Mashpi Private Reserve is located in the heart of the Chocó biodiversity region, about three hours northwest of Ecuador’s capital city, Quito. Stretching from Panama through Colombia and down to the Andean slopes of northern Ecuador, the Chocó is one of the last coastal tropical rain forests on Earth. Mashpi is perched 3,100 feet above sea level on a 3,200-acre private reserve thick with primary growth.
Descending from Quito, the shift in altitude (about 6,200 feet) reveals the spectacular natural diversity of the Andean landscape. You travel through the dry valley of Pomasqui toward the cordillera’s western flank, into lush, misty cloud forest. Entering the forest is like stepping into another realm, where every inch is inhabited by distinct species and thousands of life forms seem to audibly live and breathe around you. Creatures like ocelots, pumas, and kinkajous make their home here, as well as countless species of reptiles and amphibians. Colorful birds and frogs, monkeys and fascinating insects, fungi of all sorts; wild orchids, coiling vines, and giant ferns; and above it all the towering tree canopy. There is much to see in these forests.
There are about 80,000 indigenous Kichwa people living in both the highlands and lowlands of Ecuador. Many are farmers who supplement their diets with traditional hunting practices and some food purchased from outside markets. During recent generations, increased exposure to urban Ecuadorian culture has led most working age and young people to dress in Western-style clothing and communicate in Spanish in addition to their native Kichwa language. Nevertheless, some traditions hold strong, such as the prominence of a shaman or an elder who practices spiritual healing, an emphasis on medicinal plants, and a deep connection with the rain forest.
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