Mashpi Eco Lodge review
Awesome adventure and treatments in Ecuador’s Cloud Forest
‘Sky biking was among the most energizing, close to spiritual, experiences I’ve encountered in my 7-year journey in South America’
Karin-Marijke Vis is blown away by sky biking & an outdoor massage at the Mashpi Eco Lodge in Ecuador’s Cloud Forest
For the past eleven years my partner Coen and I have been roaming around Asia and South America in an antique Land Cruiser. We’ve hiked, rough camped, spotted endemic birds and wildlife, showered under waterfalls, and watched sunrises over the canopy of the Amazon Rainforest. When I read about sky biking in a cloud forest though, I realized I had found a new first.
A comfortable van provided by the Masphi Eco Lodge drove us from the urban frenzy of Quito, Ecuador’s capital in the cool highlands, to the natural bounty of thick, misty forest that characterizes the 3000-acre Mashpi Reserve. At the lodge a staff member welcomed us with an agua de frescos – a cold-water drink made with herbs, in this case mint, which was refreshing in the warm muggy climate.
Odd as it may sound, the forest continued in the lodge, including in our spacious Yaku Suite with its king-sized bed, lazy chair and sofa. For all around the building it’s only wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling windows that separate the inside from majestic, age-old trees, home to bromeliads and red-flowering creeper plants. Some 500 species of birds inhabit the reserve – one of these, a tanager, sat right in front of our window while we unpacked.
The lodge has a wellness space, which was exactly what we needed after having roughed it for so long. The small, basic wellness area has showers, two loungers, and two rooms each with a massage table and a cabinet displaying oils and incense. After wild camping and bathing in cold rivers, it was especially blissful to soak in the wooden hot tub, which had powerful underwater jets that massaged our backs and shoulders while we enjoyed more views of the forest.
From the list of massages, facials and beauty therapies the chocolate body wrap and an ‘open-air treatment’ stood out, and one afternoon, therapist Karina and I were driven to a secluded spot in the forest with a waterfall tumbling into pools at the far end. I dozed off under Karina’s well-trained hands massaging me, but woke when she worked my body with bamboo sticks to help circulate the blood. It felt too rough on my back, and I preferred it when she massaged me with indigenous herbs wrapped in a moist cloth instead.
A bath in the cold, 20-degree-Celsius waterfall was followed by the piece de resistance: the chocolate wrap. While I lay on an aluminum space/rescue blanket, Karina painted my body with pure, organic chocolate paste, after which she wrapped the blanket around me and covered me with a thick towel. As I dozed for some 15 minutes, the chocolate was doing its work and the wrapping warmed me up. Removing chocolate from your body in a cold waterfall is no small feat (which is why they normally give the chocolate wrap inside the wellness area) but once Karina had scrubbed it all off with a rough mitten, my blood was flowing, my body tingling and I felt totally energised.
You wouldn’t come here, of course, without getting truly out and about in the nature that surrounds you. David, a naturalist guide, and José, a local guide, took Coen and I on hikes to waterfalls, to a butterfly farm, to a hummingbird feeding area and a watchtower during the course of our stay. They pointed out insects and birds (how do they spot them in that dense foliage?!) and explained the medicinal properties of plants such as the leaves of verbana plants, which locals cook and drink to treat malaria. José always had snacks for us with him, such as peanuts or fruits, and on our return to the lodge a staff member awaited us with mint-scented face towels and a fruit juice. It was this attention to detail that made us feel nicely spoilt throughout our stay.
The highlight of our trip, though, was the sky bike ride, for which José strapped us in a two-seater gondola that hangs from a 655-foot-long steel cable and pedaled us from one end of a gorge to the other (and back). We were 200 feet above the ground, among treetops hidden in thick, grey clouds. Then the veil lifted and we could see over the forest canopy for miles and miles around. It was as if we were floating, suspended in the air. The sun started peeking through the haze, and we stared in awe at the forest-clad mountain ridges, dark green with blue-grey tinges towards the horizon.
It was among the most energizing, close to spiritual, experiences I have encountered in my seven-year journey in South America, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Exciting outdoor adventures, relaxing spa treatments, personal service from an enthusiastic staff, comfy rooms – these all make Mashpi Eco Lodge a place that we will return to one day.
© Queen of Retreats
Metropolitan Touring offers multiple-day, all inclusive packages to the Mashpi Eco Lodge starting around $550 per person per night. The program includes transfer from and to Quito, accommodation, all meals, guides (English and Spanish), all outdoor activities, use of the Jacuzzi. Wellness treatments, bicycle rental, and bar are not included.