My first trip with Adventure Life began with a 4am wakeup call and a private transport to Bella Vista cloud forest. My driver was cheery and energetic for the early hour, and I very much welcomed his enthusiasm as I too was wide awake in no time! We arrived at Bella Vista after three hours of pleasant conversation and changing landscape. My first impressions of the cloud forest were of complete wonder: hummingbirds gathering around the feeders, sweeping forest views shaded by low-hanging fog, and a beautiful lodge nestled in the midst of it all. I had arrived later than the rest of the group, which was actually ideal because I got to relax with a cup of coffee before embarking on my privately-guided hike. My guide was extremely knowledgeable and equally passionate about the flora, fauna and wildlife that lived in this special part of Ecuador.
Bella Vista’s 2,000 acre reserve offers a plethora of hiking and strolling opportunities, but for this particular day hike I was offered two options: relaxed or “slightly strenuous”, which ended up being perfectly fine coming from Montana. We hiked for about three hours at a comfortable pace, stopping every few minutes so that my guide could point out special characteristics of the cloud forest. For an orchid-lover like myself, this place was truly magical! There are also 320 species of birds within the reserve, as well as monkeys, spectacled bear, puma and coati, although the mammals seem to be quite rare.
We returned to the lodge for a three-course lunch in the main dining house, which resembled a glorified tree fort. It was an impressive structure, with high wooden beams that meshed perfectly with the surrounding forest. There were tables intended for both couples and groups, and as a solo traveler I sat alone, although I by no means felt unwelcome. As is traditional in Ecuador, we started the meal with a warm, delicious soup and then moved on to the main plate and desert. I was very impressed with the meal, and joined the Quito shuttle feeling very full and ready to relax after a day of hiking in the forest! My only regret is that I did not stay the night, as many of the rooms are recently renovated and the lodge is a great place to spend one or two full days.