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An eco lodge in the cloud forests of Ecuador

A new biodiversity reserve in the Mindo cloud forests of Ecuador is home to spectacular flora and fauna – and a cool, minimalist eco lodge

In the cloud forests of Ecuador, water is king. It hangs on the moss-covered trees like a thick wet coat. It drips from the canopy in globules on to upturned palm leaves and blades of grass. Its noise is ever present, in rivers and waterfalls, the soft squelch of mud and the torrent of sudden rain. And where this water lands, life springs up erupting everywhere like explosions in slow motion.

In the Mindo cloud forests in the north of the country, moist air from Pacific Ocean clouds trapped on the steep slopes of the Andes has fostered such biodiversity that new species are still regularly being discovered. In this small region alone there are close to 500 varieties of bird, thousands of rare orchids and innumerable other forms of flora and fauna. But this paradise is under constant threat from humans, who have traditionally cleared land for agriculture. In Ecuador alone it is estimated as little as 2% of this Pacific coastal forest remains intact.

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Free Cornwall!

Meet the campaigners for Cornish devolution – and discover a land of forgotten languages, time warps and dodgy saints

Dick Cole, the leader of Mebyon Kernow, the political party that is fighting for Cornish identity, has devoted his life to the cause. With notes to himself scribbled on his hand, and protected against wind and rain by a shapeless blue fisherman’s sweater, Cole is the picture of the Cornish politician on the stump.

He has certainly had to make sacrifices – he used, for example, to be an archaeologist with the council. “I gave up my career to work for Mebyon Kernow,” he says. “As a councillor, I’m on about £15,000. Before that, I was earning more than double that.” Cole’s face breaks into a smile of mild embarrassment at the price of his commitment. “I did it for MK,” he says, “and for my community.”

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