As you descend the western slope of the Ecuadorian Andes, you will find yourself surrounded by clouds, mist, jungle, and butterflies – almost a dream-like environment. This is Ecuador’s Cloud Forest, a worthy addition to any Ecuador journey, and a reasonably easy add-on, reachable by car from Quito (about 3 hours). The Cloud Forest, found between 3,000-8,200 feet in altitude, is a cool and humid environment with frequent canopy level cloud cover. It is divided into and protected by a number of reserves including The Mindo Nambillo Cloud Forest Reserve, Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve, Intag Cloud Forest Reserve, and the Mashpi Reserve. The reserves are hotspots for biodiversity, offering incredible flora and fauna, such as: 300 species of moths and butterflies, sloths, monkeys, frogs, bears, 400 species of birds (including cock of the rock, hummingbird, toucans), and immense orchid diversity.
Each reserve offers something special, but we adore the Mashpi reserve for two reasons:
- Sitting at slightly lower elevation than many other reserves, Mashpi comprises both cloud forest and rain forest (and so much in between), providing visitors with an incredibly dynamic experience.
- It is home to one of our favorite properties, Mashpi Lodge, which, in addition to offering luxury accommodations, contributes tremendously to the research and conservation of its environment.
The Choco bioregion (where the Mashpi Reserve is found) is home to more than 1000 species of plants, 400 species of birds, and 200 species of mammals, most of which are often seen in the Mashpi reserve. Mashpi is one of the most biologically diverse parts of Ecuador, and Ecuador is arguably the most biologically diverse country in the world.
A trip to the Cloud Forest is great for the active traveler, animal lovers, and bird watchers. Accompanied by your naturalist guide, set off on walking tours, bird watching trails, treks to waterfalls, and enjoy “aerial activities” (for birding and treetop views), such as canopy towers and observation platforms.