After our wonderful experience birding, we were in the mood for more nature, and we jumped at the chance when our host told as about “frog concerts” held nightly at one of the ecolodges on the other side of Mindo.
When we arrived that evening at Mindo Lago, we discovered it to be beautifully set around man-made ponds, with lush vegetation and bamboo structures everywhere. An introduction told us that this had been barren land before conservation efforts had begun, and that everything had been allowed to develop naturally. No species had been introduced. Now there were 24 species of frogs and toads, plus many other interesting animals, as we’d soon discover.
After our shot of red wine, we followed the tour guide as he led us down trails around the ponds and into the neighboring forest. All this time, the frog concert was in full swing, with frog song emanating all around us. It brought back lots of good memories of nights in Chelsea as a kid visiting the ponds to collect frogs for my mom’s nature programs.
We saw a few different types of frogs, nestled among the reeds and pond grasses, but as our tour was in Spanish, I don’t have any idea what they were called! The guide claimed the one on the right was a toad, but if so, I’ll eat my hat.
As we continued, we came across some more exotic beasts, like this insect which looks much like a spider, but isn’t. The two front ‘legs’ are actually antennae, and he has all sorts of weird, asymmetric bumps and protrusions on him.
We did encounter some spiders though. Big, pretty nasty looking ones, hunters not web spinners. Alina jumped a bit as this guy darted out from his resting place to try grabbing a bug flying past.
A little further on, past some odd looking niches that turned out to be (sadly) empty armadillo nests, we came across this caterpillar. The guide told us that if you touched it, you would be in the hospital for eight days. Or you might die. We didn’t touch it.
Due to the perfect combination of temperature and humidity in the Mindo region, there exists a bacteria that bioluminesces as it digests dead, rotting logs. We turned off our lights, and could make out the dim glow, which was really cool. Underneath those glowing logs was this gigantic leach, though it supposedly doesn’t suck blood.
Attached to one tree was a strange looking, foreskin-like protuberance. It’s the nest of some non-stinging bees, or possibly where they go to die, we couldn’t quite translate the explanation. The guide invited us to touch the tip, which was quite bendy, and he told us it hardened over time, and the nest would eventually turn and wrap up the side of the tree.
In addition to all these nocturnal animals, there was also plenty of interesting plant life, including a variety of different flowers.
On our final morning in Mindo, before we caught the bus back to Quito, we explored some secret waterfalls in the reserved area near our lodge. A really nice employee took us out in the jungle to show the way. It’s amazing how hot, dark, and humid things got as soon as you stepped under the foliage.
Along the way we saw this tree called Blood of the Dragon, presumably due to its distinctive sap.
A little farther on, we came to the first cascade, and then followed a series of ropes and steep paths up to two more further up the river.
It was a really fun morning, and a very different experience, walking through much thicker forest. It was special to be somewhere where few other tourists travel, and made a nice capstone to our short visit to Mindo.