Drive three hours north west of Ecaudor’s capital Quito and you’ll discover a very special kind of paradise. The luxurious Mashpi Lodge is situated amidst 1,300 hectares of rainforest and cloudforest reserve. It’s the perfect base from which to explore the reserve’s astonishing biodiversity. Here are just some of the activities you can experience during your stay.
1. Hike the Cucharillos trail and take a dip under a waterfall
Our first outing on arrival at Mashpi is a hike along the Cucharillos or little spoon trail, named for the towering hard wood trees that produce delightfully aromatic spoon-shaped flowers. They are one of the 500 plant species endemic to the area. Their dense wood has made them a popular construction material and as a result their numbers have dwindled to just 300 to 400 individuals. We are lucky to see four of them in close proximity along the trail, towering high above the canopy as we look out over a ravine. The trail leads us 950 metres down to a waterfall, where we cool off in crystal clear pools before making the return ascent. As we climb, the coming rains excite the rain frogs, who begin to in loud chorus from the surrounding trees.
2. Ride the sky bike
Have you ever had that fantasy of riding a suspended cable bike 200 meters across and 60 meters above a rainforest ravine? At Mashpi Lodge, that fantasy becomes reality. A contraption of the lodge’s own invention, the Sky Bike offers an entirely new perspective of the surrounding rainforest. Riders are strapped in and thrust into the abyss, where the flourishing forest reveals itself. Around 70 per cent of the flora and fauna in the Mashpi Rainforest Biodiversity Reserve calls this part of the rainforest home, safe from the forest floor below the sunny open canopy above.
3. Visit the Mariposario at the Life Centre
Who doesn’t love the idea of spending a morning in a greenhouse garden surrounded by hundreds of butterflies? The Mashpi Lodge Mariposario (butterfly garden) offers visitors just that. The greenhouse-esque building has its own wrap around veranda, complete with dramatic views of the surrounding reserve and comfortable lounge chairs from which to admire them. Before the butterflies wake up we are treated to our own wake up ritual – a picnic breakfast served on the veranda – as a pair of toucans have their own breakfast in a nearby tree.
4. Hang out with hummingbirds
Arriving at the Mashpi Hummingbird gardens is similar to arriving at a tiny army base, where hundreds of minuscule jet fighter planes are in flight, practicing their formations. We spend the afternoon trying to capture the tiny creatures on camera as they careen about the gardens, their wings beating at a furious 80 to 100 times per second!
Mashpi Lodge’s dramatic dining area – with panoramic views of the surrounding forest – is, in a word, fantastic. Mashpi’s resident chefs make the most of its unique location, bringing together gorgeous fresh ingredients and cuisine from the coast and the Andes and combining them with ingredients endemic to the cloudforest region, such as wild garlic and chillangua. A curated wine list features in particular varietals from Chile and Argentina.