Jungle trekking can be loosely defined as hiking through the rainforest, but it is so much more than that. Trekking in the jungle is an exciting challenge that takes you far away from modern civilization into some of the most biodiverse areas on earth. From the Amazon Rainforest to the island of Borneo, the world’s tropical regions are full of fascinating places to venture into the jungle on a trek.
If you want to learn more about jungle trekking, you’re in the right place. This post covers all the essential information you need to start planning an adventure in the jungle, including what makes jungle trekking so appealing, challenges and risks to consider, what kind of gear you’ll need, and where you’ll find the best jungle treks.
One of the best things about jungle trekking is that it allows you to experience wild places. With the increase in globalization and widespread development, few places on earth feel truly wild. The world’s jungles are a notable exception. Because of the dense vegetation, heavy rains, and generally unforgiving environment, jungles typically lack modern infrastructure. In this way, they offer a glimpse into the past and are a way to escape contemporary civilization.
Jungle trekking is also a fantastic chance to see diverse plants and animals. From carnivorous plants and wild orchids to poison dart frogs and jaguars, jungles are home to extensive wildlife many people never get to see in the wild. These creatures also create an incredible symphony, with birds chirping, insects buzzing, and monkeys howling. The sounds of the jungle are such a pleasure to hear that many people listen to rainforest soundtracks to help them relax, meditate, and fall asleep.
In addition to the wild settings and unique flora and fauna, many people are attracted to jungle trekking because of the cultural experiences it provides. Top jungle trekking destinations like Peru, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea are home to indigenous tribes and remote villages with cultures and traditions that have been preserved through the centuries. From traditional ceremonies to gathering medicinal plants, you’ll have the chance to learn about local traditions and ways of life.
While jungle trekking offers many benefits, there are also several challenges, risks, and dangers you should be aware of when planning your trek. By staying informed about the risks and taking sufficient preventative measures, you’ll increase your chances of having a safe and enjoyable adventure in the jungle.
Jungles are often located in the tropics and experience soaring temperatures and high humidity. While temperatures may not reach levels like those seen in desert hiking areas, such as the American Southwest, the thermometer only tells part of the story. The extreme humidity in jungles makes the air feel much hotter than it really is because sweat does not readily evaporate from the skin.
The high heat and humidity in jungles also increase the risk of dehydration and hyponatremia (low sodium levels in the blood). Since humans tend to sweat more in high humidity, jungle trekkers lose significant amounts of fluids and salts as they sweat. Make sure to consume enough water and electrolytes before, during, and after your hike. Consuming salty snacks and electrolyte powders is a great way to keep your salt levels balanced while trekking in the jungle.
Due to the dense vegetation, even well-maintained trails can quickly become overgrown in the jungle. This makes navigation and trail finding challenging and can be very dangerous for inexperienced hikers. If you’re tackling the trails on your own rather than with a reputable guide, it’s crucial that you have strong outdoor navigation and wilderness survival skills.
As the name suggests, rainforests experience torrential rainstorms and are some of the wettest places on earth. In the Amazon Rainforest, for example, the average annual rainfall is around 120 inches (305 cm), but certain areas can get almost 400 inches (1016 cm) of rain in a single year. The heavy rainfall can make hiking unpleasant and uncomfortable, but it can also lead to hazardous trail conditions. Muddy and slippery trails are the norm when jungle trekking, and some areas even have a risk of landslides. To learn more about how to prepare for hiking in the rain, check out our detailed post here.
Tropical and subtropical areas around the world have various health threats that are unique to or more prevalent in these climates. These include parasitic worms, leeches, and mosquito-borne diseases like malaria, dengue, and yellow fever.
While most people who travel to the tropics don’t experience any major health issues, it’s important to understand the risks in the countries you’re visiting and take measures to protect your health. Some things you can do to reduce your risk include avoiding walking barefoot, using a good insect repellent, and wearing leech socks. It’s also a good idea to check if you need any vaccinations or any preventative medications, such as malaria pills, ahead of your trip.
Blisters and chafing are always a possibility when trekking, but the wet, humid conditions in jungles increase the likelihood of experiencing these issues. One of the best ways to reduce your risk of blisters is by wearing high-quality hiking socks and hiking boots or trail running shoes that fit you well. You should also let your feet dry out whenever possible and take early action against any hotspots that start to form.
To help prevent chafing, wear fast-drying, moisture-wicking clothing, consider using a skin lubricant in high-friction areas, and wear bike shorts or spandex to reduce thigh rubbing and irritation.
Most countries in tropical and subtropical regions of the world offer chances to try jungle trekking, but some of these places stand out as exceptional trekking destinations. Here are ten of the best countries in the world for jungle trekking.
Malaysia, particularly Malaysian Borneo, is one of the most popular destinations for jungle trekking thanks to its expansive jungles, rich biodiversity, and gorgeous scenery. Mount Kinabalu, the tallest peak on the island of Borneo, is a fantastic spot that takes trekkers from the Sabah jungle to Low’s Peak at 13,435 feet (4,095 m). Other top places for jungle trekking in Malaysia include Teman Negara and its ancient rainforests, Bako National Park in Sarawak, Danum Valley in Sabah, and Mount Datuk in Bahasa Malaysia.
With lush jungle, soaring peaks, Inca ruins, and cloud forests, Peru is a dream destination for trekkers. The Inca Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu, for example, is considered among the best rainforest trails in the world. Manu National Park is another excellent option. This UNESCO World Heritage Site in southern Peru marks the convergence of the Amazon Basin and the Tropical Andes. The pristine tropical forests and grasslands in Manu National Park are home to exceptional biodiversity, including jaguars, pumas, capybaras, and the endangered Andean Mountain Cat.
Nearly half of Indonesia is forested, and these lush jungles are filled with incredible trails and wildlife. The village of Bukit Lawang in North Sumatra is Indonesia’s premier jungle trekking destination. The area is home to the Harapan Rainforest, which contains around 20 percent of the remaining forest in Sumatra. Hikers can enjoy treks of varying lengths, with guided single-day excursions and multi-day adventures. The biodiverse region is home to endangered species like orangutans, the Sumatran rhinoceros, and the Sumatran tiger.
Kerinci Seblat National Park, also on the island of Sumatra, is another top pick among trekkers. The park covers 5,325 square miles (13,791 km²) and extends into four different provinces: West Sumatra, Bengkulu, Jambi, and South Sumatra. With active volcanoes, hot springs, caves, waterfalls, rivers, and rapids, the park is an exciting destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
Adventurous travelers looking for an off-the-beaten-path destination should consider jungle trekking in Papua New Guinea. The 60-mile (96-km) Kokoda Track is the country’s best trek, but it’s not for the faint of heart. The dense jungle vegetation, significant elevation gain, large temperature swings, and mountainous terrain make the Kokoda Track one of the hardest treks in the world. The Lark Force Wilderness Track in East New Britain is an easier 37-mile (60-km) route that offers a fantastic, uncrowded experience in the pristine jungle.
As one of the most popular countries to visit in Southeast Asia, Thailand ranks high up on many travelers’ bucket lists. Khao Sok National Park in southern Thailand is a fantastic place to enjoy jungle trekking. The nature reserve is home to dense jungle, extensive wildlife, gorgeous waterways, and one of the oldest rainforests on the planet. Chiang Mai in mountainous northern Thailand is also an ideal base for jungle trekkers. The region offers numerous multi-day treks with overnight stays in hill tribe villages and additional activities like whitewater rafting.
Nepal is famous for its Himalayan treks, but the country is also home to dense jungles, especially near the Indian border. If you want to experience the best of Nepal’s diverse landscapes, try the Annapurna Circuit. This popular trek takes 12-16 days and takes you through the subtropical jungle, soaring mountain passes, and a high-altitude plateau.
If you’re looking for a more classic jungle trekking experience, check out Chitwan National Park and Bardiya National Park. Chitwan is more accessible and closer to the capital of Kathmandu, while Bardiya is more remote. The parks are home to diverse wildlife, like tigers, rhinos, elephants, and leopards.
While many people associate Australia with sunny beaches and the dry, remote Outback, the country is also a fantastic destination for jungle trekking. The Daintree Rainforest in northeastern Queensland is a tropical lowland rainforest that has been growing for over 180 million years.
As the world’s oldest continually surviving tropical rainforest, Daintree is a wonderful place to trek through the jungle. You can explore numerous hiking trails, with chances to spot unique flora and fauna like tree-kangaroos and southern cassowaries. The area offers a rare combination of environments, including tropical rainforest, fringing coral reefs, and white sand beaches. Daintree Rainforest is not far from the coastal towns of Cairns and Port Douglas, making it easy to get there on a day trip.
The Otways in Victoria is another excellent place to explore Australia’s rainforest. The area has numerous waterfalls and hiking trails, including a 600-meter-long Treetop Walk.
Rwanda’s incredible scenery and wildlife are making it an increasingly popular destination among outdoor enthusiasts. Volcanoes National Park is one of Rwanda’s top spots for jungle trekking. Located in northern Rwanda, the park is one of the best places in the world to see endangered mountain gorillas in the wild. In addition to gorillas, trekkers in Volcanoes National Park will have the chance to spot elephants, hyenas, buffalo, golden monkeys, and other primates.
Nyungwe Forest National Park in southwestern Rwanda is home to one of Africa’s oldest and best-preserved rainforests. The area is known as a chimpanzee trekking destination and is a spectacular place to explore the high-altitude, mountainous rainforest.
As one of the most biodiverse countries on earth, Costa Rica is an exciting place to visit for trekkers who want to see unique flora and fauna in the jungle. Since around a quarter of the country is protected as a national park, wildlife refuge, or biological reserve, there are tons of exciting places to explore and hike. Monteverde Cloud Forest is one of Costa Rica’s top trekking destinations. There are numerous day hikes you can choose from, or you can opt for a multi-day tour with visits to more top sites in Costa Rica.
Trekking is one of the best ways to experience Laos’s unspoiled jungles and traditional villages. Visiting this country’s dense jungle landscapes feels in many ways like you’re stepping back in time. The Phongsali region is incredibly remote and makes an ideal destination for adventurous explorers. The town of Luang Prabang in hilly northern Laos is a fantastic starting point to explore the magical waterfalls and forests in the countryside. Also in the north, Luang Namtha is a perfect place to escape the crowds and trek through the jungle wilderness. Whichever of these Laos jungle trekking destinations you choose, you’re sure to find incredible landscapes with abundant wildlife.
Packing the right gear for jungle trekking makes the trip safer and much more enjoyable. The list below is a general guide for items to consider bringing on your jungle trek. The list can be tweaked according to the region you’re visiting, what kind of lodging you’ll have, and whether or not you’re trekking with a guide or tour agency. If you’re booking a guided jungle trek, check with your tour operator to see if they have a recommended gear list and what kind of equipment they provide. That way, you’ll have a better idea of what you need on your specific trek.
Here are some items you should consider bringing with you on a jungle trek:
- Sturdy hiking boots or trail running shoes that fit you well and are broken in
- High-quality hiking socks with moisture-wicking and antimicrobial properties, such as Silverlight socks
- Fast-drying, breathable clothing (synthetic materials or wool blends are best), including base layers, short-sleeved shirts, long-sleeved shirts, underwear, spandex or bike shorts, hiking pants, hiking shorts
- Rain gear: rain jacket or shell, rain pants, and waterproof gaiters
- Leech socks
- Insect repellent with DEET, permethrin-treated clothing, and a mosquito net
- Sun protection, including a wide-brimmed hat (also doubles as a rain hat), sunscreen, lip balm with SPF, buff or bandana
- Sleep system and shelter: hammock shelters are a great option in the jungle, but tents may be preferable in some areas
- Fleece or lightweight jacket if you’re in an area with cooler temperatures
- First aid kit, over-the-counter and prescription medications, and blister prevention kit
- Knife or multitool and gear repair kit
- Headlamp and extra batteries
- Dry bags or waterproof stuff sacks to keep your gear dry
- Garbage bags and plastic baggies for added waterproofing
- Backpack with rain cover
- Trekking poles
- Phone, camera, solar charging banks for your electronics
- Personal toiletries (soap, shampoo, etc.)
- Hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes
- Personal hygiene products (toilet paper, pee cloth, wet wipes, feminine hygiene products, etc.) stored in a resealable plastic bag to protect them from moisture
- Small, quick-dry towels
- Electrolyte powders, energy bars, and salty snacks
- Swimwear for bathing and swimming in rivers
- Sturdy sandals
- Water purification and filtration system, iodine tablets
- Hydration reservoir and/or reusable water bottles
- Navigation system, such as a map and compass or GPS
- Camp dinnerware set
- Backpacking stove, fuel, and cooking utensils if you’re preparing your own meals
- Waterproof matches or a lighter
- Small trowel
- Safety whistle
- Passport, documents, cash, credit/debit cards
For more packing tips and advice, you can view our other Gear Tips posts here.
Jungle trekking is an exhilarating way to explore remote areas in the world’s rainforests. Although these wet, densely vegetated environments create some added challenges for hikers, they are incredibly rewarding places to experience the outdoors. From spotting rare wildlife like orangutans and mountain gorillas to listening to the humming symphony of birds, insects, and flowing water, jungle trekking offers many unforgettable memories. Before setting off on your jungle adventure, make sure you understand your destination’s particular challenges and risks, consider going with a licensed local guide, and pack carefully to ensure you have all the equipment you need for a safe and enjoyable trip.
Do you have any questions or tips to share about jungle trekking? Let us know in the comments!