Ecuador’s mysterious cloud forest has more bird and plant species than the whole of the US. Sarah Barrell explores its ecological riches
It’s dusk in the Ecuadorian cloud forest, and, as far as the untrained eye can make out, high tide. We are, in fact, several hundred metres above sea level. But standing in a small clearing in a forest that carpets a sharp, pyramidal mountain, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d been cast out into the misty Pacific. White nebulous matter rolls out around us like a milky sea, obscuring the neighbouring peaks and mossy valleys below. It’s all I can do to stop myself stepping off the edge and stretching into a languid breaststroke. The Peruvians call it “the eyebrow of the forest”, but this hardly does the place justice. As my Andean companion suggests, “eyelash” would be more apt, for where cloud forest occurs, in a verdant arc above the rainforest and below the harsh brow of the sierra, nature could not be more seductively dressed.