Visiting a rainforest is a unique nature experience. During the day, these unique biomes burst with a busy buzz and bright flashes of color. At night, the air comes alive with the shrieks and calls of the forest’s many nocturnal creatures. Cicadas drone, bats flap beneath the canopy, a monkey howls in the distance.
Amidst all this natural beauty, it’s important to tread lightly. Remember that rainforests today cover just six percent of the earth, yet they are home to an estimated 40 to 75 percent of all the world’s plants and animals, including many still just being discovered. Sadly, despite efforts to protect them, many habitats continue to be endangered by logging and over development.
Well-planned ecotourism is one key to rainforests’ continued survival. It places value on the preservation of nature as a commercial resource. Reputable tour outfits offer employment opportunities for locals as leaders and wildlife guides, enabling them to earn their money through sustainable and environmentally responsible forms of income. Travelers’ passion for traditional culture encourages locals to continue ancient forest-friendly practices.
Before your next escape to the rainforest, do some research in advance. The right tour operator and a great local guide can help you spot wildlife and make the most of any adventure.
Get Up Close to the Real Rainforest in Corcovado, Costa Rica
Away from the crowds of much-visited Monteverde, another sort of park awaits visitors in Costa Rica. National Geographic once labeled Corcovado National Park as “the most biologically intense place on earth,” and you’d be hard-pressed to prove them wrong. Accessible via Puerto Jimenez along the Osa Penninsula, the 425-square-kilometer park is one of the last places to spot jaguars in Central America. It is also home to endangered species such as Baird’s tapir, Harpy eagle, ocelots and more. Staying overnight in the park is strongly recommended, possible in a basic, budget and rustic eco-lodge or one of several ranger stations.
Climb High in the Champasak Province of Laos
Well known for its collection of ancient Khmer ruins, Champasak Province of southern Laos contains a wealth of natural thrills in the form of beautiful jungles and raging waterfalls. Wildlife enthusiasts can try to spot rare and endangered species like yellow-cheeked gibbons, Asian elephants, and Irrawaddy dolphins, while other adventures await thrill-seekers who head high above the treetops. Two- and three-day zip-line treks allow travelers to unleash their inner Tarzan in the canopy of this semi-evergreen forest.
Become Better Acquainted with the Jungle in Borneo
The tropical island of Borneo is home to some of the world’s oldest rainforest. As a nature lover’s paradise, it is also one of the last natural habitats for endangered animals such as the Bornean orangutan, Clouded leopard, and several native bat species. Guided trips can be booked from cities such as Kota Kinabalu or Sandakan on the Malaysian side, or Banjarmasin on the Indonesia side. In addition to being thrilling, night-time jungle treks are probably the best way to spot nocturnal wildlife.
Encounter a City Lost in the Jungles of Colombia
The dense jungles that constitute Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Mountains are the historic domain of the early Tayrona civilization. Among the ancient chiefdom’s best known archaeological sites is Ciudad Perdida (the “Lost City”), accessible via a six-day guided trek through a dense tropical forest. Hikers depart from Santa Marta, the city along Colombia’s Caribbean coast. The trek includes lots of opportunities to learn about the area’s indigenous people – descendants of the Tayrona – and plenty of time for spotting wildlife such as tapirs, deer, and endemic hummingbirds.
Observe Life in the Amazing Amazon of Brazil
Capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas, the city of Manaus is a popular point of departure for eco-tourists visiting the Amazon region. From this gateway city, visitors can easily arrange regional cruises that visit remote communities along the Amazon River or schedule boat transfers to jungle lodges and resorts with river-view bungalows. The Brazilian Amazon famously encompasses 33 percent of all the world’s surviving tropical rainforests and its biodiversity is unparalleled. One in five of the world’s fish species is found in its waters, while the jungle itself boasts 2.5 million recorded insect species and is home to a wide collection of endangered animals like spider monkeys, jaguars, and poison dart frogs. Enjoy the best of the river and the surrounding rainforest.
Revel in the Natural Beauty of Rwanda’s Nyungwe Forest
Extending for over 1,000 kilometers, Rwanda’s Nyungwe National Park is the largest protected area of high-altitude montane rainforest in Africa. Nestled in the heart of one of the continent’s most biodiverse regions – the Albertine Rift – Nyungwe boasts an exotic collection of rare orchids and endemic birds, as well as a large concentration of primates. Anyone looking to track chimps, however, will need to spend some time here. For the best chance at sighting mankind’s closest relative, consider booking a guided trip in the forests of Nyungwe.