Nature meets luxury at Mashpi, a breathtaking creation of steel and glass deep in the cloud forests of Ecuadorian Chocó, one of the planet’s biodiversity hotspots. With floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall windows throughout, nothing competes with nature here. You might catch sight of a howler monkey while soaking in the indoor Jacuzzi, or wake up to the flitting of a velvet-purple coronet just outside your room. Though only three hours from downtown Quito, Mashpi is a true wilderness retreat, set on 3,200 acres of cloud forest of which 80% is primary growth. Its 22 guest rooms are simple, stylish, and spacious, and the dining room soars two stories, so that guests can watch life play out in the trees as they dine on world-class cuisine that incorporates the fruits of the jungle.
Mashpi offers a close-up experience of some of the most pristine forests in the world with the help of a team of naturalists and scientists. Not only do they lead hikes and give talks, they are involved in continuing studies of the local wildlife at the hotel’s research center. From guided nature walks to the innovative Sky Bike, the lodge provides an array of ways to get out into the forest. Guests don boots and get muddy exploring by day, and then return in the evening to a relaxing and sophisticated setting, surrounded yet removed from the life of the jungle.
In 2001, Roque Sevilla, an orchid enthusiast and the former mayor of Quito, bought a large swath of tropical cloud forest that was due to be logged in the conservation-critical Ecuadorian Chocó. His vision was a private reserve focused on conservation and sustainable, luxury ecotourism. Sevilla built the lodge on the grounds of the defunct sawmill, making sure not one tree was felled during the construction. All the materials were brought into the forest using existing logging roads and assembled on the spot. He trained local people who once worked as loggers to staff his lodge instead, helping the community transition to livelihoods based on conservation instead of deforestation. Mashpi is directly responsible for protecting one of the last stands of old growth in the Chocó.
The lodge accommodates guests of all ages and offers guided excursions to suit many interests and all activity levels. For those who stay in this reverse natural history museum—where the real-life exhibit outside is eternally on display through glass walls—the forest experience is unparalleled.
When you reserve your space through National Geographic Unique Lodges, you'll have the exclusive opportunity to meet with the resident biologist for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Life Centre. Learn firsthand about ongoing research initiatives like the camera trap project, and then join him on a research outing for a scientist’s perspective on the cloud forest ecosystem.
Mashpi’s creation is a sustainability success story in itself, as the forests that surround it were targeted by timber companies until Mashpi's owner made an alternative case for ecotourism and saved a swath of old-growth forest from being cut down. The lodge’s resident biologist now leads research and conservation initiatives, studying and tracking the life forms of the forest through innovative camera traps.
Green practices include recycling waste, composting, energy conservation, and wastewater managment through a biological water treatment plant. Mashpi sources organic produce from local farmers and provides a sustainable livelihood for residents of nearby villages who in the past engaged in logging and slash-and-burn agriculture. Currently 65% of the staff—and growing—are local hires.
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