Expert Review: Mashpi Rainforest Tour

November 27, 2017 • Jennifer Morse

AdventureSmith’s Jennifer Morse travels to Mashpi Lodge in Ecuador’s famed cloud forest. Read her review of the Mashpi Rainforest Tour: sky bikes, gondolas, toucans, waterfalls and all.

View of Mashpi Lodge with floor to ceiling windows and fern trees from the front.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect as we began our descent into this middle-of-nowhere paradise. As we drove down to Mashpi Lodge along the rocky, unpaved, one-lane road, the beautiful, lush, green surroundings left me speechless. I couldn’t stop thinking to myself how awesome this place was and I hadn’t even made it to the lodge yet. 

Mashpi is an impressive, luxurious eco-lodge blanketed by the cloud forest.

Mashpi is an impressive, luxurious eco-lodge with floor-to-ceiling windows all around so you are constantly surrounded by the beauty of the cloud forest. In addition to always having a beautiful view and feeling like you are blanketed by the forest, the lodge also focuses heavily on making as minimal of an impact on the reserve and surrounding forest as possible. The lodge was actually built offsite and trucked in, in pieces, in order to preserve the forest and the original road.

Though our 3.5-hour journey from Quito, Ecuador’s historic capital, out toward the coast began early this morning, we had stops to stretch our legs. When we arrived at the lodge, we were greeted by Alfonso, the operations manager, and one of our naturalist guides, Fernando. We were offered a fresh juice and shown into the Expedition Room where Fernando gave us an overview of the property and the activities offered here at Mashpi. After the welcome introduction, we decided on our afternoon activity, which would be a hike down to the Life Center. 

Room with 2 beds, floor to ceiling windows, table and chair and a view of the rainforest outside.
Scenic view of the rainforest with a trail and viewing platform.

Once we checked into our rooms and had lunch, we all met at the boot and water station where we geared up and began our hike. We were accompanied by two naturalist guides, Fernando and Estuardo, who were both incredibly skilled at spotting birds and other wildlife. We stopped along the way a few times where they educated us about the different flora, fauna and insects and how they live with and protect one other. 

We were greeted by a toucan, trogon and motmot as well as several other bird species.

When we arrived at the Life Center, we were greeted by a toucan, trogon and motmot as well as several other bird species. We also got to see an otter-esque tayra chowing down on a banana and butterflies inside the sanctuary. The guides carried a spotting scope with them, so they were very helpful in taking pictures for everyone and answering all of our questions. 

Tayra weasal walking on a tree bark with plantains.

After a couple hours, we headed back to the lodge where we went to a night lecture in the Expedition Room. Fernando went over the different animals they have been able to track using 17 cameras placed around the reserve. After the lecture, we went over the following day’s activities that we could choose to do. I decided on an advanced hike to a waterfall I could swim in, followed by riding a sky bike in the afternoon. 

Group of travelers in Ecuador walking on a muddy trail in the rainforest with a guide.

The surrounding trees and plants sparkled from all the precipitation.

My second day began with a delicious breakfast at the buffet. I was very impressed at how many gluten- and dairy-free options were available. After fueling up, I headed out to gear up and begin our hike down the Magnolia Trail. It was raining so our guides brought us all ponchos. The trail was wet and muddy and the surrounding trees and plants sparkled from all the precipitation. While we were hiking, our guide managed to spot and catch a tiny frog—very impressive!

A Mashpi guide holding a tiny frog.

After a while, we came to the first of two waterfalls we were to see that day. We all took some photos, and then continued along the trail, which turned into us walking along a creek for quite a while. Our guides advised us on the best way of trekking through the creek and were there to help us over rocks at all times. After some time our trail veered away from the creek, down another muddy, single-track trail and finally, a ladder and then a rope we propelled down, where we reached our second waterfall. The guides laid out ponchos so we could put all our dry stuff down on the rocks, and I quickly got my swim shoes on and jumped in the pool at the bottom of the falls. It was so refreshing after hiking for a few hours in the rainy, humid weather. I could have spent all day here; it was just so beautiful.

A waterfall and deep blue pool of water in the rainforest.
A traveler in Ecuador standing next to a waterfall with green moss on granite rocks.

We were within arm’s reach of so much beautiful plant life. What a unique way to experience the forest!

When we were finished swimming we made our way back to the lodge for lunch and a quick break, and then a few us met up to check out the sky bike. A quick 15-minute hike and we were there. The bike allows for two people to ride, with one person peddling one way and the other on the way back. We were within arm’s reach of so much beautiful plant life. What a unique way to experience the forest!

Happy travelers on a open air gondola gliding through the rainforest.

My final day at Mashpi started with an early wake-up call to ride the full 2-mile trip on the Dragonfly gondola. For someone who is not a morning person, this was the perfect reason for me to get up early, and it was worth it. I like quiet in the morning so I can wake up on my own. Riding an open-air gondola, listening to the birds, insects, waterfalls and streams below is the perfect way to start your day. Relive this moment with me via video.

The hummingbirds fly so close to you, you can hear their wings buzz your ears as they pass.

When our ride on the Dragonfly came to an end, we headed back to the lodge for breakfast. Since I had started my day pretty early, I realized I had just enough time to squeeze in one more activity: visiting the Hummingbird Station. I hopped in the truck with Fernando and a few other guests and we drove up the road to the station that is home to over 32 species of hummingbirds; there are 200+ in Ecuador. They have some of the most beautiful colors I have ever seen and they fly so close to you, you can hear their wings buzz your ears as they pass. The pictures I attempted to snap of these beautiful birds just don’t do them justice, it is a must see!

Green hummingbirds drinking from a red feeder on top of a railing in the rainforest.

Realizing my time was coming to an end here at Mashpi, I headed back to the lodge to pack up my bags and have some lunch. I spent this time reflecting on my experiences here over the last few days. I enjoyed every single activity, the comfort and luxury of the lodge and the delicious food. To top it off, I met some incredible people and made some wonderful new friends. It’s a bit tough to put into words just how truly magical this place really is, and you really just need to experience it for yourself in order to get that feeling too.

This Mashpi Rainforest Tour review was written by an AdventureSmith Explorations crew member. Read all AdventureSmith Reviews for more trip reports, or contact one of our Adventure Specialists to learn more about these small ship cruises and wilderness adventures: 1-800-728-2875.

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