After acquiring the site, [Ecuadorian entrepreneur Roque] Sevilla was not exactly sure what to do with it. One weekend he decided to go camping – a trip that gave him the inspiration for his next “impossible project”.
“While we were camping during the night I had to go outside to get a drink. Of course, at night all the animals are feeding and I saw a huge snake slither past my foot. I was terrified, but thrilled. And then the idea came to me,” said Sevilla. “I thought, let’s build a bubble that is both comfortable and guarantees safety, but never hinders your feeling of being at one with the forest.”
Sevilla’s idea became the foundation for Mashpi Lodge, which has since become one of Ecuador’s most sought-after luxury eco reserves. With a small investment consortium Sevilla spent around US$12 million over four years building the glass-and-chrome lodge of 22 suites, where guests pay a starting rate of US$1,300 per person per night. This includes meals and jungle explorations led by expert guides.
Quito’s reputation as a high end tourist destination has almost certainly been boosted as a result of his work. Five years ago Roque bought and renovated the neo-Classical 1920’s mansion Casa Gangotena, which overlooks Quito’s 18th Century Plaza San Francisco and the surrounding hills. With its 31 high-ceilinged bedrooms filled with locally handcrafted furniture, Casa Gangotena has become a landmark hotel for wealthy tourists. Sevilla’s stamp is subtle but present – the walls of Casa Gangotena are decorated with historic drawings of orchids, his favourite jungle flower, and luscious Ecuadorian chocolates that welcome you in your room – they’re from the local chocolatier he encourages guests to visit.