Mashpi Lodge – Programs
3-Day / 2-Night Package
Your adventure begins at around 8:30 a.m. shortly after being picked up from one of the main hotels in Quito.
Mashpi Lodge is located three hours away from the capital of Quito, situated on the western slope of the Andean cordillera. The gradual change in altitude (dropping from 2,800 masl / 9,186 fasl to 1,000 masl / 3,280 fasl) along the way will allow you to discover a treasure trove of Andean landscapes. The highway crosses through the valley of Pomasqui, which itself is dominated by Andean dry forest. This valley is where the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World) monument is located, which marks the equatorial line and commemorates the French Geodesic Mission that helped establish the equator and substantiate the elliptical shape of our Earth back in the 18th century.
Shortly after passing through this valley, the highway will head down into the cloud forests of the region, which provides a lush and green contrast against the former landscapes. Your journey ends at Mashpi – the doorstep into Ecuador’s tropical rainforest.
Welcome to Mashpi Lodge
After settling into your room, you will be greeted by one of our Naturalist Guides who will give you an introductory talk about the cloud forest, conservation efforts, activities during your stay, and some helpful tips about what to wear and what to bring along with you on the excursions. This talk will take place before lunch over at our library and will last about 30 minutes.
Afternoon Excursion: Napa Trail
At 3:30 p.m. we will get together at the lobby in order to head out down the Napa Trail.
This trail starts on the side of the road, where bits of forest are gradually regenerating alongside large patches of pristine forest. As a result of these contrasting features, the trail offers the perfect spot for your Guide to explain the process of ecological succession and the importance of conservation efforts throughout the Chocó region. The trail itself is also a great way of appreciating the surrounding scenic beauty and, towards the end of the trail, will allow explorers to witness a forest area consisting of “iron palm” (Iriartea deltoidea) – an invaluable construction material for houses and such. This is also a very good trail for birdwatching.
For guests interested in getting to know a little more about the cloud forest and its unique ecology, every evening will see a series of different lectures being offered about the features and diversity of the Chocó region as well as our scientific research projects. Such lectures include the: “Secret Wildlife of Mashpi,” “Camera Trap Project,” and “Chocó, a biological hotspot.” The lectures will be given by one of our Naturalist Guides or our resident biologist at 7:30 p.m.
Early Bird Watching
As the first rays of sun filter down through the forest canopy, the surrounding area comes to life with the sound of birds getting ready for a brand new day in Mashpi. Guests can head up to the Lodge’s panoramic terrace, which is a fantastic place for birdwatching and appreciating the beauty of the cloud forest in the early morning. We recommend accompanying said experience with a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate. Guides will be available to set up the telescope and assist you with a close examination of the incredible richness of birds that the area is home to. This activity begins at 6:30 a.m. and lasts for about an hour. Afterwards, guests can head downstairs to enjoy breakfast.
Sky Bike and Observation Tower
We will depart at 08:30 to the Sky Bike and Observation tower, which are located close to the hotel, 15 minute walking. The Sky Bike makes for an original and exciting way to explore the forest canopy up close. Designed for two people to use at once, one person pedals the bike along a cable stretched between two points in the forest, around 200 m (655 feet) apart, crossing a gorge above a river flowing between rocks and trees below. Silent, easy-to-use and fun, it's an activity that provides guests with another chance to observe the natural world close to the lodge and even spot its denizens.
The minimum height for this activity is 1 meter tall (3.2 feet) and children have to be accompanied by an adult.
Towering above the treetops, Mashpi´s observation tower allows our guests appreciate all the protected forest in all its glory and the Lodge embedded within. With a height of 30 meters (100 feet) this is the ideal place for nature lovers and not only allows you to appreciate the complex structure of the forest but also the incredible species richness that inhabit the treetops and constitute 70% of the diversity throughout the forest. To reach the top, visitors have to climb up 162 steps, but the rewards are worth it.
The bike ride takes no more than 10 minutes and although it may be a round trip or if you want you can go just one way and walk back to the lodge walking one of our trails. The Oxibelis trail takes you to a small waterfall near the road and then back to the lodge. Another alternative is take the limones trail to the San Vicente´s waterfall; it will take between 45 minutes to an hour to reach this beautiful waterfall. This is a difficult hike and demands to be in good physical condition as the trail is steep. This combination of the bike, the observation tower and the hike, takes between 2-4 hours depending on the trail you choose to walk.
We will be waiting for you with a refreshing natural juice and fresh towels so you can get ready for lunch with a delicious variety of dishes that will delight your palate.
Afternoon Excursion: Howler Monkeys Trail and Life Centre
The best way to get to Life Centre is by taking a stroll through the forest along the Howler Monkeys trail (Aulladores). This trail goes across one the original patches of forest, where many of the centenarian trees managed to survive the now defunct logging projects that once threatened to raze the region. Of these age-old trees, the “copal” tree (Dacryodes cupularis) is perhaps one of the most emblematic. Along this trail, our local guide will closely pay attention to the sounds of the forest so that he can point out beautiful birds and/or the very elusive howler monkeys (Alouatta palliate) that inhabit the surroundings. Our Naturalist Guide will also take this opportunity to talk about the ecology and conservation of the forest. Both of them together will share their extensive knowledge of forest plants and their uses, too.
Once at the Life Centre, guests can bask in the comfort of the expansive wooden deck that offers a panoramic window into the world of the Mashpi Reserve, with its wide variety of flora and fauna that lingers at your fingertips. The Centre was conceived as a place for learning and discovery, but it is also a place where guests can disconnect and revel in the views before them. Inside the Centre, our guests will learn more about the butterflies that inhabit the region. Our guides and biologists will present the process of these creatures and each of their different stages: from egg to larva, caterpillar to chrysalis, and pupa to winged wonder. Other learning subjects include the various species of host plants that are used by the butterflies to lay their eggs and feed the larvae, some of which include passion flowers, birds of paradise, milk weeds and several others that are found in the beautiful gardens around the Life Centre structure. Close to the Centre, we have established an area for growing useful plants and, beyond that, many more varieties of bushes and fruit trees, including banana, plantain, manioc, cacao, hot chilli pepper, coffee and wild raspberries.
Evening Excursion, Night Hike (6:45 p.m.)
At night, the forest transforms into something wholly different and wonderful. Your senses awaken as the sounds and smells of the forest intensify. Unlike the day hikes, this “night safari” will give our guests the chance to find the beauty of the surrounding world in the small, hidden details - from the croaking of the frogs to the hum of insects. If you turn off your flashlight, you can observe the sparkling fireflies as they linger about the woods or quietly listen to the flutter of bats overhead. If you look carefully at the ground, you might even spot the faint glow of bioluminescent fungi (foxfire or fairy fire) all around you. When you turn on your flashlight again, you’ll find yourself aghast at the reflection of hundreds of tiny eyes belonging to the insects surrounding you. As we continue on our way, you might be able to hear the call of owls and night birds, or maybe even the rustling of the branches overhead as the kinkajous (Potos flavus) – an arboreal mammal that’s a relative of the raccoons – head down their respective “trails” along the treetops in search for ripe fruits. Without a doubt, a night walk at Mashpi is an awe-inspiring experience. The excursion begins at 7:00 a.m. and lasts around 45-minutes to an hour. Guests will come back just in time to enjoy a delicious dinner.
Farewell to Mashpi Lodge
On your last day, there’s more time to explore the forest trails, head to a different waterfall or find a nook to let your whole experience at Mashpi sink in.
Guests will leave the Lodge for their transfer back to Quito before noon on their last day. A complimentary box lunch will be provided.
- Transfer in (shared) from four hotels in Quito: Swissotel, JW Marriott, Hilton Colon and Casa Gangotena.
- Transfer out (shared) to four hotels in Quito: Casa Gangotena, Hilton Colon, JW Marriott and Swissotel.
- Hotel accommodation
- All meals throughout your stay at the Lodge (B/L/D).
- Guided activities and excursions within the Reserve: walks, birdwatching, nature excursions, Sky Bike, Life Centre, waterfalls and the Hummingbird Garden.
- Unlimited soft drinks
- Use of rain ponchos and rubber boots
- Dragonfly cable car ride: $40 + taxes/per person. For children under the age of 12, the cost is $20 + taxes/per child.
- Spa treatments
- Alcoholic drinks
- Taxes and service charge (currently 12% Value Added Tax, 10% Service Charge)
- Gratuities, tips and/or personal expenses
The highlight of any trip to Mashpi is the Dragonfly – an exciting, open-air cable car system that carries you over, across and sometimes even directly through the forest canopy, offering guests a relaxing way to enjoy the reserve from overhead.
The entire setup consists of two main stations, six towers (with an intermediate station that guests can get off at if they wish), and four gondolas. The gondolas are equidistant and separated by a distance of 500 meters/1,640 feet. Each gondola moves along the 2 km/1.24 mi length of cable at a low speed of 50 metres/160 feet per minute. The guides can stop the gondola at any point to allow for an extended observation of any flora and/or fauna that catches your eye. An entire circuit (roundtrip) takes about 40-minutes to complete. Gondolas can carry up to 4 guests (plus 1 guide).
Located near the lodge, the Life Centre was conceived as a place for learning and discovery, but it is also a space where guests can disconnect while they admire the scenery and sit back comfortably and relax.
Guests will learn about the numerous butterflies that are found in this region. You will see the process of metamorphosis of these beautiful creatures as they transform from eggs into beautiful butterflies. About 200 species of butterflies have been identified to date within the Mashpi Reserve, and about a dozen can be seen at the Life Centre.
Inside the Life Centre, a small orchard has been established that contains medicinal and ornamental plants as well as many varieties of shrubs and fruit trees, including banana, plantain, cassava and cocoa. The existence of such fruitful flora attracts all kinds of wildlife, from birds to mammals. Guests can easily observe the activities of these creatures from the large wooden deck. Most of the interpretation at the Centre will be provided by our local and naturalist guides or people from the local community involved in the project. Guests will find several of the ingredients from these gardens being used in the dishes that are prepared at Mashpi’s restaurant.
We have 11 trails within the reserve, each of which allows us to do nature walks in the company of a bilingual Naturalist Guide and a local guide – together, they will be in charge of teaching our guests about the multitude of different wildlife and plant species that exist in this highly biodiverse area. The guides are not only environmental interpreters, but are also responsible for the safety of our guests and kindly remind everybody about the rules so as to help with the conservation and protection of the reserve.
Due to the mountainous topography of Mashpi, the trails have steep slopes and, as a result, we have installed recycled plastic crates into the earth in order to help create steps and firmer ground. Most of the trails are moderately difficult. The inclination of the trails is actually an advantage, as their sloping nature allows for more light to penetrate and shine down onto the different strata of the forest, increasing the diversity of plants and animals that can be observed at every level.
The trails are, on average, between 1.5 and 2 meters (5-6.5 feet) wide.
|1||LIMONES||2,200 m / 7,200 ft||2 Hours|
|2||AULLADOR||680 m / 2,230 ft||30 min.|
|3||ESTACIÓN||600 m / 2,000 ft||30 min.|
|4||OXIBELIS||800 m / 2,600 ft||30 min.|
|5||STAFF||700 m / 2,300 ft||45 min.|
|6||MALIMPIAS||540 m / 1,800 ft||1 Hour|
|7||CUCHARILLOS||750 m / 2,450 ft||45 min.|
|8||NAPA||800 m / 2,600 ft||45 min.|
|9||VERRUGOSA||350 m / 1,150 ft||20 min.|
|10||CENTRO DE VIDA||360 m / 1,180 ft||30 min.|
|11||CASCADA SAN VICENTE||320 m / 1,050 ft||1 hour 45 min.|
The Mashpi forest transforms at night, with higher levels of activity than the day, even. Optional night walks are taken before or after dinner, allowing guests to discover the nocturnal creatures and their behaviours. During the walk, you’ll find insects of all sizes as well as glass frogs, tree frogs, nocturnal birds and/or mammals, and the glowing bioluminescence of fungi. It's a magical world, ready to be discovered in the company of experts.
One of the best ways to enjoy the beauty of Mashpi is from the observation tower. From here, guests can see the wonderful view of the canopy and the complex design of the tropical forest. On a clear day, you can even see the lodge nestled within the forest. The observation tower consists of a metal structure with a staircase that rises about eight floors (26 m / 85 ft) and is an ideal spot for wildlife lovers. Species that can be spotted from here include toucans, woodpeckers, tanagers and parrots as well as birds of prey.
Located a stone’s throw away from the hotel, the Sky Bike offers an original and exciting way to explore the forest canopy up close. It’s designed for two people to use it simultaneously, with one person pedalling the bike along the 200 meter / 650 foot length of cable that runs between two points in the woods. The Sky Bike flies over a river that cuts between rocks and trees below. Quiet, easy to use and fun, it is an activity for everyone and offers guests the opportunity to observe the natural world near the Lodge.
Water is essential for all forms of life at Mashpi, and there’ss nothing more refreshing than a dip at the end of a spectacular hike. Several rivers flow through the Reserve, forming small and big waterfalls and pools along their paths. The water temperature varies between 18 - 20 °C (64 - 68 °C).
- Accommodations, all meals, guided daily excursions (in English and Spanish only) through the primary forest, aerial tram, rivers and lagoons throughout the reserve, and specialized lectures. Rain ponchos and rubber boots are provided, too.
- Transfer out (shared), includes entrance fee and visit to the Pululahua Crater and the Tulipe Archaeological Site.
- Transfer out (Mashpi to Quito, shared).
- Gratuities, bar, gifts and additional items. Activities outside of the reserve (kayaking, biking, zip-line, etc).
Guests will be supplied with rubber boots. Please be sure to send us your size. We also have binoculars for guests to use. The lodge also supplies walking poles, but you may want to bring your own.
- Walking shoes/sneakers
- Socks: we recommend running socks that don’t slip easily inside rubber boots. Asics Tegan Knee-High or Kayano Classic Quarter are both good options. We recommend bringing two pairs of socks per day.
- Lightweight, earth- or dark-coloured, long-sleeve T-shirts and shirts
- Earth- or dark-coloured, lightweight trousers
- Light fleece/sweater
- Goretex jacket – guests will also be supplied with waterproof ponchos
- Insect repellent (natural, not chemical like DEET)
- Good binoculars (Guides will have pairs to share)
- Small backpack for trails
- 6 Ziploc bags of different sizes for keeping things dry
- Sealable bag for packing dirty laundry in luggage
- Headlamp (or Flashlight)
- Extra batteries
- Appliance chargers. Plugs in Ecuador are US-style, 2 flat pins 110 volts. 220 volt adaptors can be supplied upon request.
The small boutique at the lodge sells a range of books, guides, clothing (T-shirts, shirts, hats, buffs), crafts, and essentials (batteries, health care products, etc.).
We kindly ask that luggage not exceed 20 kilos (45 lbs) in weight, with one item per person.
Due to the Lodge’s wastewater management system, we request that guests only use biodegradable soaps and shampoos (the Lodge supplies these as part of its amenities).