While Quito is a beautiful city with much to offer, it’s also fantastic to go beyond walking distance and see the surrounding areas. When riding the TeleferiQo I met a lovely guide called Ruben who has his own tour company, Southern Paradise Tours. After some messaging via Whatsapp Ruben organised a private tour for my friends and family to visit the Mindo Cloud Forest, with his colleague Jose Luis.
For a group of seven people we paid $40 per person, excluding lunch and entrance fees to Nathaly and El Quetzal.
The variation of environment in Ecuador is home to approximately 1700 species of birds. In the world there are 320 species of Hummingbird, 138 of which can be found in Ecuador. The Hummingbird is one of the worlds smallest birds, the smallest of which is 5cm, weighing just 2.5grams. The Hummingbird has fewer than 100 feathers, and their wings flap approximately 80 times per second. As they fly, their wings flap so quickly you can see the body of the bird but not the wings.
We spent several hours at the Mindo Loma Bird Lodge to quietly watch the hummingbirds feeding. We saw various species of Hummingbirds, as well as some Tanagers.
While people can tell you the hummingbird moves quickly, it’s still surprising to see it (or most of the time miss it) with your own eyes.
Nathaly Butterfly & Orchid House
Our second stop of the tour was to visit a butterfly and orchid house in the town of Mindo, called Nathaly.
Nathaly houses several varieties of Orchids. Like with birds, Ecuadors climate is conducive to the growth of many varieties of orchids. There are approximately 15,000 identified varieties of orchids in the world, of which Ecuador grows 5,000.
Amongst the orchids Nathaly offers the opportunity to learn about and see the various stages in the life cycle of a butterfly, including the eggs, larva, chrysalis and adult. In the butterfly house were several species of butterfly, though I can’t recall any of the names.
El Quetzal Chocolate Factory
The last stop of the day was the El Quetzal Chocolate Factory. The cacao beans are not grown in Mindo as the climate is too cold, however the remainder of the chocolate making process is done on site. All the ingredients are organic and grown on a family farm.
At the chocolate factory the chocolate making process is all hand done and using purpose built machines. It is interesting to see the processes undergone by the cacao bean through to chocolate bars and the home made machines to assist in this process.
All chocolates made contain only cacao, varying amounts of sugar and occasionally organic flavourings such as chilli or ginger. The chocolate tasting reinforced my love of the sweeter chocolates as opposed to the chocolate with a high percentage of cacao. The 100% chocolate resulted in a screwed up nose, while the 67% had me coming back for more!