Lush, green mountains. The metallic sound of bird calls. The rush and gurgle of water flowing down the river. Our senses were overloaded with the beautiful nature surrounding us during our stay in Mindo. The cloud forest boasts myriad species of animals, crashing waterfalls and sprawling greenery. Our group stayed at an ecological educational center alongside a river, in an open air wooden lodge. We hiked throughout the forest surrounding our lodge, spotting toucans and hummingbirds along the way. Not only did we enjoy being totally immersed in nature and disconnected from the Internet, but we also took advantage of some of the unique offerings in Mindo. We visited a small, artisanal chocolate factory and learned about the production process from start to finish. We ate the best dark chocolate brownies ever and tasted 100 percent cacao chocolate. Afterwards, we attended Reggaeton dance therapy in the plaza, and danced our cares away to “Despacito” and Shakira. The next day, we visited a butterfly sanctuary and tubed down the river that we had been sleeping next to. Not only did we take advantage of many fun activities in Mindo, but our group truly enjoyed disconnecting and taking in the Pachamama. What a great opportunity!

Read on to hear from two students about their experiences in Mindo:

The jungle

The lush green jungle

Nature and man together

Friends making life fun

– Sean

“After our rather rocky experience in the Galapagos, everybody was looking forward to spending some time on literally anything besides a boat. Before we got to Mindo, however, we went to the equator. First, we went to the real equator, where we got a tour of their Andean exhibit, their rainforest exhibit, and most importantly, the equator line itself. On the line, we experimented with the flow of water: south of the equator, water goes down a drain clockwise, north of the equator it goes counter clockwise, and on the equator it goes straight down the drain. We all tried to balance an egg on a nail too, which is significantly harder than it looks. Marcelo, Matt, and Hailey were the only ones that managed to balance it. They all got Eggmaster certificates, and we all got equator stamps in our passports, right next to the stamps we had gotten from the Galapagos. After our time on the actual equator, we went to El Mitad Del Mundo, or the Center of the World. This was the equator line that the French had first calculated, which was false. However, it was filled with tourists and had many shops and restaurants. After eating lunch at Mitad Del Mundo, we drove to our lodge in Mindo. When we stopped driving, we were at the edge of a river. We could see only two ways across: a padlocked door leading to a bridge, and a wooden gondola that was powered by hand using a rope. We were all confused, and we looked to Carola, our native Ecuadorian leader, to figure out what to do. One by one, we got onto the wooden gondola to be pulled across the river. That was our first experience in Mindo. After we got across the river, we began the walk to our lodge. That ended up taking almost half an hour. When we arrived, we found a single room with mattresses, some raised on platforms but most on the floor. All of the beds had mosquito nets over them, which we lowered almost instantly to protect ourselves. We spent the rest of the day in the lodge, playing cards and listening to music. The next day, we went for a walk to four waterfalls, and went swimming in one of them. After that, we ate at the lodge and then we went to a chocolate shop in the town of Mindo. There, we got a tour of the chocolate making process, led by a British man. After the tour, we bought as much chocolate as our wallets would allow, before walking around town exploring. After exploring, we went to “dance therapy”. None of us knew what that meant exactly; we just knew that it would be fun. It ended up being a dance class in the square at the center of town. After our dance class in front of the entire town, we went and ate pizza. After that, we spent half an hour walking through the pitch dark jungle, jumping at every sound. The next day, we went to a butterfly sanctuary. Lila and Hailey spent most of the time huddling under a towel, terrified of the winged insects. The rest of us spent almost an hour getting butterflies to land on us. After our calming time with the butterflies, we went tubing on a river. It was one of the most invigorating things I’ve ever done. After Mindo, we drove back to Quito and spent the night in our hostel. We also began to spend time packing our bags for the flight back, as we were becoming more and more aware of our waning time in Ecuador. Right now, we’re all looking forward to spending time in the Amazon rainforest. It should be a great rest of the trip.” –Jonathan

Thanks for following our time in Ecuador!