The Bellavista Private Protected Area is a great example of true ecotourism, uniting the conservation of the cloud forest ecosystem with research, education and recreation. Part of the Andean Chocó Biosphere Reserve, this pre-montane cloud forest is incredibly rich in flora and fauna.
Orchids, bromeliads, ferns and mosses grow in abundance on and under the fairy-tale like trees. Bellavista and immediate region boasts over 300 recorded bird species, such as the Plate-billed mountain-toucan, Giant antpitta, Tanager-finch and numerous species of hummingbirds. Mammals include the spectacled bear, the kinkajoo and the rare olinguito.
Our 3-day Bellavista trek takes you along the best hiking trails in the 440-hectare Reserve, with magical forest and pristine waterfalls. On top of that, you will experience the best cloud-gazing ever!
The Bellavista trek is an adventurous hike without getting extreme. It has some steep and muddy patches but the hiking distances are not too long. Each day, there will be time for birdwatching, photography, relaxing and taking in the magic of the cloud forest.
This tour combines the adventure of camping on the first night, with the comfort of the lodge on the second night.
At 6.30 a.m. you will be picked up by our shuttle service. Transfer of under 2 hours to Bellavista. Breakfast will be served upon arrival. Then we take off into the cloud forest for a 3,5-hour hike through primary and secondary forest. Look out for birds like the Sickle-winged Guan and White-throated Quail-Dove, and admire the trees that are festooned with colorful orchids and huge bromeliads. Enjoy incredible panoramic views before reaching a small waterfall down the mountain.
After lunch in the lodge, a short hike takes us to our campsite. It seems far away from the lodge, indeed from all human habitation….. We take off for a second hike, first of all through a bamboo thicket, where we can listen to the melodious call of the Plain-tailed Wren from its nests, hidden deep in the thicket. After about 1,5 – 2 hours we return to the campground for a night of adventure in the wilds and in the open air. Enjoy the amazing sounds of the forest, watching the clouds constantly drifting through the forest and the valleys. You will have fabulous views of Pichincha volcano and in the distance, Cotacachi volcano.
Easy birdwatching hike at sunrise, when many amazing bird species can be seen in action. Near the campsite you can spot the Masked Trogon, Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan and Turquoise Jay, to name but a few.
After breakfast we start an adventurous 3,5-hour hike, along and through the small San José River. We hike up on the so-called Field Trail, even though the fields that were here 20 years ago now are part of the forest – a clear result of the conservation efforts! Then down past the Research Station, and on to a snaking trail leading to the Canyon Falls, formed by a huge rock that is stuck between rock walls. We climb up the river, with a profusion of mosses and likely some well-camouflaged frogs. We scale one waterfall with a ladder and eventually reach the Hidden Falls, about 15 meters high, with a pool beneath for a refreshing swim.
We climb back up and then walk down to the lodge, where a hearty lunch and comfortable rooms await us. Free afternoon to relax, do some more birdwatching, and enjoy the views of the surrounding forest. At night you are likely to observe the nocturnal mammals that live in the forest, including the olinguito – new to science as of 2013 – as well as the kinkajoo and the opossum.
Early morning birdwatching in a different area, with the opportunity to experience the hummingbirds up really close. After breakfast, short transfer to the trailhead of our last day´s hike. Following several water sources with some steep and partly muddy sections, we have spectacular views of Tandayapa Valley. Vegetation is abundant and varied, typical of this elevation of cloud forest. In areas that were recently pastures, we can expect a great variety of huge Elephant Ears (Araceae family), some of them big enough to almost hide an adult!
We come out near a delightful hummingbird and tanager garden. Here you may see the gorgeous Quetzal, as well as different species of hummingbirds and colorful tanagers. Short walk down to the river where you can spot the White-capped Dipper and other species. After a nice lunch there will be time for photography and relaxing, before our vehicle will pick you up for the transfer back to Quito. Arrive 17.00 – 17.30.