankets covering the beds. Each  room had large windows for viewing the shrouds of mist in the distance. We decided that we would go back to the car, get only what we needed for the night, use our day packs and bring no luggage in. Smart decision.   There are several guest houses on the property, in addition to the geodesic dome house.

Leaving our windbreakers/rain jackets on, we spent our time outside, listening to the natural hum that was in the air. Over 300 species of birds are recorded here, but we weren’t able to spot very many. However, the various species of hummingbirds kept up a steady pace to the feeders placed around the viewing decks. But to see this tiny little hummer slowing down briefly to have its picture taken while perched on the bromeliad was delightful to watch.

Bella Vista

Being on the equator, flowers bloom year round.

Bella Vista-6 Bella Vista-8 Bella Vista

The naturalist guiding our “walk in the clouds” pointed out orchids. Some were at ground level in the ditches, others danced from trees like butterflies. Approximately 4200 species of orchids can be found in Ecuador and more are discovered each year. I learned that orchids are the largest of plant species in the world.

Bella Vista

With their giant spikes bending toward the light, giant bromeliads clung to branches.

Bella Vista-7 Bella Vista

The New York Botanical Gardens wrote that the diversity of epiphytes (“air plants” that grow on other plants) is higher in the cloud forests of Ecuador, Colombia and Peru than anywhere else on the planet. Because of the cool and humid environment, plant life thrives in these conditions and the canopy level cloud cover provides the necessary moisture.

This is a beautiful place to spend a couple of days. There are trails and four waterfalls to lure hikers on and off the beaten path. We didn’t have that kind of time to spend , but I can see why it is a special place to view the flora and fauna.

Bella Vista

I remember that our dinner was quite tasty and that we just about had the place to ourselves that evening. The four of us played cards before turning in early. Those wool blankets were a life saver as the walls of our wooden and glass room became as cold and damp as the outdoors and our heater didn’t work.

The next morning we once more took a walk in the clouds before winding down the narrow road and heading to Quito.

Beautiful Ecuador.

Bella Vista
“Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed … so that never again can we have the chance to see ourselves single, separate, vertical and individual in the world, part of the environment of trees and rocks and soil, part of the natural world and competent to belong in it.” — Wallace Stegner

Photography by Ron Mayhew.

About travelerlynne

Traveler. Writer. Retired Educator.Traveling on and off the beaten path with my photographer husband. Volunteering locally as well as in Haiti and Tanzania, an enriching and humbling experience. A sun lover! Shelling, boating, fishing and watching sunsets. Growing mango, banana, key lime,and pineapple.Making smoothies and chutneys. Enjoying family and friends! Savoring each new day!
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46 Responses to A Walk in the Clouds ~ Bellavista Cloud Forest ~ Ecuador

  1. Natasha says:

    lynne you have captured this forrest very well. I love the imagery . almost felt like i was walking through it with you ( afraid of some snake showing up though ) lol –

    • Thank you Natasha for your kind comments. Am pleased you enjoyed the walk in the clouds with me. We didn’t see any snakes nor ask the naturalist about them. I’m sure they are there…watching us. 🙂

  2. Ahhhhh! I really enjoyed tagging along with you to Bellavista, and I’m glad that you suggested that I pack lightly and leave most in the car! Thank you for giving me a soothing dose of that sweet community. I might be returning at some time in June, and this made me realize how much I long to return!


  3. Thanks for tagging along, LIsa. It was June ’06 when we were there. Hard to believe it was that long ago. Writing about it and seeing the pictures makes me smile to have been on the trip. I didn’t mention that the beds smelled musty, but hey…it is travel…and it is nature at its best. Right?
    I still loved every bit, even the flat tire we encountered going down the mountain and amazingly were able to pull over without going in a ditch. There was even a spare in the trunk. Now that is luck. Our word for it was experiencing an “Equatrocity”.

  4. restlessjo says:

    Fantastic diversity, Lynne. Memory Lane, huh? Can’t beat it. 🙂

  5. So beautiful, takes me back 10 years when I worked on a research project for 3 months on a private cloud forest nature reserve in Ecuador. These images and words make me determined to return again. Thanks, Tracey

  6. What a wonderful experience… I was interested you said the beds smelt musty… I had wondered if everything went damp and mouldy very quickly, and felt that living there all the time would be quite challenging…. it was like that in the jungle in Malaya…

    • I wasn’t there long enough to find out about their challenges in dealing with the dampness, etc. I just know I was quite cold that night and wished the heater worked, but hey…that’s the way it is. You’ll have to write about your experience in the jungles of Malaysia. Please do. 🙂

  7. lexi says:

    Really enjoyed reading this post! Your description really brings this place to life and your photos are beautiful. Hope to check this out someday in the not too distant future. Thanks for sharing.

  8. rigmover says:

    Wow that looks so nice, thanks for sharing Lynne.

  9. Thank you so much for taking me there through your words and your pictures!! Loved the post!! 🙂

  10. Ahhh…the cloud forest smells. You captured them perfectly!

  11. Lynne, what a great tour of this eco-lodge and forest in the clouds. Ecuador looks beautiful. The orchids, the hummingbirds, the glass-walled dining room views: the whole place sounds like heaven. I would love to explore there. 🙂

  12. This will have to be on your list one of these days. But first, let’s sell your car, get you packed and resettled back in Va and then you can begin a new life of new adventures. Joy to you. 🙂

  13. Gigi Galore says:

    I want to go! How beautiful Lynne and how lovely that you and Ron could go! Beautiful! 🙂

    • OK! Next time we’ll all just go together. It was a fun trip and I learned a lot about the country. So very diverse. I have been slow at responding to comments. A lot going on here. Ron and I are going to Havana next week for a week with a photography group. Looking forward to it. We have been involved with settling his mother’s estate and the trip will be a good mental and emotional diversion. 🙂 Hope Australia is agreeing with you both.

      • Gigi Galore says:

        Oh, thankyou for your news! And invitation to all go together next time! 🙂 I am VERY slow at reading other’s posts and miss many because my IPad app for WordPress can be tricky! And also, we are settling into an almost entirely new country in some ways. Well, we are starting from scratch! Havana …!!!! Oh, how lovely!!! can’t wait to find out about the trip! Much love to you both, Gigi xoxx

  14. adinparadise says:

    What a beautiful place, Lynne. Those Orchids and Bromeliads are spectacular, as is the Hummingbird. That Stegner quote is so true. May it never happen.

  15. Thanks, Sylvia.I wasn’t thinking Earth Day at the time, but the post would certainly fit under that theme, especially with Stegner’s words. It seems whatever grew there was huge, even some of the hummingbirds. The whole purpose of these people buying the original property, plus acquiring more land was preservation.

  16. Hi Lynne,
    Beautiful photos, great storytelling–you really captured the feel of the place. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks, Naomi for your visit and kind comment. Between my husband’s (Ron) photography and my journals, I was able to relive it. It’s a beautiful world out there and I’m grateful we had the opportunity to travel with great friends who once lived in Ecuador.

  17. annesquared says:

    What a beautiful place! I have been hearing about it from a friend. Now I get it!! 🙂

  18. Our Adventure in Croatia says:

    what great images and beautiful place to visit. I’ve never been, but reminds me of the cloud forests of Costa Rica. Humans should preserve those pristine places for future generations

  19. Thanks for your visit and comment. Costa Rica is on my list…before it all changes.

  20. vb holmes says:

    After reading your glowing copy and viewing Ron’s gorgeous photos, I’m ready to call the travel agent, pack my bags and hop a plane–musty beds, cold room, (snakes?) and all. It sounds wonderful. Thanks, Lynne, for sharing your fascinating adventures.

  21. languagewanderer says:

    Totally enchanting pictures 🙂

  22. I am speechless! These are just amazing. A paradise that I only see in my dreams. To walk in the clouds is an adventure of a lifetime.

  23. Madhu says:

    The forest seems magical Lynne. And Ron’s photos enhance the magic. Hope I can experience this first hand someday. In the meantime thank you for this fabulous post 🙂

  24. gwynnem says:

    Oh my gosh. What a magical place to stay and gorgeous world to experience. Lovely post, Lynne.

  25. Thanks, Gwyn. It was magical, indeed. Pristine wilderness. I hope it stays that way for future nature lovers.

  26. Breathtaking – both the quotes, and the photos.

  27. It was a great experience, even though for just one night. Thanks for your comment, Alarna.

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