Mindo is a mountainous watershed in the western slopes of the Andes that is easily accessible from Quito by bus. It is located at the meeting place of two of the most biologically diverse habitats in the world – the Chocoan lowlands and the tropical Andes. Three rivers and hundreds of streams irrigate the landscape which is made up of a patchwork of cloud forest, secondary forest, agricultural land, and human settlements. Mindo is home to an astonishing diversity of birdlife including cock-of-the-rocks, tanagers, hummingbirds, motmots, and toucans. In addition to birds, it is also home to spectacled bears, kinkajou, and puma.
Average rating: 4.6 (very good)
Average spend per person: $93 ($12 – $350)
Number of reports: 5
Best time to visit: January – December
Typical activities: animal watching, bird watching, jungle trek
Wildlife in Mindo
According to reports submitted to WildSide, the species visitors most want to see here are as follows:
Cock-of-the-rock – 100% of visitors to cock-of-the-rock leks (2/2) reported sightings
Every morning at around 6 am, male cock-of-the-rocks gather at leks in the Mindo area to compete for the attention of females. They can be seen year round and sightings of the spectacular contest are pretty much guaranteed. There are two popular leks which are easily accessible from the town of Mindo – Paz de las Aves and Las Tangaras. Tours to either lek are easy to arrange from hostels and tour operators in Mindo ($10 – $15). They typically last around an hour although longer tours are available. While more expensive, these tours provide the chance to see a much wider range of birds.
Kinkajou – 20% of visitors (1/5) reported sightings
Kinkajous can be spotted in the forests around Mindo during the night when they are at their most active. WildSide recommends Ecuador Reptile Adventures who run a specialist night walk tour providing opportunities to see kinkajous in the wild. Fresh fruits are left out along the path to attract these secretive, rarely seen mammals. Tours cost around $12 and last for around an hour and a half. They state that 20% of the tour price goes towards conservation of cloud forest habitat. There are also a number of reports of kinkajou sightings on TripAdvisor at several of the lodges in the area.
Puma – 20% of visitors (1/5) reported sightings
The cloud forests surrounding Mindo are home to pumas – although the chances of spotting one of these secretive cats are very low. They aren’t called ‘ghost cats’ for nothing! One WildSide user reported that they encountered a puma at the Maquipucuna Reserve & Ecolodge. However, the guide also informed them that it was the first one they had seen in 20 years. If you do manage to spot one, you can consider yourself very lucky indeed!
Spectacled bear – 0% of visitors (0/5) reported sightings
Spectacled bears can be found in the cloud forests surrounding Mindo. There are reports of sightings from several lodges in the area on TripAdvisor. However, the best place to see them is reported to be Maquipucuna – a reserve and ecolodge set up to protect the bears. During bear season there is the chance of close encounters with them feeding in the forest. The timing of the season varies from year to year and coincides with the ripening of a fruit which they like to eat. Sightings on TripAdvisor have been reported year round although the best time appears to be towards the end of the year – typically around December. Check out their Facebook page for updates on bear season!