In the Cloud Forest there was about a half hour per day when you could see out. Before the mist rose from the forest and the cloud descended to meet it.
While cycle touring in Ecuador we decided to head 52 km north of Quito, up into the Pichincha Provence in the Andes where we had heard there was an amazing reclaimed Cloud Forest in the Bellavista Reserve. Back in 1991 a husband and wife team, Gloria from Colombia and Richard from the UK bought 57 hectares and let it revert naturally to Cloud Forest. Today they are protecting over 700 hectares of Cloud Forest that has an amazing biodiversity of flora and fauna. Typically Cloud Forest is between 900 – 2500 m high.
As we cycled up from Quito, initially the land was farmed, with green fields as far as we could see.
As we cycled higher and criss-crossed over the Equator, it got steadily more forested and much wetter
Until we reached one of the few remaining areas of Cloud Forest in Ecuador, the Bellavista Reserve where we stayed for a couple of days and spent time having guided walks through the forest surrounded by Humming Birds and Orchids. Below are some of the Flora and Fauna that we found.
This flowering climber is Bomarea pardina cf. Alstroemeriaceae
Our walking guide. This shows the size of the Bomarea pardina cf Alstroemeriaceae flowers
Some of the many Orchids we saw. Maxillaria Orchidaceae
We were staying in a tree house, and when I woke up on our first morning I looked out of the window and this fellow was staring in at me. Masked Trogon, Trogon personatus.
As we had struggled up the mountainside on our bikes to reach this part of the cloud forest I had thought I was beginning to hear things in my exhausted state, as it sounded like giant mosquitoes were buzzing around my head. It turned out they were humming birds. There are so many different types here. This one, Booted Racket-tail Hummingbird, Ocreatus underwoodii has amazing white fluffy legs as its name implies.
Another beautiful climber whose name I have not been able to find
This weird looking plant, with flowers down the center is Columnea densibracteata Gesneriaceae. The brightly coloured underside of the leaves are thought to act as an additional signal to attract pollinators.
A close up of the flowers in the center of Columnea densibracteata Gesneriaceae
One of the many orchids, Epidendrum Orchidaceae, dripping water in the constant cloud
This dramatic tree is Cecropia Cecropiceae. The name Cecropia is derived from the ancient Greek which means face with a tail which refers to the mythical first king of Athens
Another Cecropia Cecropiceae viewed across the Cloud filled valley
Of course with all this lush greenery around there are plenty of caterpillars around to eat it.
Blue Wing Mountain Tanager, Anisognathus somptuosus
All the trees were dripping with Bromeliads and epiphytes
Such as this one, Mesobromelia lymansmidii, Bromeliaceae
The orchids came in all shapes and sizes. This one, Pleurothallis, Orchidaceae, was attached to the back of this leaf, and we would never have seen it without the knowledge of our guide.
Another Pleurothallis, Orchidaceae. This one slightly larger and attached to the front of a leaf.
Being so wet there were no shortage of frogs. This was a Rain Frog, Pristimantis sp. Strabomantidae
This strange looking plant is Alloplectus Gesneriaceae
The highly toxic but sweet smelling Brugmansia arborea, Solanaceae or Angels Trumpet.
Brugmansia sanguinea, Solanaceae. Angles Trumpet. This is one of the most toxic plants, being related to Deadly nightshade. It is the source of entheogen which has been used for shamanic purposes by the South American Indians for millennia. There are stories that in ancient times the Indians gave this to very naughty children so that they could go and be told off by their ancestors.
Centropogon, Campanulaceae, Bellflower
This Spanish name of this is Dedo de bruja Iochroma, Solanoideae, and it does look like fingers
People often have Anthurium’s as house plants. This Flamingo plant, Anthurium sp has grown to an amazing size.
Helicona burleana Heliconiaceae. Many of the Heliconiaceae are now considered vulnerable, and on the threatened species list.
Macleania bullata, Ericaceae, this is a member of the Blueberry family. In the cloud forest it can grow as an epiphyte, but it can also grow in the soil in drier areas.
Masked Flowerpiercer, Diglossopis cyanea a species of the tanager family, Thraupidae. They get their name from the sharp hook on their upper manible which they use to slice open the base of flowers to get at the nectar.
The pretty but stinging Nasa aequatoriana, Loasaceae
On our first evening at Bellavista we were lucky enough to see this Olinguito bassaricyon neblina, a species of mammal only descovered in 2013. It is related to the Racoon and it totally arborial, living on fruit.
Orchidaeae. A lovely hanging plant with delicate yellow flowers
Some of delicate yellow flowers of the orchid above, Orchidaceae.
Orchidaceae. The orchids came in all shapes, colours and sizes
With so much moisture the trees and any structure was dripping in mosses and lichens
The dense cloud forest was full of tree ferns
There were a fair number of tiny creatures scuttering around in the undergrowth
and all manner of fungi popping up in different sizes and colours
An unfurling fern frond
Tillandsia truncata, Bromeliaceae. This species is endemic to Ecuador
Tillandsia truncata. Bromeliaceae. A closer look at the amazing flowers on this Bromeliad.
Ferns and mosses in abundance on the forest floor
Doesn’t it have amazing markings
One of the many climbers I have been unable to identify, but very pretty
Again, I don’t know what this wonderful plant is.
This strange looking long, knobbly plant is part of a Pepper Vine, Piper Pipercaceae. I am not sure about the orange flowers in the foreground.
Psammisia sodiroi, Ericaceae
Rain Frog, Pristimantis sp Strabomantidae, with lovely golden rims around its eyes, and yellow toes
Etlengera elatior, Zingiberaceae. Torch Ginger
Renealmia aurantifera, Zingiberaceae a rare member of the Ginger family
Thunbergia alata, Acanthaceae or better known as Black Eyed Susan.
We can across this little fellow just as we were cycling away from the Cloud Forest. He didn’t take much notice of us. It wasn’t until we saw the mass deforestation in the rest of Ecuador that we really appreciated just how special the Bellavista Cloud Reserve really was.