Travelling from Quito, it’s easy to make a beeline along the Pan-American Highway to Cotopaxi and west to the beaches of the Pacific Coast or east to the Amazon Rainforest. But that would mean missing out on the cloud forests of Ecuador, where you’ll find some of the most fascinating birdlife in the country. Head 80km northwest from Quito and you come to Nanegal, home to Bosque Nublado Santa Lucía, a community-based organization formed by local campesino (farm worker) families who live in the heart of the virgin cloud forests of the Chocó Andean Bioregion.
Guests stay at the twenty-room Santa Lucía ecolodge – a simply furnished timber building (there’s no electricity so candles provide the light) with shared bathrooms but wonderful views of the forest. Forty-five species of mammals inhabit the area, including pumas and the spectacled bear, and with over 390 species of birds, including endangered species like the wattled guan and plumbeous forest falcon, it’s a twitcher’s paradise. The families organize four- and six-day hiking tours into the forest or you can help out with some of the co-operative’s conservation work – planting trees, maintaining paths or monitoring wildlife. But if that sounds too taxing (you are after all on holiday) then just relax in a hammock, sip a beer and watch the hummingbirds, with your head in the clouds.
For directions, prices, itineraries and reservations see www.santaluciaecuador.com.