The wonders waiting at Mashpi Lodge will delight the worldliest
nature lover. Perched at 900-m (3,116-feet) above sea
level and surrounded by lower montane rainforest and cloudforest,
the Lodge is surrounded by a profusion of plant species, from ferns
and bromeliads to hundreds of orchid species, many newly-discovered.
A staggering 500 species of bird – including some 36 endemics - are
estimated to inhabit the forest, fluttering through the canopy.
Monkeys, peccaries and even puma make their homes inside the Reserve
crisscrossed with waterfalls between dramatic, verdant hills.
Canopy Gondola Adventure
highlight of anyone's trip to Mashpi is the 'canopy
gondola', or aerial tram. The two gondolas on the system
will glide guests through and above the forest canopy on
an exciting exploration of the Reserve's ecosystem.
The gondola cable system extends over 2-km (1.25-miles)
between two end/boarding stations, with one tower in the
middle for possible embarking and disembarking. On
the way out, it will travel dramatically above the trees'
upper canopy and on the way back through the forest understory, at a very slow pace. Each way takes
about 30 minutes to complete. The canopy gondola's
route enables guests to explore different areas of the
Reserve as well as appreciating the trees' ecosystem from
root to tip, creating a complete vision of the various
life-zones and types of forest within the Reserve.
The first time guests board the system, they will enjoy a
round-trip journey of discovery, taking around two and a
half hours in all to complete. The system can then
also be used by guests to combine hikes of varying
difficulty with travel by gondola. On return
journeys following a hike, if the other gondola is empty,
guides can stop if the group spots a creature in the
forest, enabling exciting, prolonged observation of plant
and animal life. The gondola carries six guests,
plus their Naturalist Guide. It is roofed, with rotating
seats, safety rails and places to hang day-packs.
The gondola will ready for guests at the end of September.
As you enter the realm
of the rainforests, you will become aware of Life at every
step: mushrooms and "fox fire" fungi below, tree trunks
festooned with orchids, lichens and mosses, giant ferns
reaching up to the light above, coiling vines, swirling
mists and clouds of moisture. And then, from
nowhere, comes the sound of rushing water, a waterfall
amid this glistening, green world, where you can wade
through rivers, walk along their banks, revive your
senses... The two main trails are the Howler Monkey and
Cucharillo (named after an oak). Both link up with
the Cotinga Tower of the canopy gondola system.
Along the trails, guests will learn more from both their
Naturalist Guide and Local Guide about the myriad plants,
insects and animals that inhabit this biodiverse universe.
The guides will enthusiastically share their knowledge of
their characteristics, behaviour and uses. Due to
Mashpi's mountainous topography, trails are rarely flat.
The Howler Monkey (mainly primary forest) and Cucharillo
(mainly secondary), although short – 2-km and 700-m,
respectively – are steep. The trails' steepness is
an advantage since the hillsides enable more light to
penetrate the forest, thereby increasing the diversity of
plants and animals that one can observe at each stratum.
Both trails have been specially adapted to make walking
easier, using embedded recycled plastic crates to create
steps and firm paths. The way back uphill on both
these trails can be aboard the gondola, reached by wading
through the shallow river in rubber boots, and walking the
connecting trail to the Cotinga Tower.
to the lodge, the centre is conceived as a place for
learning and discovery, but also where guests can
disconnect, where they can contemplate the views, lie back
in a hammock, read a book, enjoy a fresh fruit juice or a
brew of locally-grown coffee. Guests will learn more
about the butterflies that inhabit the region, being shown
the process of these creatures from eggs to pupae to
chrysalis to winged wonder. Some 200 species of
butterfly have been identified to date in the Reserve,
with nearly a dozen observable at the Centre. Other
points of learning include various species of frogs and
toads inside glass terrariums, as well as dozens of
species of orchids, bromeliads and passion flowers all
around the structure. Close to the Centre, we have
established an area for growing medicinal plants (ideal
for a reviving herbal infusion) and beyond, many varieties
of bushes and fruit trees, including banana and plantain,
manioc, cacao, tobacco, coffee, coca, bread fruit and
heart of palm. These attract all sorts of wildlife,
from birds to rodents to mammals – making for easier
observation from the comfort of the Center's expansive
wooden deck. Most of the interpretation at the centre will
be imparted by local guides or people involved with the
project from local communities. Guests will find
ingredients from these gardens in the dishes prepared at
The Mashpi forest is
transformed at night, with far more activity than during
the day. Optional night walks will head out from the
hotel after dinner to discover its nocturnal creatures and
their behaviors, ranging from moths as big as your hand,
to miniature glass and tree frogs, croaking toads, birds,
owls, rodents and mammals,
and even fox fire, an Avatar-like luminous fungus.
It's a magical world, often astounding at the micro level,
and seldom explored, ready to be discovered in expert
There are few easier or
better ways to appreciate the beauty of the Mashpi
Reserve forest and hills than climbing the
Observation Tower. Here, guests are able to
enjoy an exciting bird's-eye view and the dramatic
panoramas that surround the lodge from the observation
tower. This is a metallic structure, with a
staircase that climbs to about eight-stories high (26-m or
85-ft), ideal for wildlife observation, particularly at
dawn or dusk. Species that can be spotted here
include toucans, woodpeckers, barbets, tanagers and
parrots as well as raptors. Several towers are
planned within the Reserve. The first lies a
10-minute walk from the lodge.