International Travel: Is it safe to visit Ecuador’s Mashpi Lodge?

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Travel is starting up again, and in today’s new reality, there is a lot of nervousness and uncertainty when it comes to flying internationally. Just how challenging is it? What is the airport experience even like these days? And when you finally arrive at your destination, how much more rewarding does it feel? This blog is compiled from a few recent interviews with some of our guests who traveled to Quito, Ecuador, and Mashpi Lodge. We took this opportunity to ask them about their experience, and we want to share their answers with you. We hope you’ll find the information to be useful in helping you decide about your future plans and in understanding how you can stay safe throughout your travels and feel confident throughout your journey. 

Note: Some parts have been edited for clarity

Check-in Counter Quito Airport
Check-in counters at Quito’s Airport have plenty of hand sanitizing stations.

Flying from the U.S. to Ecuador 

How easy was it to get a flight? Did you have options?  

When we decided we were going to travel, I went online and found a flight almost right away. I was concerned about space aboard our flight, so I did a little research to understand the current policies regarding seating and capacity. I found that this article was rather helpful 

When I booked our flight, I upgraded to business class for a little more peace of mind. The rest of the plane was a bit more packed, so the extra space, to me, seemed worth the investment. The price was on par with what I was expecting. Had I booked a little further in advance, I may have paid around $600 for a roundtrip flight in Economy, or around $800 or $1,000 in First/Business class.  

What was the process likepreparing for your tripDid you have to modify your flight plansIf so, how easy was it? 

I checked the travel requirements for Ecuador and took care of the necessary errands I needed to run. Getting a SARS-CoV-2 PCR test was straightforward, and our health insurance covered the cost! We got our results back within 24 hours and were able to make a last-minute modification to our flight; moving up our trip by one day! The airlines are currently waiving fees for changes and they even allow you to make changes with very short notice. In all, it was a positive experience and didn’t take much time at all. 

What was your experience like at the airport and aboard the plane? 

We did the check-in process electronically, via the kiosk at the airport and checked our luggage. I was glad to have brought some hand sanitizer and some wipes with us. Going through security was a little different. For starters, everyone is spaced several feet apart. Travelers no longer allowed to handle bins themselves; one simply places one’s items in the bin, without touching it. This provides an extra measure of securityIt’s also nice to not have everyone bunched up, waiting for their carry-on items to finish being screened.  

When we reached our gate, every other seat in the waiting area had been cordoned off. However, the gate across the way was empty, and we were able to wait there comfortably and enjoy a bit more space. When it came time to board the flight, passengers were instructed to only approach once their group had been called, and to maintain a safe distance while boarding. As we boarded, we were handed a snack and a beverage. Everyone wore a mask aboard the flight. 

CDC International Airport Signage
CDC messages are posted in several languages at international airports.

What was it like when you arrived at the airport in Ecuador? 

When we arrived at the airport in Quito, we disembarked from the plane and were taken to a large waiting areaTherewe spread out and sat one seat apart, as per instructionswhile officials from the Ministry of Health checked our PCR test results and took our temperatureWe were then allowed to proceed to Immigration and Customswhere had to show our passportsIt was very straightforward and streamlined process 

Folks kept their distance while waiting for their luggage to come out on the conveyer belt. One final luggage screening and we were able to exit to the Arrivals area of the terminal. There, officials pointed arriving passengers to the exits where we were to meet our rides outside the terminal. This extra measure of safety supplied another layer of comfort and security. 

Click on each photo to get a closer look at our guest’s airport experience in both Quito and Miami!

 

How was your transfer from the airport to your hotel? 

Once outside the terminal, we met our driver who was standing a little further apart from the rest of folks. The sign was clear and easy for us to identify. The ride from the airport to the hotel was comfortable, safe, and I was really impressed with all the biosafety measures 

Overall, our experience of getting to Ecuador was really positive. 

How was your experience in Quito? 

The wonderful view from Casa Gangotena’s Rooftop allows you to enjoy wonderful views of the city’s Historic Center without having to go out!

Our experience in Quito, at Casa Gangotena Boutique Hotel, was amazing from the moment our driver completed the door-to-door transfer service, because as soon as warrived, we felt safe. The biosecurity process was clearly indicated and non-intrusive yet thoroughThe way we were welcomed, we were made to feel like guests in castle, as if we were dreaming! The service is exceptional, and the staff was so attentive, making us always feel comfortable and safe. Also, the food at Casa Gangotena was delicious!  

One of the things that stood out at Casa Gangotena was the fact that there were actually quite a few spaces to explore within the hotel. We had a few favorite spots, starting with the rooftop terrace. The amazing views from the terrace were worth taking in. I think we ended up hanging out there on numerous occasions during our stay. We also really enjoyed the interior courtyard with the funny Italian name, Loggia. The orchids they had on display were so beautiful and the glass ceiling was a delight, particularly because of the clear blue skies! In the evening, the restaurant and bar were just what we needed to enjoy some excellent food and a special cocktail. Also, it was probably one of the best nights of sleep we’ve enjoyed in a while! 

Getting to Mashpi Lodge and Enjoying It to the Fullest 

The Mashpi Reserve is home to many impressive species!

What was the trip to Mashpi like? Did you take the transfer service offered by the Lodge? 

Overall, the experience was awesome. The trip to Mashpi was amazing from the moment we were picked up at Casa Gangotena. The transfer we were assigned was a very comfortable vehicle and the driver was really friendly and helpful. We were the only two passengers in the transfer. The driver gave us hand sanitizer and a neat mask with the Metropolitan Touring logo, which we wore throughout the trip. We enjoyed the drive, the road, the landscape.  

How did you feel while you were on your way to Mashpi? 

The best thing about going to Mashpi in these hard times is that you can leave all your problems behind. It is unbelievable how you can get there in such a short amount of time and just forget about technology, work issues, personal problems, COVID, and just about everything else, because you are in an otherworldly place, surrounded by nature and animals. You really do feel safe and like you can let go of your problems or set them aside. You just want to connect with the destination in every way possible.

What was your arrival/check-in process like? 

The moment we arrived we felt like we belonged there; everyone is happy to help you and its obvious they want you to enjoy the experience and have fun! You don’t feel like the virus is going to reach you in this place. The biosecurity protocols were really good and very strict about safety, which reflects the quality of the service offered by Mashpi Lodge. When we entered the Lodge, our bags were disinfected one by one, and we went through an ozone tunnel (this was repeated whenever we came back to the hotel after being outside). Once inside, we were given some towels and a welcome drink to freshen up. We were asked to not remove our masks until we were seated for our welcome/introductory conference. We picked up the keys to our rooms in small, disinfected boxes, and there were QR codes in place for everything, which made us feel secure in the cleanliness of everything. In all, arriving and checking in was a very smooth process. 

What was your first day/night like? 

Nightwalks at Mashpi Lodge
Mashpi’s night walks are one-of-a-kind experiences that provide you with a deeper understanding of the forest and its inhabitants.

Shortly after arriving, we attended a short briefing with Mark (the hotel manager) who just made us laugh the whole time, as he explained all the protocols at the Lodge and the changes they have implemented. He explained that we had different activities to choose from that day and the next, and that we could discuss them with our Naturalist Guide. We talked with Juan Carlos and said we wanted to walk to the biggest waterfall and swim, so he explained what our route was going to be and then we were ready to start our journey. After we planned our first day activity, we had a super delicious lunch and then we went to our room to get ready for our adventure.  

Our guide was marvelous and, I think, his guidance was one of the highlights of the whole trip, given how much he knew about nature. Along our 4-hour excursion through the rainforest; we saw and heard a lot of animals and ultimately got to enjoy our swim at the waterfall. The water just gave us all the energy we needed! We took the Dragonfly Canopy Gondola back to the Lodge and the experience flying above the trees was out of this worldwe thoroughly enjoyed the entire ride 

When we arrived back at the Lodge following the afternoon trek, we sat down to dinner and Mark joined us. He told us what it had been like to spend 78 days in quarantine at the hotel and how he and the staff managed to stay positive and in good spirits. We enjoyed our meal while listening to all his stories. In the evening we had scheduled an hour at the hot tub, which was so relaxing. We enjoyed it with a glass of the hotel’s special passion fruit beverage (my favorite). The entire jacuzzi area was disinfected in 15 minutes, and then again whenever a new guest arrived. You feel really safe because you only share spaces with the people traveling with you 

After my time in the jacuzzi, I had a really good massage. The masseuse kept her mask on, and I was asked to do the same, which reaffirmed my sense of security and care for my health. On returning to our rooms we would always find a little chocolate left for us each time someone from the staff tidied up. I went to sleep feeling like I had had the most perfect day. The ideal first day that made us fall in love with Mashpi. 

How was the overall experience with your meals? Did you enjoy the food? 

Words can’t express how I feel about the food at Mashpi. It feels incredible that in the middle of the rainforest you can find a perfect à la carte meal! The resource of the QR codes was a well-thought-out experience, giving us the ability to go through the menu and order directly from our phone or from a tablet provided by the waitstaff. That said, the dining staff made excellent recommendations based on our individual meal preferences. At lunch, I had to ask for an extra plate of risotto because it was so good! Dinner was as fantastic as lunch; the dishes were plated perfectly. They were so appealing and colorful and arrived at the table covered, so as to not expose your plate to any contamination. All meals were served with strict adherence to biosafety protocols, and everyone wore their PPE at all times. There was even a little bottle of alcohol on each table, which you could use to disinfect your hands at any point during the meal. 

What were the activities like at Mashpi?  

The activities were wonderful and so enjoyable. You have a lot of things to choose from and it depends on what you want to see and what your physical condition and energy levels are like. (I did feel an extra burst of energy thanks to the wonderful surroundings, it’s like the jungle infuses you with life!). It also felt safe, because the guided groups are quite small, and health and safety are clear priorities. Social distancing was observed, and we had disinfection stations available near the Lodge and during many of the activities. The sheer size and secluded nature of the reserve was an extra layer of protection. Also, one of the evenings that we were there, we participated in a guided night walk, which was fascinating! 

If you’re interested in making the trip down to Ecuador and Mashpi, check out this amazing package. We have flexible booking policies and all the biosafety protocols to ensure a secure travel bubble!

What was the highlight of your trip? 

Cucharillos Waterfall in the Choco Rainforest, Ecuador. This area of jungle is the Mashpi Cloud Forest in the Pichincha Province of Ecuador, South America

The highlight for me was the walks we took by the river. As we neared the end of the route, we could suddenly see this stunning waterfall with bright blue water. I wanted to swim in the pool at the bottom of the waterfall so badly! I made my way into the brisk water and felt a sudden rush of energy course through me – just this sense of amazement at all the natural beauty that surrounded us! I felt a part of it all. 

Did you find that it was worth the while? 

It was absolutely a worthwhile experience! The whole idea of traveling right now may seem a little daunting at first, but if you take all the necessary precautions, which was easy for us, it can feel like a well-needed breath of fresh air. Having a direct line of communication with the hotel also helped me to go through with this trip. I booked directly through the website and was in constant contact with Mashpi Lodge’s Sales Executives. They provided me with all the information I needed about their biosafety protocols, updated me continuously about new government restrictions and guidelines, and gave me the necessary peace of mind to embark on this adventure.  

Today, I’m back home with a negative PCR test result, and I feel completely recharged. I believe that confinement has taken a toll on everyone, but this trip helped me grasp the concept of what is easily becoming the “new normal”. If anything, I only regret not booking a few extra nights, but that gives me the perfect excuse to return to Mashpi Lodge in the future! Visit number four perhaps? 

Would you recommend the trip to other travelers?  

I would definitely recommend itespecially to those who feel a deep connection to nature and prefer high-quality experiences! The Mashpi Reserve is different from any other place I’ve been to. The fact that this luxurious lodge sits in the middle of the cloud forest but somehow manages to blend into the landscape is mind-blowing. As stated on the website, it’s literally like sleeping in a cocoon! I even asked my travel party if they too had a fantastic view of the forest from their window, and they all said they did! You’re surrounded by nature even when you’re inside the building, so the fun and excitement never end. 

That said, the real magic always happens out in the Reserve! There are so many things to do! When I saw the available trails and activities, I was in awe. They had added a few new things since the last time we were here. The guides and the Expedition Leader’s ability to adapt to guests’ preferences and skill levels was impressive as alwaysSince they know the Reserve like the back of their hand; they’re trained to see things that most of us would never spot in a million years! While we were riding aboard the Dragonfly, our guide just kept spotting birds I would have been never been able to see without my binoculars! 

What advice would you give to fellow travelers? 

Make the most out of your time at the Lodge and expect a do a lot of exercise during your stay! That is if you wish to really take advantage of all the activities offered. You may feel like you can’t possibly fit in all the activities on offer, so you need to think about what you want to experience and be vocal about it when talking with the guides and the Expedition Leader. They really do go all out to ensure your experience is everything you want it to be during your stay! Also, keep in mind that you will need some time to rest between activities! So, I would recommend to just relax and try to disconnect and enjoy nature at ease. Even though the Lodge provides wi-fi, think of this as a good opportunity to connect with nature instead, and disconnect from what we call the “real world”. Hiking and exploring are great for this and can really open and excite your mind, but your body may find it has to work overtime to keep up! So, don’t feel like you need to “cram” your stay with tons of activities; pamper yourself a little too with some quality downtime. 

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2 comments

  • JUDY Collins

    November 19, 2020 at 10:54 am

    We will be staying at Papallacta Termes Spa from November 30 – December 5 this year. Do you allow day trips to the Hummingbird Garden, and if so what would the charge be for 2 adults?

    Reply

    • Kevin Wright

      November 19, 2020 at 3:22 pm

      Dear Judy,

      Sadly, due to the pandemic, our activities are for Mashpi Lodge guests exclusively. We would love to have you visit and stay with us some other time! Hope you have a wonderful stay in Ecuador.

      Reply

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