I don’t know what I expected as we left the city of Quito to journey to the rainforest. But at Mashpi Lodge I certainly had one of the greatest adventures and closest encounters with wildlife I’d ever had.
Venturing further into more remote parts of Ecuador, its diverse landscape revealed itself.
There were high mountains and deep valleys, and the vegetation morphed from verdant forests to rocky hillsides into the ever-present volcanoes in the distance.
The drive from Quito, Ecuador’s capital city, takes about three hours and once into the more remote areas, the road becomes very basic. Tarmac disappears, the jungle deepens and wildlife multiples.
The closer we got to our accommodation, Mashpi Lodge, the more remote the area surrounding us became – the area covered by thick vegetation was devoid of people.
For me this only served to make the rainforest all the more exciting.
As we approached the grounds of Mashpi Lodge we passed through a giant Jurassic Park-style gate. From there it was another 25 minute drive to the lodge itself along a rutted dirt track.
The lodge, which opened in 2012, is built on the site of a former logging company’s headquarters. An accurate description of the lodge would be a ‘bubble in the jungle’ – and it’s a fantastic bubble.
Mashpi Lodge an eco-friendly stay
Inside you’ll find a five-star lifestyle, only 22 rooms creating a cosy, even intimate feel, but step outside the lodge and you are in deep virgin forest. The owners of the lodge are totally committed to sustainable and environmentally friendly practices. And they practice what they preach.
Currently, 80% of the staff are local people and include eco-tourism graduates and expert naturalists.
The water supply for the lodge is taken from local rivers, and is filtered and biologically treated before being returned to the forest. To further help protect the local water supply, guests are asked not to use their own soaps and shower gels, but to make use of the hotel’s eco-friendly version, which they generously supply.
My room at Mashpi Lodge was lovely, with ceiling to floor windows allowing great views over the virgin forest. So remote was the location that the window blinds were not needed.
Dining there was an occasion, and the wide choice of food was of the highest quality. Whether it was breakfast, lunch or dinner, meals were prepared with imagination and flair, and wherever possible using local ingredients.
Inside the lodge, the staff were as accommodating as possible. And outside the guides were first rate, helpful, knowledgeable, and committed to protecting the rainforest and its wildlife.
However, the real star attraction here, is Mashpi rainforest.
I enjoyed a number of guided walks through the remarkable terrain. And witnessed plant life of all colours, sizes and types, most I hadn’t seen before. There was also an abundance of birds, monkeys, and critters of all sorts, too numerous to mention.
Mashpi Lodge experts have documented 1,600 types of bird life alone, and we saw many including colourful toucans, falcons, numerous hummingbirds and so much more.
It was a particular thrill to see the magnificent toucans flying overhead.
On a night walk we saw a less attractive, but still fascinating resident of Mashpi – a tarantula. Well, we did after a stick was prodded into a crevice and he popped out to see what the fuss was all about.
The hummingbirds of Mashpi
One very special occasion was visiting the nearby hummingbird viewpoint to see some of the 22 species that inhabit Mashpi. Strikingly beautiful hummingbirds of all colours, sizes and shapes darted in and out of view, majestic in their vibrant multi-coloured feathers.
Less welcome for some, but still fascinating were the giant locusts, moths, spiders and bugs of every description. We even encountered a snake – a viper – on one walk, which left our guides beaming with excitement as they captured what they believed to be a new species, for further examination.
A real pleasure for me was swimming in the rainforest’s waterfalls. As well as a refreshing way to cool off from the heat of the day, it was a special bonding moment with our natural habitat.
The lodge has also constructed an aerial bicycle – the sky bike – which allows you to cycle through the tree-top canopy. Here I got a very unusual, but eye-opening view of the tree tops, the gorge below and the immensity of the rainforest that spread out to the horizon.
In the quiet of the evening and into the night it was life-enhancing to lie back and listen to the sound of the rainforest and its abundant wildlife. It was then that I was truly able to appreciate that I was witnessing one of the world’s great untouched wildernesses.
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