QUITO, ECUADOR—It’s one thing to glimpse the mega-diverse flora, fauna and beauty of the Andean tropical forest outside of Quito, Ecuador; another entirely to understand and appreciate what you’ll see. Mashpi Lodge, a charter member of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World, set amid 3,200 acres of cloud forest in the Mashpi Biodiversity Reserve, assures that guests will be able to do both with the opening of the new interactive Mashpi Laboratory.
Located right on-site just steps from the main Lodge, the Laboratory offers opportunity for guests to interact with and learn from Mashpi’s resident biologist and guides. The interior space of the Laboratory, stretching 65 sq. feet within a glass structure, is arrayed with myriad exhibits such as amphibian and reptile terrariums and pinned insects, including flamboyantly colored butterflies, bees and bugs.
Guests can lend a hand with the Lodge’s ongoing Camera Trap Project, learn about microphotography in the Mashpi Laboratory’s studio where the often-elusive denizens of the tropical forest are studied, photographed and cataloged. Conservation work is also available for those interested in learning as they go, with opportunities to assist in identifying and documenting the color, size and other characteristics of insects.
Meanwhile, children are invited to join in guide-led nature scavenger hunts, searching out and making plaster casts of foot and paw prints for inclusion in the Laboratory or to take home as souvenirs. The Laboratory also offers a stereomicroscope with two eyepieces—much easier for young eyes to use to examine things up close.
The Mashpi Laboratory is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and upon request. Launched in spring 2012, Mashpi Lodge offers 19 Wayra Rooms and 3 Yaku Suites with space for 42 guests. The Lodge is perched at 3,117 feet in the Mashpi Rainforest Biodiversity Reserve, just 37 miles as the crow flies or three to four hours by car from Quito.