Experiencing the Mashpi Cloud Forest

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The mist-shrouded cloud forest.

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.

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The Mashpi Lodge.

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!

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My room!

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.

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A serene spot with a view.

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!

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There are amazing views of the forest in every direction.

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.

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A giant locust showed up as our guide spoke.

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.

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The Sky Bike took us through the forest canopy.

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.

Hummingbirds feeding – captured through a telescope. Amazing huh? #HappyInEcuador

A video posted by Keith Jenkins (@velvetescape) on

Look closely in the forest and you'll spot all sorts of tiny wildlife.

Look closely in the forest and you’ll spot all sorts of tiny wildlife.

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…and some very well camouflaged insects!

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We hiked to this pool for a refreshing swim.

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Mashpi Lodge seen from the observation tower at sunset. In the evenings and mornings, an orchestra of birds, crickets and frogs came to life!

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.

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The food at Mashpi Lodge was top-notch!

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!

Check rates for the Mashpi Lodge!

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.

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5 Responses to “Experiencing the Mashpi Cloud Forest”

  1. Keith Jenkins 27/04/2015 11:46 am
    #

    Hi Tony,

    My Mum told me that you were in Europe but her geography isn’t great (haha!) so she wasn’t sure where you were. Yes, I haven’t been to Dubrovnik but I’m sure the opportunity will arise soon enough. Glad to know you’re enjoying it there and hope to catch up with you and Al one day soon.

    Lots of hugs,
    Keith

  2. Tony 27/04/2015 10:22 am
    #

    Hi Keith, how are you doing? Al had mentioned that you were surprised that we are in Dubrovnik, we have been here for almost 3 months, we have about 2 more weeks before we head home to the US.

    Prior to coming here we were in Singapore, Sabah and Kuala lumpur and I was able to have lunch with your mom , Linda and Judith at her place, “Nosh” in Bangsar, it was indeed nice to see and dine with them and we drove to your mom’s residence for a little chit chat.

    Since the Dubrovnik is in your bucket, we wished we had known that you have not been here, you could have come over for a visit and stayed with us, we rented a 3 bedroom house on the hill directly overlooking the old walled city, we have an outstanding view and of course the millions of steps we have to take going up or down to visit the city, all in all it was a worth while stay in Croatia, the people,the pristine coastline and the excellent foods mostly the seafood will always remain in our hearts. We have rented a car for the duration of our stay here, and have driven to Montenegro, Mostar, Medugorje, in Bosnia Herzegovina and to many coastal towns, we were in Mali Ston for the oyster festival and we had the best oysters, plumb, juicy and oh so fresh,to die for!! and also the mussels. We had 2 couples from the US, come visit us and we sure a fabulous time, they have return home after more than a week visit. We will be driving back to Zagreb return the rented car, then to Frankfurt for the 3 days and then home.

    Next year we might be splitting our vacation between Berlin and Normandy, depending on how successful our search for 3 bedrooms, 3 baths house is, so until then, happy travelling…………….until we hear from you…………….Love & Regards…………….tony & al

  3. Keith Jenkins 24/11/2014 6:16 pm
    #

    Hi Noah,
    Have a great trip to Ecuador! I hope to return one day and see more of it.

    Cheers,
    Keith

  4. Noah 22/11/2014 11:54 pm
    #

    There is so much to experience in Ecuador … can’t wait to check it all out for myself in the New Year!

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  1. Ten places in Ecuador you should not miss - 31/03/2017

    […] Imagine a futuristic-looking luxury lodge deep in the cloud forests, completely enveloped by nature. That place is called 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 lodge perfectly combines luxury with incredible nature experiences in the cloud forest. Read about my stay at Mashpi Lodge. […]

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