Mashpi Lodge: Program 4 Days / 3 Nights

Mashpi Lodge

Biodiversity from every angle

As you descend into the forest of Mashpi, you are let in on a secret. The curtain draws back and you’re led in to the backstage of the universe, stepping between the spotlights of the sunshine filtering down through the canopy as tropical birds and howler monkeys orchestrate the soundtrack. Perhaps it’s here where the most exciting event is enacted.

Here, every element, from the leaves of every shape, size and colour imaginable to the drops of rain that bounce off them and the animals they quench, plays its role in the greatest show that most will never see, working together in incandescent harmony.

This place, this steaming, breathing, living entity, where the air is rich with life and clouds linger like disembodied spirits, is not only the lungs, but the soul of the Earth.

Mashpi Lodge perches at 950 meters, (3,117 feet) above sea level between lower montane rainforest and cloud forests, at the heart of a 1,200-hectare (3,000-acre) private reserve, a lush, green world, of which roughly 70 percent is primary forest.

Species thrive here, not only those within the realms of our understanding, but also those yet to be discovered. The Mashpi Frog and Magnolia are both endemic to this very forest and were only identified in the last few years – imagine what other creatures remain uncharted!

Mashpi, a short drive from Quito, the capital of Ecuador, offers guests an unprecedented opportunity to explore both cloud and rainforest, rich in species and biodiversity, from every angle, from the roots of the trees all the way up beyond the canopy, always accompanied by experienced guides who more often than not grew up among those very same trunks and branches.

Activities and experiences within the reserve

The Dragonfly

The highlight of any trip to Mashpi is a ride aboard the Dragonfly, an innovative cable system which carries you under, through and above the forest canopy: a unique way to see the world anew offering unprecedented access to such a little-understood place.

The Dragonfly consists of two stations, six towers (with an intermediate station half-way, which we can use to embark and disembark), and four ‘gondolas’ in which you travel. Each gondola can carry four guests plus their guide. The Dragonfly travels gently and slowly along a 2-kilometre (1.2-mile) cable between the two stations, sometimes below the canopy, sometimes through it, and also far above it – it’s a bird’s eye view of this magical ecosystem where the sounds of the forest greet you like a symphony. It takes about 40 minutes to ride from one station to the other.

Activity Description

This is the complete Dragonfly experience, for those guests who just don’t want to get off! You stay on board all the way from the departure station to the end station, and then return all the way.

We can also enjoy the Dragonfly ride just to the Tower 4 and back – recommended for people with severe vertigo

The Magnolia Waterfall + Dragonfly

Activity Description

We take the Magnolia Trail waterfall from by the lodge, walking through beautiful forest and stopping at the viewing platform half-way. Further down, we come to a great waterfall for a revitalizing dip and pummeling shower. We then wade and walk through the Laguna River downstream, admiring the colors of the riverbed and spotting birds, before reaching Tower 4 of the Dragonfly. Here we embark for our glide up the gorge, arriving at the departure station 20 minutes later.

This experience can also be done the other way around, beginning on the Dragonfly and returning uphill to the lodge.

The Jungle Swing Trail + Dragonfly

Activity Description

This delightful trail starts near the staff house, a short walk from the lodge. It offers an excellent understanding of the regeneration process that forests undergo following deforestation. The first part of the trail was used for pasture just 15 years ago, and now it’s a beautiful young forest, dominated by pioneer species of Miconia tree.

On this trail, we can put the story of Tarzan to the test. Vines are bridges connecting the forest canopy, and some are strong enough to hold the weight of a person. Halfway along this trail, we can take a swing on Mashpi’s very own Tarzan rope-vine – shouting like Tarzan optional!

This trail descends to the Laguna River. By wading and walking along the riverbed, we can reach the lovely nearby waterfall for a splash, before returning to the Dragonfly’s Tower 4, and returning to the departure station in a glide.

This experience is a great way to combine walking in the forest with traveling over the treetops.

Strangler Fig Trails

Activity Description

Trails throughout the Reserve cross various types of terrain, ranging from the earth and gravel of the main road, forest paths carpeted by leaves, wading through rivers, while some have been specially adapted to make walking easier and pleasant, using embedded recycled plastic crates to create steps and firm paths.

This trail is named after one of the most curious plants in the reserve, the strangler fig. This seed plant, dispersed by birds, lowers its roots from the canopy into the ground around the host tree, and then slowly grows around it until it effectively smothers it. This trail is dominated by palms over 40 m high called pambiles or iron palm (Iriartea deltoidea).

Jungle Swing Trail

Activity Description

This delightful trail starts near the staff house, a short walk from the lodge. It offers an excellent understanding of the regeneration process that forests undergo following deforestation. The first part of the trail was used for pasture just 15 years ago, and now it’s a beautiful young forest, dominated by pioneer species of Miconia tree. The trail ends in lovely mature forest before returning along the main path.

On this trail, we can put the story of Tarzan to the test. Vines are bridges connecting the forest canopy, and some are strong enough to hold the weight of a person. Halfway along this trail, we can take a swing on Mashpi’s very own Tarzan rope-vine – shouting like Tarzan optional!

This trail can be combined with the Dragonfly for the return journey

Copal Waterfall

Activity Description

Water is key to life in Mashpi, and there’s nothing like a refreshing dip full of nature´s energy at the end of a hike! The water temperature is between 18 and 20°C (64 and 68°F). Don’t forget your swimming suit if you want to swim!

This medium-difficulty trail takes us on a magical walk through primary forest where many of the centenarian trees of the Reserve survived logging, with the copal tree (Dacryodes cupularis) being the most emblematic. It leads us down to a waterfall; whose rocks conjure an enchanting curtain of mist all around.

The resin from this tree is used as an anaesthetic and for burning as incense; it’s also combustible

Magnolia Waterfall

Activity Description

Several rivers cross the Mashpi Reserve close to the hotel, many forming beautiful small waterfalls, cascades and pools. This trail drops down right from outside the lodge to the Laguna River below. It’s steep in parts, with a great viewing platform about half-way, and a beautiful waterfall and pool for bathing at the bottom – with an all-natural Jacuzzi! The waterfall and trail’s name come from the tallest in the Reserve, a new species of Magnolia (soon to be published) that grows abundantly in this area, the species is heavily logged outside the reserve for its valuable timber.

The Healing Waterfall

Activity Description

One of the most beautiful in the Reserve, but you have to be pretty fit to enjoy the hike there and back. The waterfall has an amazing setting, and what’s more, you can get around to the back of the chute of water to feel the energizing force – a special place to sit and meditate.

The walk starts from the hotel and takes four hours there and back, covering 3 km (2 miles). There are several other options to reduce hiking time, including taking a vehicle part of the way, walking to the Sky Bike Station, crossing to the other side and walking the trail to the waterfall, or combining the walk with the Dragonfly on the return.

Malimpias Waterfall

Activity Description

One of our more challenging trails, but definitely worth the effort, since the hike ends at one of the largest waterfalls in Mashpi, which cascades down 60 m (190 feet). We wind downhill through enchanting primary forest with trees towering up to 35 m (110 feet) to the lower part of our Reserve, just where the tropical rainforest begins in earnest. The falls create a deep pond, perfect for swimming.

Capuchin Monkey Trail

Activity Description

This is the longest trail we have designed so far in the Reserve, covering more than 2 miles (3.5 km if the walk starts from the hotel) and connecting different attractions of the reserve.

On this trail, we can observe spots where the Club-wing Manakin birds gather to perform their courtship dances. These locations are known as leks. This trail also leads to a fork down to the Healing Waterfall (1.3 km), and finally to the Laguna River. We return wading and walking upstream in the river to the Magnolia trail and from there back to the lodge (2 hours 1.5 km).

We can also walk upstream to Tower 4 and return on the Dragonfly

Mashpi Torrenteer Lagoon

Activity Description

The Mashpi forest is transformed at night, with far more activity than during the day.

This lagoon lies a short walk along the road from the hotel, where a waterfall and river form a beautiful pond. This is the ideal habitat for various species of frogs – rain frogs, glass frogs and tree frogs – as well as other fascinating species we might encounter. In this lagoon, our scientific investigation team was able to discover a new species for science: the Mashpi Torrenteer. Its Latin name is Hyloscirtus mashpi, which means guardian of the river.

The Luminous Trail

Activity Description

This is a short and easy trail which we use mostly for night walks due to its richness in insects. It’s named after the luminous ‘fox fire’ fungus that occurs here. It’s a glow in the dark living experience!

The Sky Bike Trail

Located close to the hotel, 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 beautiful gorge above a river flowing between rocks and trees below. Silent, easy-to-use and fun, it’s an activity for children over 1 m high accompanied by an adult, providing guests with the chance to fly over the natural world close to the lodge and even spot its denizens. The ride takes 10 minutes or 20 round-trip.

Activity Description

To get the Sky Bike, we walk 15 minutes along the access road, and then just 5 minutes (160 m) along a short trail.

We can combine the Sky Bike with other activities like a hike on the Walking Palm trail to the Laguna waterfall and walk back to the lodge from there (1 hour, 1.5 miles). For a longer walk, we can take the Capuchin trail and walk to the Healing waterfall (a demanding hike and only recommended for people in good physical conditions because the hike is 2-miles long and takes 2.5 hours).

The combination of activities – Sky Bike, Observation Tower and hike – lasts about 3 hours

The Walking Palm Trail

Activity Description

This trail leads from the Sky Bike landing to the road, following the course of the river. Here we can come across a very special palm: Irearthea deltoidea famous for being able to ‘walk’ towards the light in orer to improve its chances of growth.

The Observation Tower

One of the best ways to enjoy the beauty of Mashpi is from the observation tower. From here, we can appreciate a wonderful view of the canopy and the complex structure of the tropical forest, and on clear days we can see the lodge, the Reserve’s boundaries and a mosaic of forest, crops and little villages beyond. The tower is a metal structure with a staircase that rises about eight stories (26 m or 85 ft), ideal for the wildlife lovers. Species spotted from here include toucans, woodpeckers, barbets, tanagers and parrots, as well as birds of prey.

Sky Bike Trail

Activity Description

The observation tower is located near the Sky Bike and we combine the two activities.

The combination of activities – Sky Bike, Observation Tower and hike – lasts about 3 hours

The Life Centre

Located west of the lodge, the Life Centre was conceived as a place for learning and discovery, but also as a place where our guests can disconnect while they admire the scenery from the comfort of a chaise longue on the handsome wooden deck – a great place to spot birds, and hear the roar of mantled howler monkeys, too!

Here we learn about the species of butterflies found in this region, observing the whole process of metamorphosis from eggs into beautiful butterflies. About 300 species of moths and butterflies have been identified to date in the Reserve, and our team has reproduced 50 of these to date. About a dozen can be seen in the centre itself. Most of the interpretation in the centre is provided by our guides or the employees from the local community involved in the project.

The Life Centre Trail

Activity Description

To get to the Life Centre we take the Howler Monkey trail, located 1 km from the hotel. This trail runs through primary forest and is the perfect prelude to discovering the various interactions between species inhabiting the tropical rainforest. On the way, back from the Life Centre we take the short Life Centre trail to the main road, and then back to the lodge. In total, we walk 3.5 km and take about 3 hours, including the visit to the Life Centre.

Howler Monkey Trail

Activity Description

This trail runs primary forest, where the dominant species is the copal tree (Dacryodes cupularis), with an average height of 40m, prized for its wood. The trail gets its name from the howler monkeys, a species that inhabit this forest frangment – it’s quite possible we’ll hear them as we walk the trail – and ends at the Life Centre.

Hummingbird Garden

Activity Description

The forests of Mashpi boast 32 hummingbird species identified to date, inhabiting different specific altitudes, with around 19 species alone observable by guests in this garden. In order to make it easier to see these amazing creatures, we placed several hummingbird feeders and fruit feeders, in front a shelter with seating providing the ideal setting. Here, apart from hummingbirds, we can also frequently spot fruit feeder species such as toucans, tanagers, squirrels, etc. The site is located at a natural viewpoint, which, on clear days, provides breath-taking views of the Reserve’s forested hills. This is a paradise for photographers, regardless of your level of experience, as well as a place to calmly connect with birds and nature.

Although this is a hard trail due to the distance, you can also reach the hummingbird garden by car in only 15 minutes

After settling into our respective rooms, we are introduced to our naturalist guides who will briefly speak about the cloud forest and its conservation, the activities offered during our stay, and helpful tips about what to wear and bring during excursions. This will take place before lunch at our library and will last around 30 minutes. The trail is named after the “Cucharillo” (Magnolia dixonii), which in Spanish means ‘little spoon’, an Ecuadorian endemic tree common at Mashpi but otherwise threatened throughout the country. The trail requires some physical condition due to its steeper portions, but has been made less demanding thanks to recycled plastic crates that have been used to form steps and make paths firmer. At the end of the trail find a large waterfall and rocky riverbed with beautiful ponds. The excursion takes about two hours to complete.

The forest transforms by sunset: the sounds and smells intensify and other senses are awakened. We will discover the evening croaking of nocturnal frogs and incessant buzz of insects. If we turn off our flashlights, we will be able to observe sparkling fireflies and feel bats zipping by. On the ground, we’ll discover the faint glow of bioluminescent fungi all around. And as we turn our flashlights on again, we’ll quickly notice the reflection of hundreds of tiny insects. As we continue on, owls and other nocturnal birds may call into the night, while the rustling of branches above us may mean that we’re in the presence of kinkajous (Potos flavus), an arboreal mammal relative to the raccoon, making their way through the trees in search of ripe fruit. The night excursion is optional and begins at 7 PM and takes about 45 min to an hour. We then return to the lodge to enjoy a delicious dinner.

This activity combines early birding inside forest and the Life Center’s butterfly house. Our day begins at 6:30 AM in the hotel lobby, with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and biscuits. We walk to the Life Center while seeking bird flocks crossing the road, hoping to catch sight of the many colorful tanager species that inhabit these forests.  The best way to reach the Life Centre is actually through forest, so we will be hiking what we’ve come to call the “Howler Monkey’s trail”. This path crosses primary forest dominated by many ancient trees, being the “copal” (Dacryodes cupularis) the most emblematic of them.

Early in the morning, the trail is buzzing with activity. We usually get to listen to rare birds (and occasionally may even have the opportunity of spotting them), such as the Rufous-fronted Wood-quail (Odontophorus erythrops) or the Rufous-crowned Antpitta (Pittasoma rufopileatum). Our guides are keen on noticing every sound and rustle in the leaves, hoping to reveal colorful birds or elusive howler monkeys, while our naturalist guide explains the habitat’s ecology; both will also be glad to share with us their extensive knowledge on forest plants and their medicinal uses.  The Life Centre offers a marvelous view of the forest from the comfort of an expansive wooden deck, where wildlife abounds. We will identify the different birds and mammals that visit the fruit feeders and around 8 AM, we will enjoy a picnic breakfast. The centre is conceived as a place for learning and discovery, but also a place where guests can disconnect. We will explore the life of butterflies, the many species found in the Mashpi area and their metamorphosis from egg, larva, caterpillar, and chrysalis to winged wonder. We will also discover various species of host plants that butterflies use to lay their eggs on, such as passion flowers, birds of paradise, milk weeds and other species found in the garden. Not far from the Centre, we have also established a “tropical orchard” where many varieties of fruit trees and plants, including banana, manioc, cacao, hot chili peppers, coffee and wild raspberries, are grown.

Around 10:30 AM, we head back to the lodge to rest, or maybe enjoy the Jacuzzi or a relaxing massage at the Wellness Centre, followed by a well-deserved lunch.   Approximately 3 PM we gather at the lobby for our afternoon excursion along the Napa Trail. This trail crosses a variety of habitats including secondary and regenerative forests, as well as large patches of primary forest. The walk is thus a great opportunity to learn about the ecological realities at Mashpi and the importance of forest conservation within the Chocó bioregion. This is also a trail of great scenic beauty and an excellent opportunity for bird watching. Towards the end, we will encounter one of Mashpi’s most unique attractions: the “iron palm” (Iriartea deltoidea). The moderately difficult hike last about two hours to complete. For those interested in learning more about the Ecuadorian cloud forest, we offer a lecture that sums up the different scientific research projects that take place at Mashpi. The talk lasts around 30 minutes, and will include footage from our hidden camera traps, a project developed by our resident biologist, a great display of the astounding diversity that thrives inside the forest.

The forest always rewards the “early birds”, as the dawn light lures a variety of fascinating species in their search for food. A good place to find birds is actually right at the hotel’s terrace, with a cup of fresh coffee, tea or hot chocolate in hand, from where we can enjoy not only the beauty of the forest but also the many species that come to feed on insects and fruits at nearby trees. Our guides will help us spot what’s around, offering a peek inside their telescope for a close-and-personal view of the incredible bird richness Mashpi possesses. This activity begins at 6:30 AM and lasts about an hour. Enjoy breakfast at our hotel restaurant. We depart approximately at 8:30 AM to the Sky Bike and Observation Tower (a 15-minute walk from the hotel).  Looming above the treetops, Mashpi´s observation tower allows our guests to enjoy the protected forest in all its glory. At 30 meters (100 feet) above the ground, this is an ideal site for nature lovers, allowing us not only to appreciate the forest’s complex structure, but also the incredible species richness that thrives throughout the canopy (70% of the forest’s biodiversity is found here).

We climb 162 steps to reach the top. The aerial bicycle makes for an original and exciting way to explore the canopy up close. Designed for two people to use at once, one person pedals the bike along a cable stretched between two points, around 200 mt (655 feet) apart, crossing a gorge and river. Silent, easy-to-use and fun, it’s an activity that provides guests with yet another vantage point to experience Mashpi’s lush natural world.  To enjoy the ride, one must be at least one meter tall (3.2 feet) (children must be accompanied by an adult). The bike ride takes no more than 20 minutes.

Once completed, you can walk back to the lodge along one of our many trails. One of the trails takes us to San Vicente waterfall, a 45-minutes-to-an-hour steep hike that demands good physical condition. You can also hike the Oxibelis trail that takes us to a small waterfall before taking us back to the lodge. The combination of activities (sky bike, observation tower and hike) can take between 2 to 4 hours, depending on the trail. At the lodge, a refreshing natural juice and fresh towels will be waiting for us; we then will enjoy a varied and delicious lunch at the hotel restaurant. Around 3:30 PM, we head towards the Hummingbird Station. Mashpi boasts a total 32 hummingbird species identified to date, many of which inhabit different altitudinal ranges, with around 19 species considered common at our specially designed feeder station. Not only will we observe hummingbirds of all kinds, but also toucans, tanagers, squirrels, and more. The site is located at a natural viewpoint, which, on clear days, provides breathtaking views of the reserve’s forested hills. This is a veritable photographer’s paradise, regardless of your level of experience.

This activity begins at 6:30 AM in the hotel lobby and takes advantage of the many bird species that come to the hotel to feed. After a cup of coffee, we walk down the road seeking mixed-species feeding flocks: these usually feature different insectivorous bird species that move together while foraging. In a single flock, we may see over 20 different species, making these more-or-less common encounters an undeniable treat for bird aficionados. The activity takes one hour; we return to the lodge for breakfast.  About at 8:30 AM we leave the hotel and head to Copal Waterfall. This beautiful 2-hour-long hike features a landscape of moss-covered trees, bromelias and orchids at every corner. The trail ends at a spectacular waterfall over 50 m high.  We return to the hotel by noon for check out and enjoy our last meal at Mashpi before heading back to Quito at approximately 1:30 PM.

Important notes:

  • All prices are per person
  • Children under 12 years sharing room with parents
  • Maximum 2 children under 12 years can share room with 2 adults
  • Libelula, $20.00 + taxes per child under 12 years

Wayra Room Single $ 4086.00
Wayra Room Double $ 4086.00
Wayra Room Child $ 978.00
Yaku Suite Single $ 4950.00
Yaku Suite Double $ 4950.00
Yaku Suite Child $ 1191.00

  • Transfer in (shared basis) from four hotels in Quito: Swissotel, JW Marriott, Hilton and Casa Gangotena.
  • Transfer out (shared basis) to four hotels in Quito: Casa Gangotena, Hilton, JW Marriott and Swissotel.
  • Hotel accommodation
  • All meals at the Lodge
  • Guided activities and excursions within the Reserve: walks, birdwatching and nature encounters, Sky Bike, Life Center, waterfalls and Hummingbird Garden.
  • Wi-Fi
  • Unlimited soft drinks
  • Use of rain ponchos and rubber boots
  • Dragonfly cable car ride: $40 + taxes per person per stay for all activities that incorporate this service; $20 + taxes per child under the age of 12.
  • Spa treatments
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Taxes and service charge, currently: 14% Value Added Tax, 10% Service Charge
  • Gratuities, tips and personal expenses
  • Sunhat + Sunblock
  • Sunglasses
  • Walking Shoes/Sneakers + Waterproof Sandals
  • Socks: Tall socks that don’t slip easily inside rubber boots. Two pairs per day are ideal
  • Light-weight, Earth- or Darkcolored, Long-sleeved Shirts and T-shirts
  • Light-weight Quick-dry Hiking Pants
  • Goretex Jacket
  • Insect Repellent
  • Binoculars (waterproof) + Backpack
  • Headlamp (or Flashlight) + Extra Batteries
  • Inexpensive Magnifying Glass (optional)
  • Personal First Aid Kit + Medication
  • Camera + Dry Bags
  • Rubber Boots are supplied at the lodge

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