Jungles may make up only six percent of the earth’s land surface, but they produce nearly half of all the oxygen we require to survive. And, home to some of the world’s most iconic and endangered wildlife, jungle destinations offer a travel experience unlike any other.
Jungle trekking is a way to transport yourself back to a time of exploration as you come face to face with landscapes and animals few people have seen with their own eyes; from the lush humid jungles of the Amazon, to spotting tigers and sloth bears in the national parks of Nepal.
On June 5th, over 140 nations will participate in celebrating World Environment Day. And what better way to celebrate than by listing the countries that are home some of the world’s greatest rainforests.
We can only hope that through continued conservation efforts and sustainable eco-tourism, we can preserve these great jungles for generations to come. You might think that jungle trekking sounds primitive, but you might be surprised to find that the best hotels for jungle trekking are as much luxury as they are eco-lodge!
The Best Countries for Jungle Trekking
Australia may be known for its dry desert Outback filled with kangaroos and camels, but it is also home to the world’s oldest rainforest.
The Daintree Rainforest is one of the world’s most complex tropical rainforests that is home to a wide diversity of flora and fauna. Witness giant flightless cassowary birds, kangaroos that live in trees, the world’s largest crocodiles, vibrant butterflies, and forest dragons.
The rainforest makes up part of the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Site which covers nearly 9,000 square kilometres. Here in far north Queensland, the rainforest literally meets the reef, and not just any reef.
Here you will discover the world’s largest coral reef system, the Great Barrier Reef. The reef can be seen from space, is home to over 900 islands to explore, and has more incredible dive sites than you could ever experience in a lifetime.
The reef provides the perfect refreshing end to a long day of jungle trekking.
Image credits: nina_tiffany / cuatrok77
Nepal may be more well known as a mountain climbing destination, most notably those seeking to conquer Everest, but it is also home to the magical jungles of Chitwan National Park.
Once a deadly playground for wealthy big game hunters in search of tigers, sloth bears, and Indian rhinoceroses, the jungle now protects the many species that were nearly driven to extinction. Known as the Heart of the Jungle, Chitwan is hailed as one of the best wildlife-viewing parks in Asia.
Visit indigenous Tharu villages as you seek out most of the animals found in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Watch as Indian elephants bathe in rivers that contain gharials as you scan the banks for leopards, jackals, civets, and king cobras.
The world’s 3rd largest island is not a single country, but rather made up of three, containing Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia. Home to an incredible array of flora and fauna, researchers continue to discover new species every year.
Visit Mulu National Park, home to one of the world’s largest canopy walkways, where you may spot a rare rhinoceros hornbill or Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing butterfly. Take a 2 day trek up Mt. Kinabalu in search of the giant rafflesia flower, rare orchids, and over 300 species of birds.
Come face to face with an orang-utan at the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre, a centre that rehabilitates orphaned young and confiscated animals. Take a tour on the Kinabatangan River in search of proboscis monkeys, crocodiles, and Borneo pygmy elephants or check out Bako National Park for even more rare animals and plants.
Photo credit: Joan Campderrós-i-Canas
Coming face to face with a wild gorilla is a truly unforgettable experience and one that can be had at Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. Visits are strictly regulated to ensure the safety and well-being of the 10 gorilla family groups that exist within the park.
Although permits may be costly, the fees largely go back to conservation efforts. And the experience is well worth paying for. You’ll literally be walking in the footsteps of the late Dian Fossey, a leading conservationist that literally sacrificed her life to study and protect the mountain gorillas.
Although Fossey herself was against wildlife tourism, it is now the view of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund that such tourism limits poaching and helps to create better protections for the gorillas.
Rwanda is also home to many other primates including chimpanzees which can be seen in the Nyungwe Forest, one of Africa’s best preserved montane rainforests.
Photo credit: Henrik Sommerfeld
Only Brazil contains more Amazon jungle than Peru, but Peru offers more variety and accessibility. In addition to lush humid jungles of the Amazon, the country offers refreshing cloud forests home to spectacled bears and the comical cock-of-the-rock.
More than 60% of Peru is covered in rainforest, and contains wildlife rich national parks such as Manú. Manú National Park offers visitors the chance to witness strange looking tapirs, elusive jaguars, giant river otters, and vibrantly coloured macaws.
The Peruvian Amazon jungle is home to many great rivers including the Amazon and contains the world’s largest number of bird species and third-largest number of mammals. You can still encounter authentic indigenous tribes, and can explore historical cultures in sites like Machu Picchu.
Related: The Greatest Hiking Treks in Peru
Costa Rica may be a small nation, but it is packed with natural wonders. Costa Rica ranks in the top 20 countries for the highest biodiversity, offering over a half a million plant and animal species.
The country is home to rare endemic wildlife as well as species from both North and South America. Its wildlife is well protected due to the fact 25% of the country is made up of national parks, biological reserves, and wildlife refuges.
The country offers numerous recreation options including white water rafting adventures on the Sarapiquí River, exhilarating rainforest canopy zip lines, and crocodile tours along the Tarcoles River.
Make your way to the coast to watch sea turtles hatch or stick to the jungles in search of jaguars, sloths, resplendent quetzals, huge morpho butterflies, giant anteaters, ocelots, and more.
COMFY ALL TERRAIN BOOTS WE RECOMMEND: CLICK PHOTO ↓
SPREAD THE WORD! PIN THIS TO YOUR TRAVEL PINTEREST BOARDS ↓
Amazing locations Meg! My faves; Costa Rica and Indonesia, along with Thailand coming in a close third. CR wins though from my experience. I trekked through remote jungles on the Caribbean side of the country, right outside of Bribri.
We did a 6 week house sit 3 miles into the jungle. 1 neighbor. No humans for 3 hours LOL. Jungle trekking was how we survived because I had to be a gringo sherpa, going in and out of town, carrying our food once weekly. Crazy experience!
Thanks Ryan! So glad you enjoyed the post :) Ah yes, definitely should have included Thailand and Indonesia on the list – very worthy countries for jungle trekking too.
Your time in Costa Rica sounds incredible – what an opportunity to actually house sit and spend so much time immersed in the jungle. Sounds like you have some epic stories!!
Oh I wish I had spent the money and stayed in Africa longer for this!! Definitely going back.
Sound like you have a great excuse to plan a return trip :D
I would love to do a gorilla trek one day! How amazing!
The trek at Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park is truly incredible. Hope you do have the chance to organize a trip at some stage :)
The Franconia Ridge knife-edge in New Hampshire is not technical—and I can think of many steeper knife-edge trails where a slip equals a quick ride to eternity. But once on top, if you catch the trail in isolation early or late in the year, its miniaturized flowers and intricately placed stone steps (to keep you from trampling the fragile flowers) offer a glimpse of alpine worlds otherwise found far away from the well-trammeled White Mountains. As a boy, I knew of no headier experience than this trail.
Thanks for the tip Jonathan, it sounds like a stunning hike. I’ll have to make my way to New Hampshire at some point :)
Jungle trekking is the greatest way to get close to nature.
Absolutely Leandro – one of my favorite outdoor activities!
The most important question for you: which destination has the LEAST mosquitoes?
Haha good question – we recently published a great guest post if you’re interested, on how to keep insects away in tropical countries: https://www.mappingmegan.com/how-to-keep-insects-away-traveling-in-tropical-countries/
If you’re heading to a region which is really notorious fro mosquitoes, I’ve been known to say f-it to fashion and don a full body mosquito net before :D Might look goofy but anyone making fun of you will be wishing they were you about 10 minutes later lol they work really well.
Good to see Borneo on this list! My dream bucketlist destination – I’m dying to get there.
You’ll love it Suhana – Malaysian Borneo is my personal favorite :)
You missed Bali from this list ;)
An obvious oversight on my part! I haven’t really done much jungle trekking there actually, so will have to add it t my list :)
I’m hoping to visit Peru next year and do the Inca Trail to Machu Piccu. Hadn’t considered adding extra time on the end for the Amazon, but psyched for that now too. Thankyou for the tip.
You’re welcome Myrna! The Amazon is so magical – I would love to get back! Have an amazing trip :)
People don’t think of Canada as a rainforest destination, but it should be on your list. British Columbia has the Great Bear Rainforest with red cedar trees and wildlife like kermode and grizzly bears, bald eagles, cougars, and wolves. Much history too like isolated First Nations villages and evidence, like totem poles, of their ancient ancestors.
Thanks Roni – you’re right, I don’t instantly think of Canada as a rainforest destination, but getting back to British Columbia is on my list – we spent time in Victoria / Vancouver Island for a week last year and it was incredible. Definitely need to head back and visit Great Bear Rainforest on the next trip :)
Chitwan National Park sounds incredible!
It really is! People automatically think of Africa as the world’s best safari destination, but Chitwan gives Africa a run of it’s money!
Surely Madagascar should deserve a mention here.
One place I haven’t yet been but would LOVE to get to at some stage :)
Great list Megan! However anyone thinking about Costa Rica, I would recommend Panama instead. Exactly the same (being right next to each other the landscapes and wildlife are identical), but doesn’t have the flood of tourism Costa Rica has. I don’t recommend doing the Darien Gap (that would be suicidal!), but there are some fantastic National Parks within the country’s borders and it’s a much more authentic experience.
Thanks Matthew :) I actually do agree with you on that – we took in both Costa Rica and Panama in the same trip a few years ago, and were really surprised that the wildlife we expected from Costa Rica, we saw more of in Panama, and the experiences were more wild too (CR can feel very controlled and managed in many places). Admittedly it was a lot more difficult to make our way to more remote parts of Panama, so Costa Rica does have accessibility going for it in that sense. Soberania National Park in Panama though was perhaps one of the most memorable highlights of our whole trip :)
Great article again Meg! Yes Nepal, can’t agree more with you on this. Chitwan National Park has really rich biodiversity. If you guys plan to visit it, the best months are March to May and December to February. Try to avoid the monsoon months of June to August due to its rain.
Thank you for sharing!
Thanks Deepak! And thankyou for sharing your knowledge on the seasons. We really look forward to a trip at some point in the future :)
Oh Nepal also in the list, thank you for your valuable review. This article is very informative for jungle lover. If someone wants to visit Nepal for jungle trekking Bardia National Park and Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve are also popular for jungle trekkers.
Costa Rica, I will be there in the future.
Yes we love Nepal :) Thanks for the tips on Bardia National Park and Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve … will have to add both of these to my list :)
Have a fabulous time in Costa Rica!
wow nice post for Natural and animals lover, keep it up
Thanks Manish, so glad you enjoyed the post :) Yes, there is much wildlife to observe and encounter in the jungles!