Rain for Vacation?
By: Stephanie Benney
It’s now mid-spring and the focus of many is vacation. Some of us still take our traditional beach vacations in the summer months, while others are busy planning a winter escape in the cold, long months of January and February. Are you looking to embark on a unique excursion? Courtesy of our friends at Mother Nature Network, you can plan a vacation exploring some exotic rain forests.
Darien National Park
“Panama’s Darien National Park is one of the largest stretches of protected area in Central America. A vast land of dense jungle and low mountains, it contains several unique mammal species that are not seen anywhere else, five endemic avian species and hundreds of other types of mammals and birds. Lowland and highland rain forests dominate the Darien, but it also includes rocky coastal areas and beaches. Stretching along 90 percent of the border between Panama and Colombia, the Darien is, undeniably, a very wild place. It is not the type of destination suitable for zip-line-riding and boardwalk-walking eco-tourists. Nonetheless, guided tours, from daylong jaunts to multi-day expeditions, are available through tour companies and led by local jungle guides. The Darien is a cultural destination as well. Two native tribes live in small villages scattered around the forest.
The small island of Dominica, located in the Lesser Antilles, is noticeably less developed than its tourism-happy Caribbean peers. That’s a good thing for eco-tourists, who flock to the island’s low-key, Earth-friendly resorts to dive, visit sea turtle nesting areas, soak in hot springs, and trek across the undeveloped interior forests and highlands. Jungle trails, many leading to scenic sights like waterfalls or geothermal springs, crisscross the island’s lowlands. Resorts like the 3 Rivers Eco-Lodge offer small cottages and tree houses surrounded by forest, while the Papillote Wilderness Retreat, one of the Caribbean’s first eco-resorts, sits on a mountainside and offers easy access to rain forest trails that lead past stunning waterfalls. Dominica is built (or unbuilt) with eco-tourism in mind, so it is ideal for people who want to avoid the Caribbean beach scene altogether and focus on jungle treks and nature-themed attractions.
Most of the Amazon rain forest sits in Brazil, but one of the most exciting eco-tourism destinations in the forest is in the lowlands of Peru. The Manu Wilderness is home to more plants and animals than almost any other natural area on Earth. Hundreds of mammal species and 1,000 species of birds call these dense forests home, while 15,000 types of plants have been cataloged inside Manu’s borders. The forests here are as pristine as any other rain forest vacation destination, but the wildlife is the real reason to come to Manu. Jaguar, tapir and primate sightings are commonplace. Colorful parrots and macaws, as well as unique species like giant otters, provide easy shots for camera-toting visitors. The Manu Wildlife Center offers programs to eco-tourists, while guided tours (a guide is an absolute must in this wilderness) make Manu a remote-yet-accessible option for those who want to introduce themselves to the flora and fauna of the Amazon.
Malaysian Borneo’s Danum Valley has some unusual plant and animal residents. Carnivorous pitcher plants and gigantic rafflesia flowers (some weighing more than 15 pounds) give this valley a truly exotic, almost primeval, feel. Flying squirrels, gibbons, Asian elephants and rare jungle rhinos all call the conservation area home. One of Southeast Asia’s first true eco-resorts, the Borneo Rainforest Lodge, still operates in the valley, offering guests an upscale place to stay in between jungle treks, canopy tours and river adventures.
Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park is home to another attractive temperate rain forest. Located in the Pacific Northwest, relatively close to Seattle in Washington state, this national park features a vast rain forest characterized by coniferous trees, fast growing mosses and ever-damp weather. The obvious advantage of Olympic is that it is easily accessible for U.S.-based rain forest-seekers. However, just because it is close to home does not mean that it is merely a minor league eco-tourism destination for those who don’t have the time or money to fly abroad. Rain forest covers the western regions of the park. Long looping trails make multi-day treks possible, and the park’s inner recesses are remote enough that people will feel like they are truly on a rain forest adventure.”
Stephanie Benney is a “Sustainable Visionary” and also the new Pittsburgh Representative for Fuzed Marketing, where she helps companies increase their brand presence. firstname.lastname@example.org