Ecuador-Ama la Vida
Ecuador is a jewel of a country located on the middle of the Earth. This country, about the size of the state of Oregon, is home to 14 million people, 25, 000 species of plants and 1663 species of birds. As seen in its name Ecuador (Equator) is host to the closest point to the sun which is located at the top of Chimborazo Volcano. Ecuador is made up of 4 distinct regions. They are the Amazon, the Andes, Pacific Coast and Galapagos Islands. All areas are distinctly different and are special in their own way.
I was on a Virtuoso Study Tour and I was traveling among 12 other travel advisors from across North America. Unfortunately the Amazon rainforest was not a part of our itinerary but I did visit the Ecuadorian Cloud Forest. This is a 3hr drive out of Quito, the nation’s capital. In the cloud forest I stayed at Mashpi Lodge. This is one of two Virtuoso Properties in the country. Mashpi Lodge is located on a biodiversity reserve. Ecuador’s biodiversity is a major reason why it is so beautiful. As soon as I entered the forest it felt like I was in the movie Jurassic Park. All the plants were larger than what I was used to seeing. I found Anthurium leaves that were taller than I am! The forest is so pristine and the lodge matches the setting perfectly. Mashpi is a true eco lodge as they exemplify many sustainable practices. For example no new roads were built to gain access to the lodge, they employee local people as naturalists and they educate all the guests on importance of preserving the land. You might even run into the executive chef foraging for wild plants in between meals during one of your many nature hikes. One of the highlights for me was bird watching every morning at 6:30am. This was a new activity for me and I found it both exciting and calming at the same time…funny how that is possible! I could write a whole book on Mashpi Lodge and I was only there for 3 days. The service was exceptional, the food was delicious and the nature was breathtaking.