Rainforests are the oldest living ecosystems on Earth, and the most diverse. They cover only 2% of the Earth’s surface but up to 50% of the world’s plants and animals live within them. A quarter of ingredients for modern medicines are found in rainforest plants and rainforests play an essential role in maintaining the Earth’s limited supply of freshwater and controlling the climate.
The sights and sounds of the rainforest are truly unique. From the cacophony of insects, birds and frogs in the evenings, to colourful birds and agile monkeys leaping from tree to tree, to the endless green layers of dense vegetation, you won’t be stuck for things to hear, see and smell.
The rainforest climate can be intense (hot, humid and plenty of insects!), but the experience is well worth any discomforts.
We’ve put together a list of our top five rainforest holidays from all around the world. These are:
- Great Bear Rainforest, Canada
- Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda
- Sinharaja Forest Reserve, Sri Lanka
- Rainforests of the Atsinanana, Madagascar
- Amazon Rainforest, Brazil, Peru & Colombia
The Great Bear Rainforest
As you may have guessed from the name, this rainforest is home to bears – and lots of them! The rainforest makes up 25% of the world’s remaining coastal temperate rainforests and is the only place in the world where you will find Kermode “Spirit” bears, considered sacred by the local T’simshian people.
Grizzly bears also populate the area, as well as grey wolves, Sitka deer, cougars, eagles, sea lions, sea otters and humpback whales. Visit between late August and mid-October, when returning salmon draw wildlife towards the rivers, to see the bears hunt the plentiful fish.
Bountiful plant life exists within the rainforest, including 1000-year-old Western Red cedar trees and underwater kelp forests in the rivers and surrounding waters. Activities for travellers take full advantage of this abundance of wild- and plant-life with kayaking and fishing trips, wildlife and marine life spotting, boat rides, hiking and heli-hiking.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas, around 400, roam the rainforest in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the main activity on any travellers list is a trek into the dense vegetation in search of these magnificent creatures. It can take anything from a few hours to a full day to find a group of gorillas, but once you do, you can watch them interact in their natural environment for up to an hour.
Hiking, birding, cycling, mountain biking and cultural community tours are also popular activities within the park and visitors are often treated to sightings of baboons, chimpanzees, elephants, antelope, golden monkeys and 350 species of bird including African goshawks, Augur buzzards and Equatorial akalats.
With 400 species of plants, the park features an abundance of flora, including the rare brown mahogany.
Sinharaja Forest Reserve
The reserve is the last remnant of Sri Lanka’s tropical lowland rainforest and is the home of many rare endemic flora and fauna including the purple-faced langur, dusky-striped jungle squirrel, loxococcus rupicola (a type of palm tree) and atalantia rotundifolia (a flowering plant from the citrus family).
Other wildlife found in the reserve include jaguars, Indian elephants, torque macaques, giant squirrels, reptiles and butterflies.
Visitors can go trekking and on boat tours and from November to March and in April and August, birdwatching trips are available. The rainforest has many indigenous birds and 19 of Sri Lanka’s 20 endemic bird species can be found here. Look out for Ceylon Hanging Parrots, Ceylon Wood Pigeons, Ceylon Grey Hornbills, Layard’s parakeet and the Red-faced Malkoha.
Rainforests of the Atsinanana
Comprised of six national parks, the rainforest stretches along almost the entirety of the east coast of Madagascar. Over half of the islands endemic wildlife call these rainforests home and a staggering 70-90% of the life in the rainforest exists in the tree canopy.
There are over 100 species of lemur within the rainforest, including bamboo lemurs, black lemurs, red-ruffed lemurs, Indri and the nocturnal aye-ayes. Other wildlife such as leaf-tailed geckos, tenrecs and leaf chameleons can also be found. Over 1000 species of orchid and over 1000 species of jasmine grow in the area.
Top activities in these rainforests are hiking and trekking deep into the vegetation to spot the abundant wildlife and plant life.
The Amazon is the world’s largest tropical rainforest, inhabited by one in ten of the known species on earth including jaguars, amazon river dolphins, emperor tamarins, black spider monkeys, black caiman, poison dart frogs, anacondas, howler monkeys and many more.
Flora include the heliconia flower, orchids, giant water lilies, passion fruit flowers and monkey brush vines. With over 16,000 species of tree, the health of the Amazon rainforest has a direct impact on the health of the whole planet and the control of local and global climates, as well as the protection of many species of plants and animals.
A rainforest of this scale has plenty of available activities. Visitors can take river cruises, go on canopy tours, hike through the tropical woods and visit local tribes.
I hope this list of rainforests have whetted your appetite and you are ready to explore everything that a rainforest has to offer.
Matt Rushbrooke is Director of Touring & Tailormade at Rainbow Tours.
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