Where to go on a rainforest vacation

Tropical rainforests can be found all around the equator: sometimes on uninhabited islands; sometimes wall-to-wall with encroaching cities. Some are small, such as Borneo’s rainforests, while others spread across multiple countries, like the Amazon. Unfortunately, due to decades of deforestation, the best-preserved areas of forest lie within national parks and conservation reserves, where they are usually (but not always) better protected. Travelers who want to see big wildlife will have the best luck in the Amazon and Borneo – home to jaguars and orangutans – or by booking a specialist gorilla trek in the Congo. Papua New Guinea, on the other hand, is renowned for its birdlife.
Bako National Park, Borneo

1. Bako National Park, Borneo

Bako is the oldest national park in Sarawak on the island of Borneo. It stretches inland from the coast, covering tropical rainforest, mangrove swamps, cliffs and white sand beaches. Guided forest treks reveal a jungle filled with streams, waterfalls and carnivorous plants. Wildlife is abundant, from the bearded pigs and long-tailed macaques to the park’s famous proboscis monkeys.
Batang Ai National Park, Borneo

2. Batang Ai National Park, Borneo

Batang Ai National Park in Borneo lies within the lands of the indigenous Iban tribes who are custodians of its extensive tropical rainforest and rare wildlife, including orangutans. Visitors can stay with the Iban tribes in their traditional longhouses. From here, an Iban guide will take you on foot or in a wooden longboat to explore the jungle trails and rivers.
Colombian Amazon

3. Colombian Amazon

From Leiticia, the gateway town to Colombia’s Amazon, you’ll take a boat deeper into the rainforest where you’ll meet the local Mocagua community in their village. They have a strong relationship with a nearby lodge where you can stay and explore the jungle on foot or take a boat to nearby Tarapoto Lake to look for pink river dolphins and parakeets.
Indonesian islands

4. Indonesian islands

The remote tropical islands off the coast of Papua New Guinea are rarely visited by tourists and host an astonishing array of birdlife. Many species are endemic to the Admiralty Islands and the Solomon Islands, such as the Solomon sea eagle. Wildlife cruises hop between them, stopping off at sheltered beaches for travelers to explore the surrounding forests and experience local tribal life.
Kahuzi-Biega National Park, DR Congo

5. Kahuzi-Biega National Park, DR Congo

This UNESCO site, named after the two volcanoes that lie within its range, covers mountains, rivers and rainforests, all home to bush elephants, buffalo and chimps. Kahuzi-Biega was originally formed in the 1970s as a refuge for the rare eastern lowland gorilla, its best-known residents. Guided gorilla tracking offers a good chance of seeing the largest gorilla species in the wild.
Kinabatangan, Borneo

6. Kinabatangan, Borneo

Cutting through lowland rainforest and mangrove swamps, the Kinabatangan River is a conveyor belt of wildlife sightings, ready to be spotted amongst the foliage from your seat on the boat. The whoops from all manner of monkeys break the silence of this otherwise serene river cruise, during which you might see hornbill and the rare Storm’s stork, crocodiles and pygmy elephants.
Madang Province, Papua New Guinea

7. Madang Province, Papua New Guinea

Madang is a region of lush green highlands and towering forests on a picturesque peninsula in eastern Papua New Guinea. Excursions run here are for birders keen to see the spectacular birds of paradise, sulphur-crested cockatoos and red-capped flowerpeckers. The communities here are renowned for their traditional village life, artists and colourful markets.
Mamiraua, Brazil

8. Mamiraua, Brazil

Manaus is a steadily expanding jungle metropolis, where riverside hotels and big cruise ships are spreading further into the rainforest. Once here, however, you can set off on a small boat cruise along the winding river to the Mamiraua Reserve. This area of flooded rainforest, where lily pads are the size of bathtubs, is home to the red-faced uakari monkey, piranhas and sloths.
Nyungwe National Park, Rwanda

9. Nyungwe National Park, Rwanda

Said to be Africa’s Galapagos Islands because of the sheer amount of diversity, Nyungwe National Park in Rwanda lies within the fringes of the Congo Basin and is a primate-packed expanse of tropical rainforest. Guided trekking along the many hiking trails may lead to sightings of spectacular birdlife, chimps, baboons, golden monkeys and, with a bit of luck, mountain gorillas.
Odzala-Kokoua National Park, Republic of the Congo

10. Odzala-Kokoua National Park, Republic of the Congo

A visit to the Odzala-Kokoua National Park is an opportunity to meet and learn from the resident gorilla research team. Expert primatologists will lead you on a safari looking for lowland gorillas, as well as chimpanzees, forest elephants and buffalo. There’s also great bird watching by kayak on the Lekoli River and guided night walks in the forest.
Sepilok, Borneo

11. Sepilok, Borneo

The first and largest orangutan rehabilitation project in the world, Sepilok is a 43km2 sanctuary that slowly reintroduces orphaned, injured and illegally captured orangutans back into the wild. Visits are timed to coincide with morning feeding times, after which you can see other rescued species such as sun bears, gibbons and Sumatran rhinos.
Tambopata Reserve, Peru

12. Tambopata Reserve, Peru

The reserve takes its name from the Tambopata River, along which you will travel by motorised canoe from Puerto Maldonado. Once out of the sweltering southern city, the rainforest closes in, occasionally revealing beautiful oxbow lakes or swampy savannas. Stay on the lookout for caiman, giant otters, colourful birdlife and – once out trekking on foot – monkeys and jaguars.

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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Written by Bryony Cottam
Photo credits: [Page banner: Breno Machado] [Bako: John Mason] [Batang Ai National Park: Thomas Wanhoff] [Colombian Amazon: Eli Duke] [Indonesian Islands: pomfoto] [Kahuzi-Biega National Park: Miek Davison] [Kinabatangan: Christopher Michel] [Madang Provice: Dick Culbert] [Mamiraua: Ministerio da Ciencia, Tecnologia e Inovacoes] [Nyungwe National Park, Rwanda: Laurent de Walick] [Odzala-Kokoua National Park: Rennet Stowe] [Sepilok, Borneo: Richard Toller] [Tambopata Reserve, Peru: Richard Le Guen]