Nowhere on Earth is the power of water more tangible than in Mashpi. There’s the mist that rolls back over the forest in the morning to reveal the greenery below. There’s the rain, barely there at times, torrential as machine gun-fire at others, bouncing off the leaves and seeping into the ground. There are the rivers: grand River Mashpi, and the dozens of creeks splintering off and crisscrossing the reserve, bringing life to all they touch.
And then there are the waterfalls.
Those astounding, sacred beings that meet the ear before the eye with their crash and their roar. Vital torrents obliging you to drag your gaze from the bubbling pool below some, 10, 20, 40, 60 metres upwards, until you see the source, surging through the ravine cut out in the rocks, flanked by the lushest green and tropical flowers.
Though there are just under 30 waterfalls in total around Mashpi, only four are accessible to guests, the others visible only from the heights of the Dragonfly. With temperatures between 18 and 20°C (64 and 68°F), bathed in sunlight and spray, these magnificent cascades beckon you to submerge yourself in their pools, to stand under the chute that drenches like a shower, or to dive off the rocks into the deep.
These are places to meditate, to dream, to feel so very alive as the water invigorates you, imbuing you with a gentle euphoria. Of course the awesome power of nature plays a hand in this ecstasy, but there’s another force involved here: negative ions.
Odorless, tasteless, invisible to the eye, when absorbed in the bloodstream these miniscule particles trigger a biochemical reaction that boosts mood hormone serotonin, lifting depression, soothing stress, and recharging energy. And these negative ions are in abundance around waterfalls, produced by the pounding of the stream on the pool below.
For guests who feel the magnetic pull of the ‘falls, there is Copal, one of the most accessible of the four, under which you stand under to feel its power.
The path to Magnolia is steep in parts, with a stunning viewing platform about half-way that looks over the forest, and a celestial pool for bathing at the bottom – with an all-natural Jacuzzi!
It’s difficult to reach the Healing waterfall, but undeniably worth the journey to see the sun burst through the clouds creating heavenly rays down to the glimmering rocks.
And Malalimpias, a favourite of the guides, is one of the most challenging and longest trails, but the effort is rewarded with one of the largest waterfalls in Mashpi, which cascades down 60 m (190 feet). You can always return via the cable car.
There’s another way to submerge yourself in Mashpi’s life aquatic: walking through the rivers, the threads that tie the waterfalls together.
Take the Magnolia trail down the steep hill, pausing to take in the view from the lookout over the jungle. Then down, down, passing the Magnolia waterfall itself. Finally, the path ends and the only way to continue is to take to water.
As you begin to wade through the stream, the sense of adventure intensifies to an all-time high. Trees tower above you like sentries and electric blue morph butterflies dance by in the terrific calm. You can’t decide which movie you’ve stepped into: Jurassic Park, Avatar, or that wartime flick where they cross the mountain to escape the enemy…
After ten minutes walking downstream you’re an expert in the art, walking smoothly without lifting your feet much so that your feet stay dry. You, your group and your guide become a team: hands outstretch to help others over slippery rocks, to steady a companion as they tip water from their boot.
On this path not even your guide will know what you may encounter: perhaps a landslide has produced a new mini-waterfall, or a fallen log has created an obstacle to scale.
This is the power of water: the unpredictable force of life that leaves us open-mouthed in awe. And in Mashpi, it’s the greatest power there is.