Rainforest travel advice

Kathy Jarvis, owner of our Amazon vacation specialists Andean Trails, shares her Amazon travel tips.

Wildlife

“There’s such an element of luck involved when it comes to wildlife sightings, so I always recommend that people stay as long as they possibly can and really try to relax. Wander some of the trails by yourself if you can.”

Early birds

“Everything is always better first thing in the morning. All the Amazon lodges get you up at 5am to go out and do a walk before breakfast, but I would always do those because that’s when you’re going to see things. Always take really good binoculars and wildlife books and try and gain an understanding of where you are and what you’re doing, and get an appreciation.”

Bring the kids

“The Amazon is definitely family-friendly, but I wouldn’t be inclined to take kids younger than 6-8; you wouldn’t want to put them on those very long journeys. But some of the lodges are better set up for families. I went to a lodge in the Tambopata Reserve and we had a fantastic time because it’s not that far away, it’s not right on the river bank, they have very good dedicated guides and trails for kids, they provide welly boots, and they’ve got a games area.”
Aaron Russ, expedition leader and owner of our travel specialists Heritage Expeditions, shares his thoughts on safety when traveling to Papua New Guinea: “Papua New Guinea has a bit of reputation for not being the easiest place to travel – there are some reports on the dangers of traveling, especially in the highlands. But we’ve found that traveling to the outlying islands and remote communities by ship in a small group has been a very successful way to access parts of Papua New Guinea that people otherwise wouldn’t be able to, without any of the associated safety issues.”
Anne Smellie, destinations manager at our conservation specialists Oyster Worldwide, shares her tips on what to expect from a rainforest volunteering vacation.

Volunteering in Borneo

“Volunteer vacations in Borneo definitely feel like work, especially given the heat and humidity! Planting a tree or building a structure with nearly 100 percent humidity becomes pretty tough, and we often jokingly say that our trips to Borneo are weight-loss vacations because of the amount you will sweat out there! But they are completely rewarding.”

Keeping hydrated

“Humidity is really tough and it knackers you out! It is really important to stay hydrated, take rehydration salts and get plenty of rest in the lovely surroundings. Humidity also means rain, so be prepared to get wet. Do not take cotton clothing as it takes longer to dry, so take technical gear that can dry easily. Keeping items in plastic bags can be beneficial too!”
Aled Evans, from our Africa travel specialists Undiscovered Destinations, shares his advice on what to expect when traveling in the Congo.

Exciting arrivals

“What strikes you is the initial culture shock. The wow, the arrival in Kinshasa. It’s changed a bit since I was there, when you had a long ferry or helicopter from the airport, but the energy of the city is something you never really forget.”

… but suspect souvenirs

“Don’t buy animal products and don’t buy souvenirs made from trees that shouldn’t be cut. Our guides will always be there to advise you. We try to keep people away from tourist traps so that they can buy genuine homemade items. Don’t barter. If you do, do it for fun – if that is what’s expected from the situation. Some people can go too far with bartering.”

Our top Rainforest Vacation

Malaysia tours, rainforests and beaches

Malaysia tours, rainforests and beaches

Explore Malaysia staying in sustainable hotels

From £3230 14 days inc UK flights
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Healthy & safety in the rainforest

HEALTH

Various vaccinations are advised before traveling to any rainforest; contact your GP or private travel clinic at least eight weeks prior to your departure date to ensure you have time to complete all doses of the vaccine required. Malaria is a risk in all tropical rainforests and you will require anti-malarial medication for your trip. It is also advised to wear trousers and long-sleeved tops, and to bring insect repellent. Accommodation is likely to provide mosquito nets in rooms. Avoid eating bushmeat, often sold in rural markets, such as monkeys and bats, which carry diseases. These animals are often illegally poached. If you are trekking in rainforest in South America, Borneo or Papua New Guinea, your tour might include climbing to an altitude that can cause altitude sickness and you should be aware of the symptoms beforehand. Rainforests are incredibly hot and humid, so it is important to keep well hydrated at all times. Be aware that tap water is likely unsafe to drink.

SAFETY

Some rainforest vacations take place in countries that are unstable, where there is a chance of violent demonstrations, attacks and kidnappings. This is particularly the case in the Congo rainforest if you are visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo. Tourists should remain vigilant at all times and follow the advice of tour operators while in the country. It is recommended that you keep up to date with the latest government travel advice on the FCO website ahead of traveling. However, other rainforest vacations are in destinations that are generally safe, such as Borneo. Tourists should still exercise the usual precautions by not walking alone at night, and making sure valuables such as cameras and smartphones are not on display. Your tour operators will provide detailed trip notes and packing lists; be sure to follow them and to pack everything that is recommended. If you have any questions, just ask them. Most rainforest vacations don’t require a specific level of fitness – unless you are going on a trekking vacation – but you will still need to be reasonably fit to get the most out of your time and join the jungle walks (which can be a couple of hours long). Children over the age of eight are welcomed on many rainforest vacations in the Amazon and Borneo, where tours and accommodation may be specifically designed for families. Be aware, however, that there are some very long road and river journeys, especially in the Amazon, and not all children will enjoy these trips. Vacations in Papua New Guinea and the Congo are not suitable for children. Roads are often very basic and in poor condition. During the wet season they can become dangerous and unpassable; it is best to avoid traveling at the wettest times of the year. Malaysia and Indonesia are largely conservative, Muslim countries, and you should dress modestly, particularly in rural areas, to avoid causing offence. Homosexuality is not widely accepted or is taboo in some rainforest destinations and is illegal in others (Cameroon, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea), so same-sex couples are advised to act discretely in public.

Tips from our travelers

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do – and opinions about what not to. We have selected some of the most useful tips for vacations in the rainforest that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation – and the space inside your suitcase.
Plan to have the time of your life! Be sure to view activities, lodges, etc, on websites to have an idea of what to expect.
– Lynn Mahan on our Ecuadorian rainforest adventure vacation
“Be prepared for the unexpected – good and bad roads – and some long days traveling.” – Stephen Turner on our Papua New Guinea cultural tour

“It’s a real adventure vacation, so not for those looking to relax or sit by a beach, which meant it was perfect for us. Beware of the sun – the equator is mean! Take lots of small bills in cash; even $20 bills are hard to change.” – Cara Roberts on our Ecuadorian rainforest adventure vacation

“Take the best pair of binoculars you can afford. Many of the birds and some animals are only visible clearly with binoculars and the trees are very tall.” – John Taylor on our Borneo small group tour
Be comfortable with a tent and bucket shower before signing up.
– Debra Allen on our Congo river expedition
“Look for a good mix of wildlife, nature and beaches. Since you do not have 100 percent likelihood of seeing wildlife (people tend to forget it is not a zoo) you should find more things that will be exciting and make the vacation memorable.” – Eva Eggler on our Borneo small group tour

“Do it! The kit list can look daunting, but pack what is recommended as there are huge changes in conditions between the high Andes and the Amazon. No smart clothes needed for either!” – Kathy Atherton on our Peruvian rainforest family adventure vacation
Written by Bryony Cottam
Photo credits: [Page banner: Breno Machado] [Macaw: Steve Wilson] [Volunteer in Borneo: Moving Mountains Trust] [Safety: MONUSCO Photos] [Quote 1: Vince Fleming] [Quote 2: Tomy Kusnanto]