Day 1 - Welcome to Quito
You will fly with KLM from London Heathrow to Quito, via Amsterdam and will be met on arrival by our representative to be transferred to your hotel in the heart of Quito.
The Ecuadorian capital is spectacularly located high in the Ecuadorian Andes, surrounded my mountains and overlooked by the towering Pichincha volcano. It is a city noted for its UNESCO World Heritage listed colonial era centre, highlighted by some of the continent's finest baroque churches and lavish palaces and municipal buildings. Overhead cable cars glide effortlessly, affording panoramic views of the city and surrounding peaks.
Day 2 - Colonial Quito, baroque churches & museums
Our special half day tour will guide you through the grand colonial centre of Quito, starting at the Independence Square, flanked by the Presidential Palace, the Cathedral, the Archbishop's Palace and the City Hall. Stroll past the El Sagrario Church and marvel at the exquisite stone facade of La Compañía Church, where almost five tons of gold-leaf have used to cover the interior of this magnificent Baroque-style church. You will also have the opportunity to admire its famous paintings on the walls. We continue to San Francisco convent and its magnificent church, built over the ruins of the Inca Palace in the 16th century.
The tours includes a visit to the Metropolitan Cultural Centre, the home of former philanthropist Maria Augusta Urrutia and the Alberto Mena Caamaño museum, which has a waxwork depiction of the beginning of the independence struggle, as well as modern and historical works of art. Alternatively if your tour falls on a Monday you will visit the Casa de Alabado, which is a Precolumbian Art Museum located in the historic downtown area of Quito, in a 17th century colonial house. It keeps a collection of over 5,000 archaeological pieces, 500 of which are on permanent display. Continue up the road to the top of Panecillo Hill for a breathtaking view of Quito.
Day 3 - Into the Ecuadorian Cloud Forest
Today we drive out of the city and into the lush Bellavista Cloud Forest for a two night stay at the Mashpi Lodge. The three hour journey takes us into part of the Ecuadorian Choco rainforest, known as one of the world’s greatest biodiversity hotspots. The sudden shift in altitude (from 2,800 metres down to 1,000) will allow us to discover the spectacular natural diversity of the Andean landscape, as we travel through the dry valley of Pomasqui towards the cordillera’s western flank, into lush, misty cloud forest, and finally reach Mashpi.
After settling into the lodge we head out to the Napa Trail. This trail starts at the side of the road, across areas where the forest is regenerating and large patches of pristine forest. For this reason, this trail is ideal to explain the ecological succession processes and the importance of forest conservation for the Chocó region. Also, this is a trail of great scenic beauty and toward the end of the trail you will find one of the unique attractions, a forest of “iron palm”, the wood of which is used in different ways, mostly in house construction. This is also a very good trail for bird watching and is a moderate difficulty trail of about two hours.
Every evening for all our guests interested in knowing more deeply the cloud forest ecology, we have prepare a series of different lectures like the “Secret Wildlife of Mashpi, the trap camera project”, the “Chocó, a biological hotspot” about the formation and diversity of the Chocó, or about our scientific research projects. The lectures will be given by one of our naturalist or our resident biologist at 7:30 PM.
Day 4 - Exotic birds, waterfalls & forest views
This morning you will rise early to watch the cloud forest's bird life as the dawn light lures a variety of fascinating species in their search for food. A good place to find birds is actually right at the hotel’s terrace, with a cup of fresh coffee, tea or hot chocolate in hand, from where we can enjoy not only the beauty of the forest, but also the many species that come to feed on insects and fruits at nearby trees. Our guides will help us spot what’s around, offering a peek inside their telescope for a close-and-personal view of the incredible bird richness Mashpi possesses.
After breakfast we then depart to the the Sky Bike and Observation Tower, a short walk from the hotel. Looming above the treetops, Mashpi’s 30 metre high and 162 step observation tower allows guests to enjoy the protected forest in all its glory. Peering into the treetops allows you to appreciate the complex structure of the forest and into an area where 70% of the forest’s biodiversity is found. The aerial bicycle makes for an original and exciting way to explore the canopy up close. Designed for two people to use at once, one person pedals the bike along a cable stretched between two points, around 200 metres apart over a gorge and river. Silent, easy-to-use and fun, it's an activity that provides guests with yet another vantage point to experience Mashpi’s lush natural world. Once completed, you can walk back to the lodge along one of our many trails, perhaps via San Vicente waterfall.
A refreshing juice and lunch back at the lodge will give you the chance to relax and reflect upon the morning's activities. After lunch we will walk along the “Howler Monkey’s trail” across primary forest dominated by ancient trees. On the way your guide will listen out for rare birds and look for exotic creatures in the trees. They will also explain the unique ecology of the forest and the medicinal use of different plants. Once at the Life Centre, you will enjoy great view of the forest from the comfort of an expansive wooden deck, where wildlife abounds. Guides will identify the different birds and mammals that visit the fruit feeders. Not far from the centre is the “tropical orchard”, where many varieties of fruit trees, including banana, manioc, cacao, hot chili pepper, coffee and wild raspberries are grown. For those interested in learning more about the Ecuadorian cloud forest, there will be a short lecture that sums up the different scientific research projects that take place at Mashpi, including footage from hidden camera traps, a great display of the astounding diversity that thrives inside the forest.
Day 5 - Return to Quito
After a final activity in the cloud forest, we will depart late morning and return to the capital Quito by road for an overnight stay ahead of your next port of call; the Galapagos Islands!
Day 6 - Glamping in the Galapagos
Take a morning flight to Baltra Island in the Galapagos archipelago and connect with a scenic inter-island flight to Isabela island, where you will stay overnight in safari style tents at the Scalesia Lod...
This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website