What do you get when you cross someone with really really good taste and someone with a really really good heart? You get Roque Sevilla, the wondrous mind behind Mashpi Lodge. This passionate environmentalist (and former Mayor of Quito) decided in 2001 to buy a large swath of tropical cloud forest. There, he wanted to create a private reserve focusing on conservation and sustainable (yet luxurious) ecotourism. Sevilla built the lodge on the grounds of a defunct sawmill, making sure not to touch a single tree during the construction. All the materials were brought into the forest using existing logging roads and assembled on the spot. To staff the lodge, he trained former loggers (all locals) and helped the community develop livelihoods based on conservation instead of deforestation. Mashpi has been selected by National Geographic as one of their “Unique Lodges of the World” and as I arrived and was done picking my jaw off the floor, I quickly understood why.
Mashpi Lodge is a good four hour drive from Quito, on some of the most sinuous, nausea inducing mountain roads you’ve ever seen. However – you will quickly get over any motion sickness discomfort because the scenery for those four hours is simply breathtaking. You even go through the “middle of the world” aka the actual equator. That’s pretty neat. The last hour of the journey actually takes place within the Chocó forest, on the grounds of Mashpi. There you will hear your first howler monkeys, cross a few waterfalls and finally, after the last turn, the lodge will appear. This glass cube in the middle of the forest is one of the most beautiful places I ever got to stay at. There is something to be said about falling asleep while admiring fireflies dancing on your window and hearing all those mysterious jungle sounds.
Aside from the obvious amazingness of the location and its architecture, I think it is important to note that everyone you meet at Mashpi – from the expedition guides to the reception team and restaurant staff – is deliciously friendly, helpful, knowledgeable and were very patient while listening to me trying to speak Spanish. Angels I tell ya. Then of course there are the expeditions and the beauty of the cloud forest, but this my friends, is a story for another day…
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