While the night is rarely seen as a great time for outdoor activities, the moonlit hours in the Mashpi Reserve, one of the most biodiverse places on Earth, make for an entirely different story. Unsurprisingly, the forest that comes alive at daybreak is also very lively at night, with countless incredible nocturnal plant, animal, and insect species coming to life as soon as the sun dips below the horizon. These species are extremely hard to spot during the day. However, at night, when they are free to roam and play, they form a stunning orchestra of sound and a colorful tapestry of eye-catching beauty under the equatorial stars. So how do guests at Mashpi Lodge actually join in the fun and explore the forest at night? Read on for helpful tips and in-depth descriptions!
Equipment and other recommended items
First things first – wandering into the cloud forest in the dark of night is not something to do at the drop of a hat. There is some important equipment that you need to take with you, as well as some items that we can recommend based on our personal experience. Fortunately, all equipment necessary is provided by Mashpi Lodge, including:
- Rubber boots
- A powerful flashlight with adjustable settings
- A water canteen
We also highly recommend the following items:
- Insect repellent
- Long pants and a long-sleeve shirt
- Small backpack to carry your water bottle
- Walking stick (available at the departure point)
Night walk destinations
While most of the trails around the Mashpi reserve can make for fascinating night walks, there are two options near Mashpi Lodge where guests can see a surprising number of nocturnal species: Torrenteer Lagoon and the path to the Life Center.
Torrenteer Lagoon is found just a short walk up the access road to Mashpi Lodge, and there is a lot to see as you walk this trail! On a clear evening, given the lack of air pollution in the reserve, guests are treated to a sky filled with countless stars and a bright moon. It quickly becomes very clear that, despite the relative darkness, the forest is very much teeming with life – just with different species than during the day. The Lodge’s experienced naturalist guides quickly hone in on rare species, their seasoned eyes picking up on birds, animals, and insects that would otherwise go unnoticed. Using the flashlights provided by the Lodge, guides and guests shine a light on the slopes of the forest and its canopy, carefully watching for the reflection on the eyes of its nocturnal denizens. The guides, many of whom are photographers at heart, are intimately familiar with the areas where species are often found, and can quickly identify them for guests and help them take spectacular photos.
While many species can be found on the walk to Torrenteer Lagoon, there are even more to be found in the vegetation surrounding the lagoon itself. A detailed description of some of the more fascinating species is found here, but the unquestionable star of the night is the Mashpi Torrenteer, a completely new species of tree frog discovered at this very place. While they are not overly plentiful, the naturalist guides expertly zone in on them, giving guests a very good chance of seeing and hearing them in their natural habitat.
Path to the Life Center
The path to the Life Center makes for another fascinating night walk, and many of the species seen along the road to Torrenteer Lagoon can also be spotted here. While seeing the Mashpi Torrenteer is less probable, guests are more likely to spot some of Mashpi’s elusive mammals, such as armadillos, silky anteaters, and capuchin monkeys and, for the luckiest of guests, the reserve’s elusive ocelots! Once guests arrive to the Life Center itself, the powerful spotting scopes set on its panoramic deck allow guests to pick out nocturnal species on the distant moonlight-bathed mountain ridges.
The night walks and activities offered at Mashpi Lodge simply cannot be passed up. Not unlike opening a door into a completely new realm, the Choco cloud forest at night is just as lively as it is during the day, but the species are entirely different. The vegetation and geology of the reserve is also stunningly beautiful under the sparkling stars, making night walks an entirely new and incredibly fascinating adventure for all to enjoy.