About El Monte Sustainable Lodge – Cloud Forest Eco-Lodge in Mindo, Ecuador
Visit El Monte in spectacular Mindo, Ecuador, and feel the lushness of Tropical Cloud Forest! Our green hotel is comprised of beautifully appointed private riverside cabanas. See firsthand the moss covered trees, crystal clear streams, spectacular orchids, exotic birds… awaken to the symphony of forest noises… hear the sounds and try to imagine the source. Experience the Cloud Forest with all your senses.
One of the best ways to describe El Monte is that we are “unique,” mostly because of our environmental philosophy and personal touches. Our aim has been to enjoy living in Mindo, and at the same time help protect the forest and keep our tourism as low impact as possible. A conscious decision was made to stay small to preserve a balance between guests received and amount of land owned to keep the ecological impact to a minimum. Of the El Monte Reserve, only about one hectare (2.5 acres) is used for the lodge, garden and cabanas. The rest is used for nature walks, bird observation, and just enjoying nature.
At El Monte all activities are led by local Mindo guides. Although the guides are mostly Spanish-speaking, they still will be able to point out the many colorful birds, medicinal plants, exotic orchids and show you the way to beautiful waterfalls and scenic lookouts. Mealtime conversations (in English) around the covered indoor dining room, for those inclined, are usually free flowing but often include discussions about conservation, Cloud Forest biology or the history of Mindo.
Arrival to El Monte Sustainable Lodge is by “tarabita” or hand pulled cable car. The cable car gives us a sense of privacy from the outside world, while providing access to El Monte and the buffer zone to the Mindo-Nambillo Protected Reserve.
Part of the experience of El Monte is the meals. Not only do we eat well, we also eat low… on the food chain that is! Mostly vegetarian and definitely diverse, the menu includes lots of green, yellow, purple and red, with a bit of brown and white mixed in. Remember: good food has lots of color! We serve no red meat due to the inefficiency of beef production and the resulting destruction of tropical forests. But don’t worry about a lack of protein – we do serve some chicken, turkey and fish dishes. Due to the creativity of our cooks we can’t guarantee exactly what you will be having, just that it will be good. Our water comes from a gravity powered underground spring.
The kitchen at El Monte is all open, so you are welcome to watch the guys cook, bake, or make bread, soy milk, tofu and chocolate. The guys have become excellent at making healthy food taste good. A lot of the salads, greens and other vegetables, as well as some fruits, come fresh from our garden.
Local Ecuadorian dishes are incorporated in our international menu. Dishes like seafood and vegetable ceviches, tamales (with home ground corn or green bananas), encocados (grated coconut sauce), yuca, as well as exotic juices such as maracuya, tomate de arbol, papaya… are also served.
Desserts include cakes, pies, bananas with chocolate, candied fruits, chiffons and others. Any of El Monte’s recipes are available upon request.
The main house includes the kitchen and dining table, game area, hammocks, and bar… plus two open “fogatas” or fire pits. The majority of the house is open, with nice views of the garden and surrounding forest. Birding is exceptional here, with Golden-headed Quetzal, Pale-Mandibled Aracari, Choco Toucan seen regularly… not to mention tons of tanagers, flycatchers, foliage gleaners and others.
Guests at El Monte stay in private cabanas alongside the crystalline Rio Mindo. Each cabana has a comfortable bathroom complete with a full size tub and unlimited hot water, plus separate areas for socializing and sleeping.
The design of all the cabanas, and the main house, is original and also very functional taking into account the mild climate, lack of strong winds and local construction materials that blend nicely with the landscape and river.
Each cabana is equipped with a flush toilet and an independent waste treatment system that is comprised of an enclosed sand bed with bamboo growing inside to remove nitrogenous buildup. This system has worked extremely well for us, and we would be glad to share the plans on request.
Our impact on the local community and more
How do we lessen our impact on our planet?
Growing organic fruits and vegetables or buying them locally certainly helps. This reduces dependency on petroleum used for transport and pesticides and lessens the amount of carbon emissions. Our garden is all hand worked, which not only gives Jhon and Nacho a job but also eliminates the need for noisy, polluting, resource-burning tractors or tillers, not to mention giving us all a chance for a great workout! Also, all kitchen wastes are composted and recycled back into the garden.
Having a spring that gravity feeds water down to the lodge and cabanas is not only convenient but also eliminates the necessity for a pump and provides clean, fresh, cool water.
We have also allowed most of El Monte’s Reserve to regrow, absorbing a countless amount of CO2 while releasing O2. El Monte’s spin-off, the Mindo Biological Station (MBS), protects over 6,000 hectares of Primary Cloud Forest that holds a tremendous amount of CO2 and is part of the 19,200 hectare Mindo-Nambillo Protected Forest.
Lighting for the main house comes from 2 solar panels (which we are also able to use to charge camera batteries and laptops), kerosene lanterns and candles. A micro hydro electrical system provides lights for the cabañas. Alternative energy is here!
ECOLOGICAL AND COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT
Our goal at El Monte has always been to help preserve and protect the biodiversity and natural beauty of Mindo. Together with the people of Mindo, we feel we have one of the best examples of ecotourism in the town of Mindo and in the protection of the Mindo-Nambillo Reserve (19,000 hectares). It is a pleasure to see the people progressing in education, health, ability to speak English and other languages, and to have a more stable financial economy, all while passionately defending the local environment. Mindo should be a basic model for like-minded communities here in Ecuador or all over the world.
At El Monte we have provided on-the-job training for river rafting and bird guides, cooks and gardeners. Some have remained with us, others have gone on to start their own businesses or work independently.
El Monte sponsors and founded the Mindo Biological Station and helped in the beginning of fellow Kutoa member, Sani Lodge (www.sanilodge.com). Our commitment to not expand our business has allowed us to work in adjacent and distant areas.
Sani Lodge is an ecotourism lodge located deep in the Ecuadorian Rainforest. It is 100% owned and managed by a comuna of Kichwa. We at El Monte are proud to have helped start Sani and still work as advisors for the lodge. Hopefully you will have a chance to visit Sani on your trip to Ecuador… it truly is a once in a lifetime experience.
Our present “outside” Mindo project is on the coast in the area of the Mache-Chindul Reserve. This reserve is one of the last remaining areas to protect coastal Rainforest. We have bought and are planning to grow shade grown cacao (chocolate) and hope to motivate the locals to continue to do the same. This should take the pressure off of the remaining Pacific forest and slow the deforestation in the area.
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