Saturday, June 28, 2008

Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve, Ecuador

During our visit to Quito, I wanted us to have an opportunity to see something of the countryside. One of our day trips took us to the Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve.

We made our arrangements though Safari Tours. I got their name from a travel forum I have received many excellent recommendations from. While most everything went well, one particular part of the trip was a disappointment.

We had no difficulty finding the office, within walking distance of our Quito hotel. The staff was very friendly and very courteous. The woman who worked with us made us feel comfortable and we went ahead and made our arrangements. Everything was paid for in cash and we received our receipts.

Our arrangement for Bellavista was for a full day tour, with pickup at the hotel, a guided hike and lunch at the reserve, plus some free time.

Our driver picked us up on time. He was friendly and courteous and told us he needed to pick up another passenger. No problem as we didn’t expect it to be a private tour.

The vehicle we were in was obviously his own. It had definitely seen better days. Our ride out to Bellavista took us over cobblestone roads and the ride was very interesting, to say the least. We stopped for a break, about ½ way there and our driver had hot chocolate and commercially wrapped slices of pound cake for us. He definitely was doing his best to be a gracious host.

We arrived at Bellavista and learned that there are several hikes available. Here is where things fell apart a bit. It turned out that our driver really knew nothing about the flora or fauna in the area. While we told him we wanted an easy hike, he took us on the ‘medium’ hike because that was the only one he was familiar with.

Fortunately my husband and I had our hiking sticks with us. Without their help, I think we’d still be sitting on the trail, waiting for someone to come and get us.

So our ‘guided’ hike was anything BUT ‘guided’. And that was a disappointment for us. While the scenery was spectacular, the birds that the reserve is famous for were no where to be seen. We learned while we were there that guided hikes are given in the early morning and in the late afternoon, when the birds are more active.

We did have an excellent lunch and some free time after lunch. We took advantage of that time to watch the beautiful hummingbirds at the many feeders along the walkway. While we could have watched them for hours, it finally became time to return to Quito.

In retrospect, we should have handled our visit differently. As you can see from the Bellavista web site, they offer their own day trip in which they do specify that it is a ‘guided’ hike. But, the best thing would have been to spend at least one night there. If you are interested in birds and the cloud forest, I would highly recommend at least a one night’s stay.

Link: Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve

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