Mashpi Lodge

Sample Itinerary—Into the Cloud Forest

Curated exclusively for National Geographic

Immerse yourself in the cloud forest of the Ecudorian Chocó, discovering its rare biodiversity and learning about local conservation efforts from resident scientists. Over the course of four days, see the forest from many different angles: glide amid the canopy on a Sky Bike or gondola, follow along with birds on their morning forage, hike to hidden waterfalls, and peer at bioluminescent fungi on nighttime walks.

Your experience at the lodge will be tailored to your interests. The sample itinerary below was designed for National Geographic travelers and can be customized as you wish.

Highlights

  • Take a behind-the-scenes tour of the lodge’s Life Centre to learn firsthand about ongoing research initiatives such as the camera trap project, and then join the lodge’s resident biologist to help gather research in the surrounding cloud forest (National Geographic Exclusive).
  • Join local guides on interpretive walks and seek out rare butterflies, hummingbirds, glass frogs, howler monkeys, and much more.
  • Hike to a hidden waterfall for a refreshing dip in its natural pool, and let bioluminescent flora guide you on a jungle night walk.
  • Pedal your way across the forest canopy on a Sky Bike, or glide amid the treetops on a hanging gondola.

Day 1—Arrive Chocó Rain Forest, Ecuador

This morning, your driver will meet you at your Quito hotel for the transfer to Mashpi Lodge. The three-hour drive offers a scenic tour of the changing Andean landscape and passes an obelisk marking the equator. Stop at the Tulipe archaeological museum, a set of ruins that belonged to the pre-Incan Yumbo culture. Upon arrival at Mashpi, settle into your glass-walled room, and then meet one of Mashpi’s naturalists in the library for an introduction to the surrounding cloud forest, as well as conservation efforts and lodge activities. Join a guided hike along the Napa Trail, seeking out wildlife and learning about forest conservation along the way. This evening, delve into local ecology during a lecture by one of the lodge’s resident scientists.

Day 2—Life Centre Discovery

Rise early for a guided hike through the forest to the Life Centre research station and vivarium. As you walk, watch and listen for rare birds in the treetops, as well as the elusive howler monkey. At the Life Centre, enjoy a picnic breakfast on the expansive wooden deck, which offers front-row viewing of the busy wildlife feeders below. Learn about the region’s 200 butterfly species—a dozen of which can be seen from here—and discover a garden growing plantains, cacao, hot peppers, coffee, and more useful plants. After lunch back at the lodge, hike to the stunning Cucharillos Waterfall, named for an endemic tree that lines the trail. This evening, set out to discover the sights and sounds of the forest after dark—from the high-pitched chirps of glass frogs to the glowing bioluminescence of mushrooms.

Day 3—Bird-Watching and Canopy Tour

Early birds get the worm—and early risers get the best bird sightings. Grab a cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, and join the guides by the telescope on the hotel terrace for an hour of bird-watching before breakfast. Then change up your perspective of the forest on a morning adventure. Pedal your way through the canopy on the two-person Sky Bike, a Mashpi innovation that moves by pedal power along a cable stretched over a scenic gorge. Or let the lodge gondola do the work as you glide amid the treetops along two kilometers of cable. Later, climb the lodge’s 100-foot tower for far-reaching views over the canopy. Head back to the lodge or continue your explorations on a challenging hike to San Vicente’s waterfall. After lunch back at Mashpi, head out to a natural viewpoint populated with bird feeders and fruit feeders and observe some of the forest’s 32 hummingbird species, as well as toucans, tanagers, and more.

Day 4—Copal Waterfall/Depart

Meet fellow bird lovers in the lobby for an early morning walk along to follow a flock of foraging birds. After breakfast at the lodge, hike to the spectacular 15-story-high Copal Waterfall. Admire moss-covered trees, bromelias, and orchids along the trail. Return to the hotel for a final lunch at the lodge before returning to Quito this afternoon.

Mashpi-Lodge_Sky Bike