A vista of stunning beauty, incredible colours and magnificent mountains, rainforests bear some of the most vibrant wildlife planet earth has to offer. Despite only covering 6% of the world’s surface, they play host to over 80% of known species. As Father Nature Sir David Attenborough reminds us, they are also “one of the key elements in the whole of the weather patterns of the world”, making rainforests both a wonder and crucial to the vitality of the pale blue dot we call home.
Whether you’re the adventurous type, or just a tourist bored with beaches, rainforest hikes and explorations may be the travel revolution you’ve been waiting for. We’ve compiled a list of the planet’s best tropical woodlands that any traveller and eco-wanderer worth their salt should check out at least once.
- Dominica (Lesser Antilles)
An underrated Caribbean gem, over 60% of the island of Dominica is covered in rainforest, which is brimming with biodiversity, including over 68 rainforest tree species. Visitors can embark through dense forest hikes along the Waitukubuli trail, spotting endangered bird species such as the endemic imperial and red-necked parrots (as well as the gommier trees which they usually call home). The Boiling Lake trail also gives adventurers a chance to experience the titular ‘flooded fumarole’ (that means smoking, so don’t count on going for a dip).
A thick, mountainous interior has limited the majority of building development to the coast, and the Dominican government has taken strict measures to create an economy that puts sustainability and environmental protection first. The result? An absolute haven for hikers, nature lovers and bird watchers alike. With the state’s commitment to conservation, it is unlikely that this idyllic isle will turn into a heavily built up resort site any time soon.
To be among this throng of majestic and tropical wildlife is an incredible prospect for many people. Indeed, the question on some folk’s minds is not how do you get there, but how can you stay? Luckily, in April this year the government launched the Work in Nature programme, permitting applicants to secure a work visa for stays of up to 18 months. If you’re looking to put your feet up and have all the time in nature to yourself, however, Dominica’s citizenship by investment programme has become an increasingly popular route to take. According to citizenship advisory firm CS Global Partners, the funds applicants provide for settlement “support national growth in areas such as climate change”, so your presence would actually help to conserve these natural wonders.
Indonesia’s hotspot is teeming with tropical woods. From Monkey Forests of Sangeh or Ubud, to Mount Agung and the West Bali National Park. If you’re desperate to see the tail of a macaque, the Sangeh Monkey Forest stretches over 60,000 square miles of great nutmeg trees, which peak at 40 metres tall and can be as old as 300 years.
The smaller West National Park, at 73 square miles, boasts around 160 bird species. This includes the Bali Starling, which is the country’s sole endemic vertebrate species and is sadly nearing extinction. The landscape is rich and diverse, ranging from rainforest to dry savanna and montane forest, along with the odd expired volcanoes in Mounts Patas and Merbuk.
Bali has become a popular tourist destination over the years, particularly for beach-lovers and scuba enthusiasts. A tourist visa will get you six months’ stay in Indonesia (60 days which you can top up twice) but after that you’ll need to apply for a second single-entry visa. When visiting the rainforests, there are numerous lush resorts and heavenly hostels that cater to backpackers and holiday makers alike, letting you make a temporary nest amongst the greenery.
- Yasuni, Ecuador
Humming within Napo’s humid forest region are over 170 species of amphibian, mammal and bird, including 130 endangered animals such as the giant otter and the jaguar. Not to mention, 4,000 plants and several tribes of indigenous people. Ecuador’s Yasuni is the largest preserved and protected of the entire continental region, and this site of phenomenal biodiversity sits on this crossroads between the Andes, Amazon, and the equator, which allows its unique flora and fauna to thrive.
Beyond the National Park, Yasuni encompasses an “untouchable zone”, created to protect wildlife and indigenous people from any cultural and ecological harm via deforestation or drilling.
It certainly isn’t straightforward getting there, since you need to fly from Ecuador’s capital city, Quito, to the small city of El Coca. You could always be a trooper and take the nine-hour bus, however.
Once you do arrive, many of the lodges peppered throughout the park will help you organise deep voyages into the heart of the rainforest, where you can spy the fearful beauty of all these rare and exotic creatures. A tourist visa lasts 90 days, but if you want to turn your excursion into a retirement plan, getting residency in Ecuador is relatively straightforward.
- The Amazon
Finally, the apex, the big daddy, la creme de la creme. What is left there to say about the rainforest that you haven’t already heard? The Amazon is the world’s largest and most widely known rainforest, exceeding the scale of the Congo Basin (the planet’s second largest rainforest) threefold. As you might already know the Amazon is mostly within Brazil, but also spans across nine other countries including Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela.
The river that constitutes the core of the forest is the world’s biggest, though in the last two decades over 30 million hectares of primary forest have been cut down. This is utterly tragic, since the abundance of sublime delights in the Amazon ought to be protected. One Tree Planted reminds us that this wondrous wood is “home to over 40,000 species of plant, 3,000 bird species, 430 different mammals and an amazing 2.5 million different insect species”.
When travelling, flying tends to be the most secure route if you’re visiting the Peruvian or Brazilian forest. If you’re headed to Ecuador however, you’re looking at a few hours on the bus and then a pickup truck (it’ll be worth it, trust us). You can also cruise down the river in several locations, with Peru being the most accessible entrance to this channel of astonishing aquatic life. In terms of the best places to stay, The Culture Trip has narrowed down the hottest spots from across the forest’s many host countries.