VISIT EL MONTE and feel the lushness of Tropical Cloud Forest! Stay in private riverside cabanas and 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 Cloud Forest with all your senses, an ecosystem not widely known by name but could be described as the Garden of Eden or Paradise Found.
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 do as low impact of tourism as possible. A conscience decision was made to stay small and that there should be some sort of ratio 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 or just enjoying nature.
By just passing through a paradise one may miss the hidden beauty of it... that's why 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), 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 are 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 at El Monte. Dishes like sea food and vegetable cebiches, 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, 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 often 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.