Ecuador’s cloud forests are considered the single richest hotspot for biodiversity on the planet, containing 15-17% of the world’s plant species and nearly 20% of its bird diversity. A cloud forest is a generally tropical or subtropical, evergreen, montane, moist forest characterized by a persistent, frequent or seasonal low-level cloud cover, usually at the canopy level. The moist forests of western Ecuador are some of the most threatened ecosystems in the world.
Ecuador (roughly the size of Victoria) has over 1,500 species of birds, it ranks fourth in avian diversity amongst all countries in the world. By comparison Australia has 800 species of birds. Located on the Eastern side of the Andes and three to four hours drive from the capital Quito it is easy to include Ecuador’s cloud forest into any trip. Ecuador’s cloud forests are home to iconic species such as the spectacled bear, sloth, howler monkey, puma and many other creatures.
The Mashpi Biodiversity Reserve in Ecuador is a part of the Chocó-Darién region which once stretched north to south, from Panama all the way to Ecuador, compressed between the Pacific coast and the Andes mountains. Today around 17,000 hectares of forest are declared a “natural protected area” and within its heart is the 1,300-hectare private concession that is Mashpi.
Perched 900m above sea level among cloud-forest, is the strikingly contemporary and intimate Mashpi Lodge, with just 22 understated yet luxurious rooms whose floor-to-ceiling windows provide close-up views into the forest. This hideaway in the clouds is surrounded by a profusion of plant species, from ferns and bromeliads to hundreds of orchid species, many newly-discovered. I