Cuenca Expats Magazine, Issue 40
Photos: Cuenca Expats Magazine

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Like most, I first learned about the rainforest in some long-ago forgotten classroom.  Over the years, there have been many reports about how the rainforest has been devastated by logging, mining, drilling, and farmland expansion.  Much of it illegal.

I wanted to visit the rainforest. I live in Ecuador, and it would be a shame not to see one of nature’s wonders right in my backyard. So, I contacted my friends at Metropolitan Touring to arrange an itinerary for me. Their holding group is the owner and operator of an internationally renowned lodge in the Choco Andino, called Mashpi Lodge.


My journey began by booking a ticket for the quick 50-minute flight from Cuenca to Quito on LATAM. (I always try to fly with this dependable airline).

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I had reserved a room in Quito at my favorite luxurious boutique hotel: Casa Gangotena. This hotel is located in the center of the historic district and is an excellent choice for visiting the city or as a jumping-off point for excursions to Otavalo, Cotopaxi, or in my case, the rainforest.  

And, I love the food at the hotel, so I always eat in. Chef Jose Tamayo, who started his career in Buenos Aires prepares “Cocina Mestiza,” which is a combination of indigenous and European influences envisioned anew through modern techniques while celebrating fresh, native, and locally sourced ingredients. Take my word for it, it was the best meal I have had in my eight years in Ecuador—food, and service outstanding.

After a great night’s sleep in the spacious constable room, I had breakfast and was ready for my adventure to the rain forest.  Metropolitan Touring had arranged for my transportation to the Mashpi Lodge. Right on time, Jose from the Mashpi Lodge picked me up from the hotel. He told me it was about a three-and-a-half-hour drive to Mashpi. To my surprise, we did not drive northeast to the Amazon (I thought all Ecuador’s rain forest was there), but northwest toward Esmeralda’s Coast. 

On the way about 26 miles north of Quito we stopped to see the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the Earth) monument. The monument was built to commemorate the first Geodesic Mission of the French Academy of Science who in 1736 conducted experiments to test the characteristic shape of the Earth. We drove on excellent  highways until we came to the little town of Tulipe. I have a degree in archaeology, so I was disappointed that the archaeological complex museum with the ancient Yumbo ruins was closed. 

TRAVEL & ADVENTURE – Head in the Clouds: Exploring the Rain Forest at the Mashpi Lodge –

After a brief bio-break, we turned onto a dirt road for half an hour and drove straight into the clouds (literally).

Mashpi Reserve is located within the Chocó Andino Biosphere Reserve. The Biosphere Reserve comprises a territory of approximately 287,000 hectares (one hectare is about two and a half acres) of which 48% are remnants of the ancient Andean forests. Its forests have the important function of capturing the evaporation of the Pacific Ocean and generating significant amounts of water that flow through the basins of rivers. It is both rain and cloud forest, and home to 400 species of birds (36 not found anywhere else), 300 species of butterfly and moths, and a load of endangered animals. 

Mashpi Reserve itself is 2500 hectares (a hectare is 2.47 acres) in size, and the 24-room Mashpi lodge sits on the site of an old saw mill. There is a large gate at the entrance of the Mashpi Reserve that reminded me of “Jurassic Park.”  (I was half expecting to see a Spielberg raptor come out of the forest after us!).

To get to the lodge (a boutique hotel in the clouds) you need to take a one-way, winding dirt road up the side of a mountain for 20 minutes. All guests are welcomed with a hot towel before checking in—a nice touch after the long drive. Check-in was quick and easy (as I found all service staff is English-speaking).

Luggage was taken directly to the room while I was served a refreshing drink before the orientation meeting started. Marc Bery, the general manager of Mashpi Lodge gave a slide presentation on its history and general information for guests. 

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Mashpi Reserve was formed in 2001 when a group of Quito businessmen including Roque Sevilla, the former mayor of Quito and chairman of the board of Metropolitan Touring and the Grupo Futuro holding group of companies became concerned about the depleting rain forest. They purchased 800-hectares from a bankrupt logging company, and eventually built the lodge over a two-year period. It was opened in 2012. By that time, another 400 hectares had been added to the property, and in 2019, another 1300 hectares were added to the reserve, making it a total of 2500-hectares.

In the second part of this article in the next Issue 41 will explain about the Mashpi Lodge.
mashpi issue 40