For those who are jaded by concrete jungles and a never-ending maze of shopping malls, sometimes spending time in nature is the perfect elixir. While the occasional beach vacation is always a good idea, some of us crave for more of an adventure. You know, like off-the-beaten-path experiences away from selfie-stick hoarding tourists.
The answer to this? Exploring the world’s rainforests.
The increasing popularity of the modern eco-tourism industry has made some of the world’s largest rainforests more accessible for nature-lovers who want a first-hand experience of jungle landscapes — instead of just watching them on Hollywood blockbusters.
In fact, it’s a better alternative to going to the zoo. With ancient and rich ecosystems, the world’s rainforests are home to some of the most incredible plants and creatures on the planet — so you’ll definitely get to observe them in their natural habitat.
Whether its the world-famous Amazon rainforest or the oldest (but underrated) rainforest in the world, each rainforest destination is just as unique as the previous one. So without further ado, check out these best rainforest destinations in the world to add to your bucket list this year.
Iguaçu National Park
Iguaçu National Park, a vast tropical rainforest spanning Brazil and Argentina, is best known as the home of one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world, Iguaçu Falls (which extends over 2,700 metres). In fact, its name itself is an indigenous (Tupi-Guarani) phrase, meaning Great Waters.
Its exceptional geomorphological features — a result of volcanic processes dating back to 500 million years — is only one of the reasons it has been inscribed as a UNESCO-listed site. Iguaçu National Park is also home to some of the rarest and most endangered species of flora and fauna found in the world, including the giant otter and the giant anteater.
Splurge on a once-in-a-lifetime experience and embark on a panoramic helicopter flight, where you’ll be treated to an awe-inspiring view of the Brazilian, Paraguayan and Argentinian rainforests, as well as the 275 different waterfalls — including the famed Devil’s Throat and San Martin Waterfall.
Exploring the world’s rainforests doesn’t mean you have to rough it out. Indulge in a retreat in an unrivalled location in the jungle at the only hotel located within the national park, the Belmond Hotel das Cataratas. Located just a short stroll from the magnificent Iguaçu Falls, the Portuguese-colonial residence offers exclusive access to the magnificent surroundings in the evening and at dawn when the park is closed to other visitors. The suites are bedecked in vibrant artisanal fabrics and locally-commissioned artworks, with the resplendent Cataratas Suites leading out to four panoramic balconies.
The Amazon Rainforest, South America
The next on our list is none other than the world’s largest rainforest. The Amazon Rainforest, which spans eight South American countries (mainly Brazil), spreads out to over 6.9 million square kilometres — roughly the size of the 48 contiguous United States. In fact, it covers about 40 percent of the South American continent.
While you have probably dreamt about living in the jungle, swinging from vines and hunting animals for survival like Tarzan and Jane, the harsh reality is that exploring the Amazon on your own can be too overwhelming (and dangerous) for an inexperienced visitor. However, the good news is that many luxury tour operators — such as Lightfoot Travel and Abercrombie & Kent — offer small group journeys to the world-famous jungle.
Where to stay
Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge, located 2.5 hours from the former rubber boom city of Manaus (the gateway to the rainforest) is probably the most stylish accommodation in the Amazon. The property is made up of 16 beautiful cottages and four superior bungalows set up beneath a thatched canopy overlooking the forest — and comes with worldly comforts such as queen-size, double or twin beds, warm showers, air conditioning, minibar and private deck with hammock.
Daintree Rainforest, Queensland, Australia
While the Amazon Rainforest is the quintessential rainforest featured in various movies, you probably may not have heard about the Daintree Rainforest. It’s located in Queensland, Australia and is tens of millions of years older. In short, it’s the oldest tropical rainforest in the world. Daintree also boasts the largest concentration of plant and animal species found nowhere else on the planet, such as the Spotted-tailed quoll, Ulysses butterfly and Bennett’s and Lumholtz tree kangaroos.
With its ancient ferns, emerald green vines and lush canopy, the UNESCO Heritage site is an absolute beauty. It comes as no surprise, then, that the rainforest served as inspiration for 2009 science fiction film, Avatar.
Where to stay
A luxury eco-lodge in a riverside location on the Mossman River, Silky Oaks Lodge makes the perfect base for exploring the magnificent Daintree National Park. The range of accommodation includes tree houses and plush suites which all boast elegantly furnished interiors and spacious open lounge areas, bar, reading rooms — all flanked by wall to ceiling windows leading to spacious balconies with garden, rainforest or river panoramas. The lodge boasts extensive hiking trails that lead into the ancient and magical rainforest.
(Featured image credit: Silky Oaks Lodge)