Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve - Tandayapa Valley, Ecuador

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We had three days at Bellavista in January 2015 prior to our Galapagos wildlife photographic cruise. It was an organised add-on to the trip to photograph some of the many species of hummingbird found in the area.

Bellavista is an eco-lodge set within a large private reserve at the top of the Tandayapa valley near Mindo in Pichincha Province, northern Ecuador. It’s in a certified conservation area on the north-western slopes of the Andes entirely within the cloud forest (more accurately referred to as subtropical pre-montane rain forest) at some 2,200m (7,200ft) above sea level. It’s located on the old Nono-Mindo road, which is actually a rough track, about a 2hr drive from Quito. Lower down the valley at the bottom of the road is Alambi, which is a smaller private estate with facilities for photographing different species of hummingbird than those seen at the higher altitude at Bellavista.

I’m certainly no expert when it comes to hummingbirds as I’ve only ever photographed them once before, which was back in 2011 in Costa Rica, but from what I understand it’s unusual to get so many different species in one relatively small area. There are a dozen or more reasonably regular species at Bellavista, such as the Andean Emerald, Buff-tailed Coronet, Gorgeted Sunangel, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Speckled Hummingbird, Purple-throated Woodstar, Booted Racket-tail and Violet-tailed Sylph; plus a similar number of regulars down at Alambi, including the Western Emerald, White-necked Jacobin, Green-crowned Brilliant, Green-crowned Woodnymph, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird and White-whiskered Hermit. I managed to photograph 15 different species during the few days we were there, which I was pleased with (a list of these species can be found within the 'exotic birds' group table of my World Bird List).

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
Green-crowned Woodnymph
Green-crowned Woodnymph

Speckled Hummingbirds
Speckled Hummingbirds
Andean Emerald
Andean Emerald

Booted Racket-tail
Booted Racket-tail
White-whiskered Hermit
White-whiskered Hermit

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Apart from an early morning trip to ‘Reserva Paz de las Aves’, which is about a 40 minute drive from Bellavista, to see the rare, and rather strange, male Andean Cock-of-the-Rock at their lek, we concentrated almost solely on the hummingbirds. We did have a quick stroll down one of the forest tracks when we first arrived at the lodge and managed to see one of the target birds of the area, which was the Plate-billed Mountain Toucan. It was nice to see this rare and classified ‘near threatened’ bird even though it was high up in a tree and only viewable directly into the light. I managed a ‘record shot’, but nothing publishable. I saw and photographed a few other birds around the lodge, such as the Masked Trogon, Turquoise Jay, Great Thrush, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Tyrannine Woodcreeper, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Russet-crowned Warbler and Slate-throated Whitestart. And, down at Alambi, the Golden-olive Woodpecker, Red-headed Barbet, Thick-billed Euphonia and Silver-throated Tanager.

Andean Cock-of-the-Rock
Andean Cock-of-the-Rock

So, all in all, it was an excellent decision to combine Bellavista with Galapagos. And, although the purpose of these ‘location’ pages is to give a brief insight to the area and what can be seen there, rather than to act as any form of lodge review site, I would say that I was pleasantly surprised at the accommodation. With its remote location I expected it to be very basic with pretty poor facilities. It wasn’t – the rooms were clean and comfortable and had everything you needed for a short stay, and the restaurant dished up good local food.