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.
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.
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