Day 5: Head in the Clouds
by Tarina, Cindy and Emily
After arriving at the Bella Vista reserve in the dark we knew we were somewhere beautiful but never imagined the majesty that the morning sunlight would unveil. In our treetop canopies we awoke to a picturesque view of mossy trees, clouds, and wildlife. We did not have to walk far from the lodge for our early morning bird watch to see a lot of activity. We admired toucans, hummingbirds, flycatchers, tanagers, and surrounded by a cacophony of sounds. After a short walk, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast that provided energy for a three-hour hike.
On the longer hike, our expert tour guide, David, led us through the cloud forest and shared a wealth of information about the flora and fauna we were seeing. The forest contains a wide variety of birds and butterflies, and the rarely seen olinguito, spectacled bear, and snakes. David explained that a flower’s colors indicate what pollinators are attracted to it. For example, yellow and white flowers will attract insects while red flowers attract hummingbirds. Pink, purple, and orange flowers attract birds while bats pollinate dark, smelly flowers. If a flower is a mixture of colors, it will attract multiple pollinators. We also learned about the difference between a rainforest and a cloud forest. A cloud forest sits at a higher elevation and the ground receives more sunlight due to openings in the canopy. We could write a book using the plethora of information we acquired and the connections we made to the flora and fauna of North Carolina. After viewing a minute portion of the 4,070 types of orchids, 2,627 butterfly species, and 131 hummingbird species here, it’s undeniable that Ecuador has the greatest biodiversity in the world.
Although we didn’t want the hike to end, our stomachs were happy that lunch was ready. We found it incredible that even in the middle of the cloud forest, the chefs prepared a meal for us with the freshest and tastiest ingredients. As we ate lunch the clouds rolled in and we had our daily debriefing. We discussed how appreciative we were for this Institute and for the people we are sharing it with. We even got choked up recapping our experiences and reflecting on our new friendships. Finally, we finished out the day surrounded by hummingbirds, watching the US battle Portugal in the World Cup and enjoying a final visit with the olinguitos. Gooooaaal x3!