Staying in the Bellavista Research Station was an eye-opening and wonderful experience. Before living in Ecuador, I never knew that many lodges offer special accommodations to scientists and students nor did I understand that the research lodging is often offered to regular guests as well.
For those of you that are regular readers, you already know how much we love the Bellavista Reserve. It was one of our first weekend trips after we moved to Quito, Ecuador. In fact, we were still living in a hotel when the van from the Bellavista Lodge picked us up and transported us a meer 2 hours away into an environment so very different from the sprawling capital city.
Birding Lodges Can Get Expensive
The problem with living in Ecuador is that we can’t afford to escape the city every weekend. Birding lodges like Bellavista, though beautiful and well-worth visiting, can add up in price! In short, our budget just can’t handle it. That’s why I was thrilled to learn that we could stay at the Bellavista Scientific Research Station for just $18.00 per person, per night. It’s not as nice as staying at the Lodge but for a family that is comfortable with tent camping, it’s a definite step in the right direction.
The Rooms at the Bellavista Research Station
Inside the Research Station, you’ll find a hallway with rooms on either side. Six of them, in fact, each with bunk beds to sleep 4 people per room. We comfortably slept 13 people, all but one sleeping on the bottom bunk. Bedding was provided by the Lodge. The Station can hold up to 24 people and a small house just outside can sleep another 4-6, but at twice the price.
Further inside the building is a large dining room with bench-style seating and colorfully painted walls.
Next to that is a galley kitchen, long and narrow, and well-supplied with dishes, cups, glasses, and silverware. There are some very large pots and pans for cooking for large groups. A stove with three huge burners is hooked up to gas. There are bottles of potable water as well as a sink for washing dishes.
While the kitchen is cold water only, the outdoor showers had wonderfully hot running water! And believe me, a hot shower after hiking a muddy, strenuous Cloud Forest trail is a beautiful thing to have. In fact, the toilet facilities were more than adequate with flush toilets and toilet paper (sometimes not found in Ecuadorian establishments). Furthermore, the Lodge provided a towel for each of us. We placed our own bar of soap and hand towels at the community sink.
Keeping Costs Down To A Minimum
We also brought our own iron cast skillet, sharp knife and chopping board, stove-top percolators for coffee, as well as dish towels just in case. All came in handy.
To keep costs down, we supplied our own food and cooked our own meals. We did take turns cooking as the kitchen is narrow and having four different families try to cook individual meals at the same time would have been a fiasco. If you end up with dishwashing duty, try for breakfast as you will be able to look out the kitchen windows directly into the cloud forest.
If you don’t want to cook, you can always hire the Lodge to provide meals at the Station. Or you can hike (30 minutes) or drive (10 minutes) to the Lodge and enjoy the meals over there. Check the current prices before making this an option.
Nighttime at the Research Station
There is no electricity and the Station is nestled into a bowl at the bottom of a hill where you see little sunlight. It gets dark quickly. We brought extra candles (and once we drank enough wine, we had a great way to hold them) and our headlamps. Any kind of camping lantern would be a bonus. The outdoor patio with tables and chairs was a wonderful place to sit in the evenings. It was pleasant, if chilly, with very few bugs. And we could use a gas-powered lantern safely while outdoors.
True nighttime brought other guests, well after we went to bed. If the sound of little critters bothers you, just remember you’re in the wild and a few animals are to be expected. Though none of us had a middle of the night encounter with any creatures, we do know they don’t like banana bread. One bite was taken from an entire loaf wrapped in aluminum foil. But one bite only. If I had to guess, I would like to think that an olinguito had somehow found a way in and was touring the kitchen for an easy meal.
Parking at the Research Station
The Research Station is located on a backroad with only a locked gate to hint that it might even exist. It’s well hidden and difficult to see from the road which provides a layer of privacy. The drive down is steep and in wet weather could possibly require a 4-WD vehicle. Parking at the bottom is tight. We managed to fit 5 vehicles with a series of three-point turns that would do our driving instructors proud. Of course, you don’t need cars to get here. The lodge will help you with transportation if need be.
In case you can’t tell, I can highly recommend staying here. It was a great place to spend time with friends. Our teens hung out on the patio chatting and playing cards while the more adventurous of us disappeared into the Cloud Forest for hours at a time. For most of us, the highlight was birdwatching but hikers and outdoor adventurists of all kinds would also be very happy in this remote, cloud forest location.