Sat. Jul 13th, 2024
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Mashpi Lodge – Travel & Vacation – Ecuador

Luxurious Mashpi Lodge is hidden away in the Ecuadorian cloudforest amid the Choco Bioregion, one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth. Yet, the 24-suite lodge is surprisingly close to the nation’s capital, Quito. Thanks to this convenient location within the metropolitan district, guests can completely immerse themselves in nature without leaving upscale amenities behind.

Life At Mashpi Lodge

Built with sustainable construction techniques and featuring a modernist style created with earth tones, steel, stone, and glass, Marshpi Lodge blends in, and in some places, almost disappears into the landscape. Massive glass walls throughout the lodge, including each suite, provide unobstructed views and allow you to feel cocooned in nature whether you are dining on gourmet cuisine, lounging in bed, or soaking in the bathtub.

In the laboratory, guests of all ages are invited to learn about the ongoing scientific projects carried out by the staff and guest researchers. You may even get to see the newly discovered Mashpi Glass Frog, a new member of Ecuador’s lengthy species list, endemic to Mashpi. Outdoors, a viewing platform juts out over the forest and provides an ideal place for observing the 400 species of birds that share the area. Among the highlights of the lodge is the restaurant and Explorer’s Bar. The two-story glass-walled room is an exquisite setting for upscale dining.

The lodge’s chefs turn Ecuadorian cuisine into an artform by featuring native ingredients. Start the day with homemade jams, regional fruits, eggs, and hams. After a light lunch of ceviches, soups, and salads, dinner is a more formal occasion. Dishes such as sun-dried tomato salad, Fettucine with mountain garlic, and rack of lamb with mixed herbs and Ecuadorian root vegetables are the stars of the menu. Pair your meals with a glass fine wine or a cocktail crafted by master mixologists.

Excursions From Mashpi Lodge Ecuador

The unique activities and explorations from Mashpi Lodge aim to showcase the rainforest from every angle. From above, take a ride on the Dragonfly or the Sky Bike. The Dragonfly is an open-air cable car that carries four passengers on a 40-minute, 1.24-mile journey over and through the forest. The Sky Bike takes one peddler and one additional passenger on a 655-foot trip over a gorge, river, and trees.

You can also climb to the top of an 85-foot observation tower to spot toucans, tanagers, and parrots. Below, explore four trails, ranging from quick, easy walks to 2-mile hikes. While each trail at Mashpi Lodge presents an opportunity to see the area’s flora and fauna, the Jungle Swing trail is a stand-out.

This trail, which starts in new growth and ends in mature forest, demonstrates the jungle’s regeneration after deforestation. The trail is also true to its name and has a massive vine that guests can swing on. Sprinkled around the lodge are three waterfalls to swim in and a hummingbird garden.

Nurture Your Soul At The Wellness Center

Named after the native Kichwa word for “soul,” the Samay Wellness Center celebrates life through personalized services. The wellness center, which is spread over two areas, is nestled into lush foliage. Relax in an open-air hot tub while listening to birds and gazing at the cloud forest. Request a mat and spend some time meditating or practicing Savasana on the outdoor yoga deck.

The spa on the second floor of the lodge offers a wealth of decadent massages, exfoliating scrubs, and body wraps, several of which incorporate Ecuadorian chocolate. While each treatment is tempting, may we direct your attention to the Mashpi Altar massage? This open-air treatment is offered at the base of a waterfall and can be followed by a refreshing swim.

A stay at Mashpi Lodge and its private forest reserve provides the adventure of a lifetime for families, couples, and solo travelers. For birdwatchers, epicureans, and nature lovers who want a refined experience, this is the place to be.



At one with nature

The man behind Mashpi Lodge is Ecuadorian entrepreneur, environmentalist, and former mayor of Quito, Roque Sevilla.
The idea was to make a bubble of comfort in the middle of the jungle.
Alfredo Ribadeneira, lead architect
A timber company had previously owned the site, which Sevilla purchased 11 years ago, to save the forest and its inhabitants. Two years of building work and $10 million later, the resort opened in 2012.
“I think Mashpi Lodge is a very special case when it comes to the numerous eco-resorts around the world,” Sevilla tells us.
“(Protection of the area) is an ongoing effort and we’re still working on purchasing more land so we can guarantee 100% protection from logging, agriculture and mining.”
Mashpi Lodge as seen from an observation tower built for guests.
“The idea was to make a bubble of comfort in the middle of the jungle,” explains Ribadeneira. “The real luxury is the possibility of being part of this web of life as a spectator.”
On top of the network of logging roads that once covered the site the architects laid a grid of metal mesh tubes “encrusted in the land” to serve as the foundation of the property.
“The time it took to make all the foundations was very long,” Ribadeneira says. “In another place, you would just go and dig a hole and put down foundations — and that’s it.”
But Ribadeneira and his team took great care to avoid disturbing the forest, where possible.
For example, the timber firm left behind a platform where lumber machinery had been stored. Ribadeneira decided to locate the hotel there: not only did it have expansive views, but it also didn’t require trees to be cut down since the site’s vegetation had already been removed.
“If you walk around you’re not going to see building debris,” Marc Berry, the hotel’s general manager, tells us. “We’re very respectful of the forest.”

Lost in the jungle

Vertical lines have been used throughout Mashpi Lodge to mirror the forest.
“We tried to make all the vertical elements of the structure very slender and tall, aiming for a similar proportion to the trees nearby,” Ribadeneira explains.

Mashpi Lodge's vertical structural elements are designed to evoke a feeling of being "lost" inside the jungle for its guests.

Mashpi Lodge’s vertical structural elements are designed to evoke a feeling of being “lost” inside the jungle for its guests. Credit: Mashpi Lodge
Another way of bringing the forest inside was the extensive use of glass — there are floor-to-ceiling windows in the guest rooms, for example.
“The glass reflects the jungle; the glass makes you see from the windows. This generates a magnificent relationship with the exterior,” Ribadeneira adds.
One moment you are at ground level … and the next moment you are practically inside the canopy of the jungle.
Alfredo Ribadeneira
Furthermore, the hotel was built across three floors to provide a layered view of the forest.
The ground level, where the entrance and communal areas are, offers views of two lateral mountain ranges.
Most of the guest rooms take up the two floors above, looking out into the higher reaches of the forest.
“One moment you … are at ground level with bases of the trees very close to you — and the next moment you are practically inside the canopy of the jungle.
Views of the rainforest are visible at every turn from inside Mashpi Lodge.
“The sensation that this generates is very interesting,” Ribadeneira says.
In more practical sustainability terms, Mashpi Lodge has been running on hydro-electricity over the past year.
Meanwhile, 75% of the property operates energy efficient LED lights. The lodge sources its water from local rivers and treats it in a natural water plant on site, while used beverage crates are recycled to cover slippery paths.
Local villagers grow organic produce — fruits and the heart of palm vegetable — for the hotel’s kitchen, reducing the property’s carbon footprint.

If you build it, they will come

Ribadeneira admits that the building process was challenging.
“Initially, when the hotel was not yet inhabited, the reflection of the jungle in the windows made the birds crash against the glass,” he says.
The team leveled the windows in different angles so the birds wouldn’t hit them.

The Cloud Forest surrounding Mashpi Lodge is teeming with wildlife.

The Cloud Forest surrounding Mashpi Lodge is teeming with wildlife. Credit: Lucas Bustamante/
Transporting materials to the site and constructing the building was also difficult.
“Normally, you would work with materials that are nearby. In this case, the place is so complex that it’s very hard thinking about getting the materials there.”
I think people miss out this bit (in Ecuador) so this would be a lovely way to come and see it.
Michael Bloy, Mashpi Lodge guest
To avoid disturbing the wildlife, the architects used small cars and lots of manpower, rather than trucks. Each sheet of glass was carried in. Parts of the property were built off-site and reassembled once they arrived.
“You have to be very, very silent and you cannot go and have huge trucks and all those things,” he explains, or else the wildlife the property wanted to showcase would have fled forever.

Some parts of Mashpi Lodge were pre-assembled in Quito before taking shape on site.

Some parts of Mashpi Lodge were pre-assembled in Quito before taking shape on site. Credit: Mashpi Lodge
Indeed, an initial downturn in biodiversity proved unavoidable.
“The animals went away — but after a couple of years they were all back again,” says Ribadeneira. “That was a very good thing.”
With Mashpi Lodge receiving some 2,200 guests a year, it would seem that their efforts have paid off.
“Ecuador has a lot to offer anyway, but this seems a little bit special in terms of how you can approach the cloud forest and how you can see a little bit more of Ecuador,” guest Michael Bloy tells us.
“People tend to think of Ecuador as the Galapagos or the rainforest. I think people miss out on here, so this would be a lovely way to come and see it.”
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