Arasha, making the exotic more familiar

10/Noviembre/2011 | 14:34

By LANCE BRASHEAR

Arasa is a round, yellow fruit found in Ecuador that originates from Brazil. Eleven years ago, when Gustavo Diez was looking to name his resort in the Ecuadorian rainforest he was inspired by the arasa, but did not like the pronunciation.  "It is kind of a flat name," he says with a wince.  But the Portuguese spelling – Araxa – gives it a different articulation – the x is pronounced as 'sh' in English and Spanish.  So, Diez decided to keep the Portuguese intonation and use the 'sh.'  "It sounds sort of exotic, and it sticks."



With the creation of "Arasha," Diez took a familiar name and changed it into something more imaginative.  With his resort, he took a destination that was and still is very exotic, and made it more familiar.

Arasha is not only a Spa and Resort, it is home to the Sangay Theater, a 100-seat cinema theater that plays hit movies every night from 6:00-8:00 p.m.  The theater sits next to a disco bar, completely sound proof so it does not disturb the tranquility of the rainforest.  And just over the hill is an 18-hole mini-golf course, immersed in the surrounding vegetation – an attraction tourists cannot even find in the capital city, Quito.

Why put a movie theater in the middle of the rainforest?  "So that they don't get bored," Diez says, referring to the  tourists and punctuating the hard consonants of his statement. "When tourists go to other places their main complaint after hiking and doing some swimming in the pool [is] they don't have much to do…very few if any have a spa.  So the idea is to keep them entertained…here we have, within the resort, 17 attractions."  Where Diez gets the number is uncertain because a quick tally puts the attractions closer to two dozen.



From bird watching, which begins with a guided tour at 6:00 a.m., to the midday workshops to the nocturnal nature walks, there are activities available throughout the day.

Ever wonder how chocolate or coffee is made?  Arasha has workshops that take you through the process step by step and let you taste the final product at the end of class.   Another workshop teaches you how to make your own artisan, hand-made, palm nut ring. 

Like any respectable resort, Arasha has a pool, but theirs is heated to 29 degrees Celsius (84 Fahrenheit), with an adjacent "Mystic Cave" Jacuzzi is 39 degrees (102 Fahrenheit).

But it is the spa that  seems to be  the most widely known attraction at Arasha.  For eight consecutive years Arasha  has been awarded the Leading Spa Resort in Ecuador by World Travel Awards (www.worldtravelawards.com).  

Facial treatments, body treatments, and special packages are offered at rates that are hard to match even in Ecuador.  The most expensive treatments are $80 and last two hours.

With time, the attractions at  Arasha continue to grow. "We are building an orchard. That will be the next attraction," says  Diez as he names some of the exotic fruits that customers will be able to harvest: naranjilla, granadilla, pitajaya, guavas.

Arasha is not a rainforest camp.  It is a resort, complete with thatched roof cabins, elevated and blended with the natural rainforest vegetation. There are 29 in all. 



Those who come for nature will not be disappointed.  Diez says proudly, "This is one of the handfuls of resorts that have secondary and primary rainforest.  So, it is not unusual to have animals during the morning…we have recorded more than 200 species of bird only here in Arasha.  We are almost in the frontier between the cloud and the tropical rainforest.  So we have birds from both."

He adds that visitors may see more than just birds.  Diez tells a story of an armadillo that recently walked into the lobby and his office.  He says this happens because  the resort put a no hunting policy into effect when Arasha was still under construction.  "The animals are so used to humans and to being protected by us…wild pigs live in the primary forest but they have come down to the mini golf area where tourists have taken photos."

Just as the arasa fruit was carried across the continent, so too, Diez brought his ideas from the Ecuadorian Amazon to the tropical forests on the western slopes of the Andes.  He fell in love with the jungle decades ago when he worked in the logistics business in the petroleum industry.  "As time went by I thought about making a resort in the rainforest.   In the eastern jungle there were already, [and] in my opinion, there are still far too many [resorts], but in this area there is nothing.  That is why we decided to start building Arasha."

With the natural and built-in attractions, Arasha has created an international resort that is also very appealing to Ecuadorians.  This is no accident, and it is often difficult to achieve, as each market has its own peculiarities.   Soon after opening  Diez thought about appealing to both.



"It came to my mind that…someday you cannot depend on the foreign tourism to keep your resort running."  So, he has tried to build a solid, local clientele.  In recent years Arasha has hosted conventions, something he never planned for.   It was a new market that opened for them unexpectedly. "It came as a gift," he says with a smile.

Diez is now taking his plan to serve Ecuadorians to a new level. He has begun moving the earth and building the roads for what will eventually become Arasha Villas – a permanent housing community adjacent to the resort.  Diez says 98 lots are planned and owners will have special discounts and access to the resort and activities.

"We created something that the other hosterias and inns [did not have].  We are lucky to have customers every day.  Weekends, holidays, and vacations, this place is packed."  Diez is convinced it is for one reason: "The possibility of choosing, that is the key word, choosing.  People can come to rest and have all the leisure they want or they can have activity. You can have anything you want here."

Arasha is located six kilometers west of Pedro Vicente Maldonado,  two hours from Quito.  Visitors can purchase all-inclusive packages starting from $99 per person, per night or opt for lodging that begins at $85 per room, taxes and service not included.   For more information contact Arasha by calling (02) 390-0007/8.  Visit the website www.arasharesort.com or write to them at [email protected] or [email protected]