Mindo Cloud Forest Ecuador
Mindo in Ecuador is the hotspot for birdwatchers from around the world. Get to know the ultimate time, which tours you should not miss in the area, where to stay, and how to get there.
The best time for birdwatching in Mindo is during the rainy season. The very best months are December to April while the birds are more abundant (migratory birds) and active. Due to the high food supply birds start mating and nesting.
It already starts in October and lasts until mid-May or even June. Generally, it rains from the afternoon until the next morning, but it can happen that it rains all day long. The average annual rainfall is 2.500 mm.
The dry season is pretty short from June until the beginning of October. The driest months are June to August but expect precipitation even during the driest months.
Due to the proximity to the equator, the sunrise and sunset don’t change much. It’s always roughly around 6. Nights temps are around 15°C / 59°F and colder and day temps on average around 20°C / 68°F and can be up to 25. There is a high humidity throughout the year.
Mindo is a popular weekend escape for people from busy Quito. Avoid weekends and public holidays like Carnival and Easter. The rest of the time it's peaceful and quiet here.
Mindo located on the western slopes of volcano Pinchincha on roughly 1200 to 1300 m elevations is a small town. It has about 3000 inhabitants and is packed with hostels and lodges. Some of them offer a birdwatching area where birds get attracted to bananas and hummingbird feeders.
Mindo is famous for birdwatchers from all over the world. The Andes cloud forest elevation reaches from 900 to 2.500 m above sea level. Different birds can be spotted depending on the elevation. The region is a biodiversity hotspot and has international importance not only for birds also for orchids, bromeliads, and epiphytes. It is part of the Choco Andean rainforest corridor; a project to protect the forests from the constant threat of logging and mining.
Booted Racket-tail Hummingbird
There is an entrance fee almost everywhere for hiking and birdwatching and also quite often for a guide. The advantage due to the fee more reserves were developed, and areas got protected. Although mining companies try to buy land here in the region, the residents fight back. However, the locals need an income, and the entrance fees are reasonable.
Guided Birdwatching and Cloud Forest Trips
Several operators in the town of Mindo offer guided tours. These are the ones you shouldn’t miss:
To spot the famous Andean cock-of-the-rock, the Quetzal, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, different Antpitta species, the Toucan Barbet, hummingbirds with a long tail; the Violet-tailed Sylph and the Booted tacket-tail you need to book a guided tour in the Angel Paz Reserve or stay in the Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve. Both are located at a higher altitude the reason for utterly different bird species.
Tip: Often you only get the Cock-of-the-rock tour offered which last maximum 2 hours, but ask for the Antpittas as well and breakfast afterward at the owner's lodge. This tour lasts almost 6 hours. It was one of the best birdwatching trips ever. You get your breakfast or better early lunch outside with hummingbirds, tanagers, and many other birds around.
To experience the natural beauty of a cloud forest without any crowds get in contact with Luis of the Rio Bravo Reserve. It is located after Nambillo at the very end of the gravel road. He is one of the owners.
The forest with beautiful waterfalls was bought by his uncle in the ’80s; a famous boxer from Uruguay. Luis guides you inside the reserve and prepares one of the best natural lemonades for you. There is even a possibility for camping if you request it in advance. To get in contact with him call: 097863172 or 092176610
You get there best by taxi. It’s roughly 9 km always uphill from the river to the reserve gate.
Where to Stay
Low Budget; La Roulotte; run by Ignacio, attentive, lovely staff and a fantastic chef from Switzerland. The accommodations are six gypsy wagons similar to cabins with two big bunk beds, bath, and an oven. With the oven we got our clothes dried after a hike through lush cloud forest during rain.
- Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve; The ultimate lodge for bird watching which runs by a Columbian-British couple since 1991. The lodge is located inside the reserve at a higher altitude. Their guides are experienced and super friendly (even a woman guide with a vast knowledge), comfortable rooms, delicious meals, and the guides speak different languages.
How to Get to Mindo
You can get there either by taxi from Quito which is much faster and convenient or by bus. The bus was pretty cheap just $ 3.10 in 2018. The drive to Mindo takes about 2 hours by bus. The busses from the company Flor de Valle depart from Terrestre Norte, station La Ofelia frequently each day. Ask for the exact dates in your hostel or hotel. You can’t get a round-trip ticket. When leaving Mindo arrive early to get your ticket before they are sold out, and you need to wait for the next bus. Each ticket has a seat number. Try to sit on the right side to Mindo that's more scenic and back on the left.
Attention: Carry all your valuables and your luggage, best a backpack with you. One of the guest’s jacket got “lost” on the way back to Quito. We left most of our luggage in Quito and traveled with a backpack which we put between our legs. Not comfortable, but nothing got lost.