Rainforests are fascinating places. No other environment on Earth holds such potential for life -- rainforests cover less than 2% of the world’s landmass but are home to 50% of its plant and animal species. This richness of biodiversity makes the rainforest perfect for a huge range of adventures, from epic hikes to unforgettable boat journeys, dizzying canopy walks, and magical wildlife encounters.
There are rainforests all around the world, each with their own unique wildlife, cultures, activities, and tours. So will it be gorillas or orangutans? Macaws or birds of paradise? Luxury eco-lodges or nights under the rainforest canopy? Whatever you choose, you are guaranteed an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Where to Go
Rainforests can be found throughout the world. Wherever you go, they will invariably be beautiful, fascinating places where life and nature flourish in their most vibrant forms.
The Amazon is the largest and most biodiverse tropical rainforest in the world, and most of it is in Brazil. During an Amazon adventure, you can walk across the dense jungle floor, go swimming in the river, meet local communities, and come face-to-face with colorful and unique wildlife. Head there between July and December for low waters and drier climates, but be prepared for heavy rains at any time of year.
Southeast Asia is filled with rainforests, but Malaysia has some truly great jungle sights that set it apart. The island of Borneo is the only place in the world where you can see the orangutan in its native habitat, while tigers, monkeys, and tropical birds can be seen throughout the country. The months between February and September are the best time to visit, with the rainy season over and the lush tropical foliage at its densest.
Rwanda’s Nyungwe National Park has the world’s highest canopy walk and is home to about a quarter of all primate species in Africa, including many chimpanzees. Meanwhile, further north, Volcanoes National Park is one of the best places in the world to see gorillas up-close. Mid-December to early February is the dry season, which has the best weather for rainforest tours.
Planning Your Trip
What to Look for in a Rainforest Tour
Some rainforest tours focus on a specific area or activity, but most of them are designed to give you a taste of the jungle’s various features. Visits to wildlife sanctuaries, jungle treks, canopy walks, trips to waterfalls, fishing, and tours of local villages are all common activities.
Beyond this, the main thing you need to consider is the level of intensity you are after. Some rainforest tours are packed with thrills and adventure, from ziplining to mountain biking, rafting, and canyoning. Others are more relaxed affairs, prioritizing slow travel and the enjoyment of the rainforest’s natural beauty.
Similarly, there are varying levels of comfort. Many tours are based on hiking from one point to the next, camping at night in the wild. Others use slow boats to take visitors around, with stays in luxury eco-lodges and cabins. Of course, you can also find tours that sit squarely in the middle, giving you a taste of both heart-pumping adventure and slow jungle life.
Average Rainforest Tour Cost & Length
You can find rainforest tours of varying lengths depending on what you are looking for. Shorter tours of 3-5 days are common, usually involving fewer activities and based in one lodge. Longer tours of 10-15 days allow for covering more ground through hiking, camping, and boat travel. Tours exceeding this usually involve a combination of the rainforest with another area, such as a city or beach.
Costs will depend greatly on the activities and level of comfort included. A 5-day trip can range between $1,000 and $3,500, depending on what kind of accommodation you will be staying in, while a two-week trip usually sits in the $3,500 to $7,000 range.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
The rainforest is, by design, hot and humid. You need to pack for high temperatures, but mosquitoes are a big problem, so you should also try to have as little exposed skin as possible. This means comfortable hiking and camping clothes in lightweight, breathable fabrics are your best option.
High-quality walking shoes or boots are essential, and a light rain jacket or poncho is also a good idea. Bring a bathing suit for any trips to rivers or waterfalls, and the usual items to protect yourself from the sun (hat, sunscreen, sunglasses). Don’t forget plenty of DEET-containing insect repellent for those mosquitoes and other bugs.
Most tours will provide gear for any activities included in the price -- check ahead of time just in case. This usually includes a tent or hammock for camping, especially if it's just for a night or two. More adventurous trips based on camping alone may require you to bring your own tent and/or hammock.
A certain level of discomfort is to be expected in the rainforest. Insects are likely to be everywhere, rains will fall hard and fast in the middle of a hike, and the sounds of wildlife can be as noisy as a bustling city when you’re trying to sleep at night. The secret is to enjoy the experience for what it is, which is a chance to explore some of the oldest and most remote natural environments on the planet -- bugs and all.
Qualification & Training
You will not need any specific qualification or training for the vast majority of rainforest tours, as most of them are designed to be enjoyed by anyone. That said, it’s a good idea to ask the operator about the level of physical fitness required for the activities to see if you can manage. Be honest with yourself here -- you don’t want to commit to a week-long tour and then find yourself physically unable to do it.
Many people are scared of the rainforest due to it’s more intimidating inhabitants, such as tigers, leopards, and snakes. However, tour groups and major predators tend to maintain a respectful distance from each other.
What you should be worrying about is a much smaller creature: the mosquito. One of the biggest risks in most rainforests is malaria, so make sure you have packed enough malaria tablets for the journey and that you are bringing a mosquito net. You should also make sure you stay hydrated throughout the day, as you will be losing fluids from sweat.
Most rainforest activities are perfectly safe, and your tour should brief you extensively about any risks.
- Wear thick boots and socks to protect your ankles from snake and insect bites, and always check the inside of your shoe before putting it on in case something has crawled inside.
- Tread carefully to avoid tripping and slipping.
- Wear sunscreen and DEET-containing insect repellent on any exposed skin, and reapply throughout the day.
- Follow the instructions of your tour guide at all times, and never wander off by yourself -- your guide is there for your safety and the rainforest is a big place.