From the giant to the miniscule, the pretty and the peculiar; our world’s jungles are home to an astonishing array of flora and fauna. From sultry South American tropics, where the earth is carved up by fathomless rivers, to the African Congo, a name so evocative it barely needs further description to lure us beyond our own borders, and the heady heights of Asia, where the canopies sag and groan under the weight of primate life: there is so much to entice any adventurer.
But how to make your decision? Which creature’s company do you crave? For a lazy encounter with high-residing sloths: Costa Rica; for a circus of flashing colours: a clay lick in the Amazon; a closer relationship with humanity’s nearest relation: Lowland gorillas in the Congo.
We’ve put together the very best of our jungle highlights, to help you choose your ideal jungle hideout.
Flanked on one side by swathes of rainforest and on the other by beaches of black sand where turtles nest, the mangroves and lagoons of Tortuguero form a real-life Garden of Eden, impossible to reach except by boat. Howler monkeys holler and swing through the canopy while armies of leaf-cutters march their harvest over the forest floor, and spectacled caiman move silently through murky water, their golden eyes the only sign of their presence. Look out for Green iguanas bathing on the banks of the canals, Jesus Christ lizards scampering skittishly on the water’s surface and catatonic sloths clinging to the branches overhead.
Tortuguero’s dawn chorus is an early alarm call you’ll be quick to forgive, and come nightfall the soundtrack becomes reminiscent of an old video game as the Red eyed tree frogs chant their abstract vocal vibrato.
Inhospitable and mostly impenetrable, only a dedicated few wildlife enthusiasts have the chops to brave the world’s largest tropical wetland. Home to some 650 species, the Pantanal’s birdlife is staggering, from the violet radiance of the Hyacinth macaw to the dainty perfection of flighty kingfishers. Capybaras and anteaters snuffle around the undergrowth and grasslands, while out on the water you are in the company of giants – Black caiman, otters and anacondas. The real prize, though, is the elusive jaguar. The moment the green curtain parts to reveal this rosetted predator padding down the beach will never be forgotten. We can’t guarantee a sighting, but we do have 100% success rate so far; travelling with our expert local guides and award-winning wildlife photographer Paul Goldstein, your chances are higher than most.
Deep in the African heartland, shrouded in mist and mystery, is another world. A trip into the Congo is a truly off the beaten track wildlife adventure not for the faint-hearted! Hostile and largely inaccessible, the jungles of the Congo do not relinquish their secrets easily, but those that persevere soon realise their efforts were well worth it. The chance to see mighty Lowland gorillas in their natural environment is a spectacle only a very privilege few will ever witness. Do you want to be one of them?
Anticipation hangs heavy in the air as you push through the thick, thriving jungles of Sumatra. After all, these primeval forests are home to fearsome tigers, lumbering rhinos and strikingly huge elephants. Elusive and rare though these powerful creatures are, the very possibility of their presence is thrilling. This feeling intensifies when claw marks on a tree trunk suggest the presence of a Sun bear searching for honey, or Thomas-leaf monkeys and Long-tailed macaques watch you curiously from above. This jungle jaunt doesn’t reach boiling point, however, until, out of the corner of the eye, there’s a flash of orange through the foliage, accompanied by the realisation that an Orang-utan and her child are swinging gracefully towards you through the trees.
Spanning nine countries and covering a full third of the South American continent, the Amazon Rainforest is the largest, most biodiverse and most famous jungle in the world. Its mysterious, hauntingly beautiful depths sustain a staggering variety of life, and its steamy heart remains one of the few unexplored areas of our planet. Nestled deep within this gorgeous location, in the Ecuadorian Amazon, is the Napo Wildlife Centre, a remote eco-lodge reserve where, after arriving in a traditional dugout canoe, you will spend three days exploring these tranquil waterways. Rise early and head to the reserve’s clay lick, located above the banks of the Napo River; it will be a hive of activity shortly after dawn, as parrots, parakeets and macaws come to detox on the nutrient-rich clay wall. Alternatively, head up the 36 metre viewing tower to see fruit-picking Squirrel monkeys and toucans… patient twitchers will be rewarded!