Jungle (dreamstime.com)

Jungle travel guide

If there’s one environment guaranteed to see you coming over all Indiana Jones – grab the machete, mind the poison blowdarts and watch out for hungry jaguar – it’s jungle

Surrounded by dense rainforest, who knows what’s lurking in there… Ancient Maya temples and plazas, strangled by tree roots? Orang-utans swinging through the canopy? Anaconda slithering among the undergrowth? Rarely visited tribes, uncharted Amazon tributaries, lost treasures?

The reality is barely more prosaic. Depending who you ask, rainforests host more than half of the world’s animal and plant species – incredibly diverse habitats that make for challenging but rewarding wildlife-watching. Today, new ecotourism initiatives mean you can stay in comfortable lodges run by local tribes – or, if the pioneer in you stirs, trek deep into remote regions, sleeping in hammocks and picking off tapir ticks at nightfall.

Start with the daddy: the Amazon rainforest. Hard to classify as a single entity, this enormous swathe of green jungle watered by the planet’s largest river system straddles much of South America. Raft into Ecuador’s Oriente region to stay in community-run lodges; watch macaws get their fix of mineral mud at the salt licks of Manu National Park, Peru; or board a riverboat at Manaus in Brazil and dangle a line to snare some piranha.

Borneo’s the next jungle hotspot – take a riverboat down Sarawak’s tributaries to stay in Iban longhouses and admire vivid birdlife, spot pygmy elephant in Sabah’s Danum Valley, or meet orang-utans at Sepilok or Seminggoh (you can also spot them over the waters in Sumatra, Indonesia). Papua New Guinea has some of the least-penetrated jungles – trek the Kokoda Trail to really immerse yourself.

Africa has jungles aplenty, from the gorilla-inhabited highlands of Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo to the lush coastal forests of Gabon (with more gorillas) and the verdant banks of the River Gambia.

White ‘spirit bears’ roam Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia. And don’t ignore Australia – Queensland’s rainforests are home to cassowary, crocs and more, while Tasmania’s Tarkine Wilderness offers true isolation.

It’s a jungle out there – a world of jungle. Grab your compass, don your poncho and get stuck in.

Top 10 jungle experiences

  1. Trek to the lost Maya city of El Mirador in Guatemala – Hack your way through the jungle to reach these isolated, mesmerising ruins
  2. Meet the Iban of Sarawak – delve into the steaming heart of Borneo for an encounter with former headhunters
  3. Visit the lowland gorillas of Gabon – come face to face with one of your closest relatives in the jungles of Central Africa
  4. Play with giant offers in Guyana – head into the Rupununi Savannah of this remote area of South America
  5. Wander the forests of Lamington National Park in Queensland, Australia – away from the coastal backpacker highway
  6. Spot the spirit bears of the Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada – explore this incredible wilderness to see rare white bears
  7. Fish for piranha in the Brazilian Amazon – hand your hook from the bank or a boat on the sluggish brown waters
  8. Search the mountain forests of Uganda and Rwanda for gorillas – make the tough trek into the dense hills to find a family
  9. Watch macaws at Manu’s salt licks, Peru – the Amazon rainforest is shared by several South American countries
  10. Explore the Tarkine Wilderness, Tasmania, Australia – stride across beaches and discover truly wild corners of the Apple Isle
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