The Mashpi Rainforest Biodiversity Reserve and Lodge is located in the Ecuadorian Chocó Bioregion, the most biodiverse center of endemism in the world. One of Mashpi's great pluses is its situation between altitudes of 550 and 1,380 metres above sea level (a.s.l.), which means guests explore two different habitat types: lowland floodplain forests (between 400 and 1,000 m a.s.l.) and lower montane or foothill forest (1,000-1,700 m in elevation) with a transitional zone at 1,000 meters in elevation where many of the species overlap. It's this range of altitudes, right on the Equator, on the western, Pacific slopes of the tropical Andes, that create the amazingly-high number of species found here and their endemism: they're found here and nowhere else.
During the two-and-a-half-hour drive from Quito northwest to the lodge, guests will travel through a variety of habitats – including montane temperate, subtropical and foothill forest – that feature visibly distinct natural settings, all excellent for bird watching, and especially so as you approach the reserve.
In Mashpi, our resident biologist, Carlos Morochz Andrade, and his team have begun to understand better the forest's ecology and relate it to bird behaviour and distribution. To date, 280 bird species have been recorded, but a more realistic estimate comes closer to 400 or 500 species; most of these will be discovered as we track further into more remote sectors of the reserve at lower and higher elevations.
Many key species, however, have already been found here, including Indigo Flowerpiercer (Diglossopis glauca), Black Solitaire (Entomodestes coracinus), Chocó Vireo (Vireo masteri), Banded Ground-Cuckoo (Neomorphus radiolosus), Yellow-Green Bush Tanager (Chlorospingus flavovirens), Moss-backed Tanager (Bangsia edwardsi), Black-tipped Cotinga (Carpodectes hopkei) and other rare and endemic Chocó-endemic residents.
Our resident biologist has also carried out a search for "leks" — which are certain bird species' breeding systems, whereby males gather in one place throughout the year, from generation to generation, to take part in fascinating and often elaborate displays to seduce females according to their hierarchy in the group. Males, as brightly colored as their plumage can get, engage in vocal, mechanic and choreographic "performances", constituting an ideal opportunity for the study of sexual selection mechanisms in birds, and a great opportunity for sightings of exotic-looking species by guests to the Reserve. We have found four leks to date: two of the Long-Wattled Umbrellabird, (Cephalopterus Penduliger), one of the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock (Rupicola peruviana) and one of the Club-Winged Manakin (Machaeropterus deliciosus).
Hummingbirds are among the highlights of any visit to Mashpi, with 22 species observed in the wild to date. We are currently constructing a handsome shelter, which will provide a relaxed and contemplative way to enjoy these jeweled creatures as they buzz around the feeders. Here, guests will be able to observe and photograph these magnificent flying machines as part of the lodge's programme of activities.
The best strategy for seeking out many of the avian species to be found here is to explore the main road that leads from the Reserve's entrance gate (at 1,300 m a.s.l.) to the lodge, a distance of 4 km. The advantage of birding along the road is that the forest's topography is vertical, facilitating excellent opportunities to observe the different forest strata. The lodge's electrically-powered vehicles enable quiet exploration.
The lodge is located in a transitional zone at 950 meters a.s.l., and it is a birders' delight to be able to find mixed foraging flocks with species of both higher and lower elevations in one place. This, however, can be seasonal. The Reserve includes an observation tower and a 2-km cable-car ride, both of which provide superb opportunities for birders to explore the forest's higher strata and canopy, an ideal way to spot canopy species such as toucans, barbets, tanagers, woodpeckers, and parrots, along with many other forest denizens.
Mashpi Rainforest Biodiversity Reserve is among the last remnants of protected forest within the Ecuadorian Chocó Bioregion. The lodge is the ideal, comfortable cocoon from which to enjoy a broad range of nature and wildlife experiences within this mega-rich forest, home to many unique species of flora and fauna. Your visit is of the utmost importance to our conservation efforts, helping us to preserve this magical environment for generations to come.