Roque Sevilla is the major shareholder and visionary behind the Mashpi Lodge project. Fervent environmentalist, orchid enthusiast, successful entrepreneur, former Mayor of Quito and Chairman of the Board of travel company Metropolitan Touring, here he shares his thoughts on the concept behind Mashpi Lodge and his vision for the guest experience.
The Mashpi project began in 2001. It was born from a desire to conserve the very biodiverse forests on the Pacific slopes of the Andes, which have suffered from damaging deforestation over the last decades.
The Chocó bio-region, where the Reserve is located, is ranked among the most biodiverse in the world. I started looking for land to purchase for conservation and that's how I came across the Mashpi area.
"I soon realised that I wanted to share this wondrous forest with people from around the world."I am fascinated not just by the animal and plant life one discovers, but also by the play of light, the luminosity, the dynamism of the clouds and air and tree tops, the magic and emotion that this place can conjure.
The hotel is designed to enable guests to appreciate these magical elements, while minimizing the impact their presence causes on the environment. The concept of using as much glass as possible is born from our wish for guests to feel connected with the forest world at all times, at least visually. In terms of structure, it was never our aim for the hotel to "compete" with nature. We hope that it can complement the wonders that are found in the Reserve.
Our vision of the guest experience is founded on the fact that the great majority won't have experienced a tropical forest environment before, so we initially want to awaken their curiosity and then spark their imagination. We want to bring them into close contact with this highly-biodiverse world, whether along the canopy gondola or amid the forest trails, with its trees, plants, animals and insects, to feel the dynamism of the water cycle in its rivers and waterfalls, and the constant movement of clouds.
As well as the visible world of Mashpi, there is a hidden world which guests won't necessarily see. That's why the project includes scientific research, with the camera trap project being a great example: the resident biologist or guides will be able to show guests, through presentations, the life that takes place in the forest, which they'd be very fortunate to see with their own eyes. The creatures are out there, it's just that they don't appear for tourists!
I would also love for Mashpi's guests to return to their home lives as passionate advocates for the conservation of these amazing forests. We hope to communicate the importance of their preservation for present and future generations, to make the guests feel part of that initiative and for them to return home charged with energy.