The Mashpi Cloud Forest Reserve is located about a four-hour drive north of Quito, Ecuador. The drive from Quito is gorgeous, with stunning vistas of the snow-capped Andes mountains and lush forests and past sleepy villages. You even cross the Equator several times along the way! I’d done some research about the Mashpi Cloud Forest before this trip and I was certainly looking forward to staying at the Mashpi Lodge, which looks absolutely phenomenal in the photos. In a relatively small area, there’s a staggering 500 species of birds – including some 36 endemic species. Monkeys, peccaries and even puma make their homes inside the Reserve crisscrossed with waterfalls between dramatic, verdant hills.
I fell asleep in the van at a certain point and when I opened my eyes, I found myself in a mysterious, mist-shrouded forest with giant anthuriums, mosses and towering trees. The car soon came to a halt and as the mist cleared, I spotted a futuristic-looking building with large windows, almost completely encapsulated by the forest. This was the Mashpi Lodge! Situated on a ridge 900 meters high and overlooking a broad valley, the lodge was designed as a cocoon of luxury in the clouds.
The design of this place was simply breathtaking!
I was guided to my room after a quick check-in and I gasped as soon as I entered. The room was spacious, with contemporary furniture and a large bathroom (with a rain shower), but what grabbed my attention was the large glass window which presented a stunning view of the cloud forest! Nature never looked this close from inside a hotel room. I’ve been to many jungle lodges around the world but I’d never seen anything like this before. The concept was evident: keep guests comfortable inside the lodge but never more than a step away from the glorious nature outside – you certainly won’t find bugs, lizards or snakes in your bed or bathroom at the Mashpi Lodge! Large windows all around allow for magnificent views of the forest and the mountains in every direction! The design of this place was simply breathtaking!
One special touch I loved was the provision in each room of a small shoulder bag, a water can, an insect repellant spray, raincoat and a citronella armband. These were laid out neatly on the writing desk, to be used during the forest walks.
I explored a bit more of the lodge and found a terrific roof terrace with amazing views of the forest and the valley – this terrace is also a perfect spot for bird-watching in the mornings, as I soon discovered. There were many quiet nooks and corners where one could just sit and relax. I also checked out the Spa. As with the rest of the Lodge, the treatment rooms and hot tub boasted fabulous views of the forest.
The restaurant was another highlight: framed by massive glass walls, it was bright and gave diners fantastic views of the forest outside. It certainly had the feel of a Michelin-starred restaurant, albeit one in the jungle!
My amazement only grew as I found out more about how the Lodge was constructed. The owners wanted to minimise the impact of the construction on the forest so they only used the old logging trail to transport the materials – that same trail is now used as the only ‘road’ to the Lodge, and when you see it, you’ll be as amazed as I was!
Exploring the Mashpi Cloud Forest Reserve
Upon our arrival, we were invited by the nature guides for a presentation on the history and the flora and fauna of the cloud forest. It’s a wondrous story of one man’s dream to preserve this nature paradise (read about Roque Sevilla’s quest). I was especially intrigued by their camera trap project. In the following video, resident biologist Carlos Morochz tells us about the innovative project at Mashpi Lodge, showing shots taken by the cameras in the Mashpi Rainforest Biodiversity Reserve.
The guides (both the naturalists and the local guides) showed a deep love for the forest and were always happy to share their immense knowledge. On our various walks through the forest, they would surprise us with their animal-spotting prowess and insightful commentary.
There are lots of things to do at the Mashpi Cloud Forest Reserve. Aside from the nature walks – there are a variety of trails with varying levels of difficulty – there’s the observation tower, the SkyBike, the hummingbird sanctuary, Life Centre and the soon-to-be-open forest gondola.
Hiking through the cloud forest is a magical experience – that feeling of being surrounded by this tremendous abundance of nature never ceases to amaze me. There were mushrooms and “fox fire” fungi, huge tree trunks covered with tiny orchids, lichens and mosses, giant ferns and coiling vines. We were cloaked in a refreshing fine mist whenever the clouds rolled in whilst the forest transformed into a mysterious wonderland. We saw lots of colourful birds, butterflies, frogs and insects. My favourite experience though was the hummingbird sanctuary. It’s a wondrous and soothing experience to see them zipping around at lightning speed.
We were always welcomed with cold towels and fresh juice upon our return to the Lodge – another fabulous touch. Meals at the Lodge were another highlight. Mashpi’s chefs are absolutely top-notch! Breakfast starts with a wide selection of breads, cereals, fruits, eggs, pancakes and the like. For me, the freshly squeezed juices and smoothies (with exotic Ecuadorian fruits) were my absolute favourites! Lunches were often a buffet and dinners were an á la carte affair. Being this deep in the forest, I was very impressed with the quality of the ingredients and the creativity of the chefs to present sumptuous meal options every day.
Mashpi truly was an incredible experience. The accommodation is just as spectacular as the variety of flora and fauna surrounding it. Add to that: wonderful service and a fantastic team of chefs, and you get a place that’s, in my book, a must visit!
Note: my trip to Ecuador was a collaboration with Metropolitan Touring, the premier tour operator to Ecuador, and LAN Airlines, part of LATAM Airlines Group, the largest airline group in Latin America, which flies to 135 destinations across 22 countries. All views expressed above are mine, and mine only.