Jewels of the Earth: 4 Stunning Rainforests That Need To Be On Your Bucket List
Due to the coronavirus and worldwide lockdown, we can't get on a plane right now and go travel to these incredible places. So instead, let's discover them the next best way- virtually!
The beauty of the natural world never ceases to amaze me. Whether I step out my front door to go about my day or I'm hiking a trail, there are countless natural wonders that capture my attention and curiosity. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in thinking that rainforests are one of the most awe-inspiring, amazing, magical places on earth. And in this post, I want to talk about why rainforests deserve a standing ovation.
Rainforests are not just incredibly beautiful, bucket-list-worthy places to travel to; they also play a huge role in keeping our planet healthy. They are responsible for regulating the climate by continuously recycling huge amounts of water that feed rivers and lakes. Without them, droughts would become more common leading to widespread famine and disease.
I'll bet you'll be surprised to learn that tropical rainforests contains over 30 million species of plants and animals. That's half of the Earth's wildlife, and at least two-thirds of its plant species!
But the craziest part is that scientists haven't even discovered all the different species living in rainforests. There are millions more that are just waiting to be discovered.
And if you aren't impressed enough already, wait till you hear that rainforests are Earth's oldest living ecosystem. Yup! Some are at least 70 million years old. Mind equals blown.
A few more fun facts about rainforests:
More than 25% of our modern medicine originates from tropical rainforests.
Many common houseplants are the same species that make up rainforest ecosystems!
It's not just tropical: there are many beautiful temperate rainforests found in cooler, generally coastal areas.
Tropical or temperate, there is truly no place on earth that compares to a rainforest. If you're like me, you're ready to pack your bag and go. But where to start?
Journey into the Jungle: Costa Rica's Tropical Rainforests
Known for its progressive natural world preservation and environmentally-friendly legislation, Costa Rica is an ideal volunteering destination for nature lovers. Many volunteers join conservation efforts that allow them to make genuine contributions toward protecting Costa Rica's stunning landscape and wildlife. In fact, this Central American gem is home to 4.5% of the entire planet's biodiversity!
If adventure is what you're after, venture to this country's national parks such as Corcovado and Manuel Antonio. Other popular adventure travel destinations include Monteverde, Montezuma, and Fortuna. Many of these locations have environmental projects, such as organic coffee farms and wildlife rehabilitation centers, which are an amazing way to get involved while you enjoy your travels to this gorgeous country.
Tortuguero National Park is dubbed "The Amazon of Costa Rica" for good reason: It encompasses 11 different habitats: mangrove, rainforest, rivers, canals, and lagoons. The area is also a popular nesting site for many Leatherback and Green Sea Turtles. In fact, La Tortuga Feliz is a non-profit that aims to protect sea turtles with the help of volunteers. Poaching turtles (and their eggs) as a source of income is illegal, and La Tortuga Feliz makes sure volunteers and locals work together to patrol the beach and care for recuperating turtles in the rescue and rehabilitation center.
Want to hang out with sloths? The Sloth Institute's mission is to enhance and expand the welfare and conservation of sloths through research and education. Their programs aim to negate human encroachment issues impacting sloth welfare and habitat.
For those looking to make a career in conservation, then you might be interested in the Sloth Institute's six-month volunteer internship program! Yes, you'll be hot, sweat, wet, eaten up by mosquitos, sore and tired, but if you feel that there is no other place in the world you'd rather be than watching sloths in the jungle, then this is for you!
Costa Rica has so much to offer: from the Jaguar Rescue Center to Chilamate Rainforest Eco-Retreat. No matter what project you choose, volunteering in Costa Rica is extremely rewarding and will make a lasting impact where it matters most. And Nova Conservation's new website will be there every step of the way to help you find the perfect eco-tourism option for you. Be sure to sign up for our emails to stay in the loop!
Connect with the Land in Australia's Daintree Rainforest
Let's (virtually) travel from Central America to Australia. The Daintree is the oldest tropical rainforest in the world. In fact, Daintree is so beautiful that it was the inspiration for the movie Avatar.
When Sir David Attenborough says it's "the most extraordinary place on Earth," you know its good. I mean, come on, it's the only place on earth where two World Heritage sites meet: the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef! Head to Cape Tribulation to take the famous ferry across the Daintree River, where travelers can expect to cruise into pure bliss. You might even spot a crocodile or an endangered cassowary during your journeys.
It's a must to take an authentic guided walking tour with the Aboriginal Kuku Yalanji people. You'll learn traditions that have been passed down for more than 9,000 years like spearfishing and foraging for bush foods. You'll experience first-hand the connection Kuku Yalanji people share with the land -- a lesson we all could use.
And if you've ever dreamed of sleeping in a treehouse in a rainforest, then you're going to want to stay at Silk Oaks Lodge, a luxury eco-lodge. The lodge offers a range of activities ranging from helicopter tours to an award-winning spa that specializes in natural therapies.
Want to help protect the Daintree? Rainforest Rescue is a not-for-profit organization that has been protecting and restoring rainforests in Australia and internationally since 1999. Their projects re-establish rainforests through planting, maintenance, and restoration programs, as well as purchasing and protecting high conservation value rainforests.
Their latest mission, Daintree Vision 2040, is an effort to buy back all remaining threatened rainforest properties in the Daintree. Volunteers wanting to get involved are in luck: They will tailor your skills and find projects suited just for you!
The Daintree Rainforest is a trip that checks off all the boxes that make up the perfect #ConservationVacation. With the launch of our new site in October, Nova Conservation is ready to connect you to these incredible places.
Explore PNW's Coastal Gem: The Olympic Rainforest
Traveling back across the Pacific, you'll find the Olympic Rainforest: the world's most expansive temperate rainforest and one of North America's most iconic landscapes.
For any Twilight fans out there, you might be familiar with the Olympic Rainforest region. It is, after all, the same place Bella Swan described as being a green alien land (which, looking at these pictures, seems pretty accurate!)
Forget vampires: It's here in Washington that real environmental conservation efforts are being made.
The Clearwater Forest Reserve, owned by The Nature Conservancy, is focused on practicing sustainable, ecological forestry principles to experiment, restore, and provide natural resource resiliency. Conservancy foresters and ecologists are planting trees, restoring important salmon and wildlife habitat, and implementing sustainable practices to restore these forests.
Looking to get involved in citizen science? You can volunteer to hike to locations in the Olympic National Park to record data about the declining number of Olympic marmots within the park.
If you only have a few hours, you can still help! Why not join a beach cleanup to beautify the Olympic coastline? Olympic National Park partners with Washington CoastSavers for two annual cleanup events. If you're visiting the area during the summer, take some time out to help conservation on your vacation.
The Tongass Temperate Rainforest: Alaska's Crown Jewel
If experiencing true wilderness is on your bucket list then a visit to Tongass National Forest is for you! This 17 million acre-stretch of Alaskan Wilderness is considered to be one of the last remaining intact temperate rainforests in the world. The Tongass is an island archipelago where you can view eagles, bears, salmon, whales, and wildlife galore! Hike or take a sled-dog ride on a glacier, fish in streams or the ocean, and then relax at a remote cabin.
Sound like a dream come true? It is!
Unfortunately, Alaska's crown jewel is in serious danger.
The Tongass, dubbed the "lungs of the country" is a major carbon absorber and essential in the fight against climate change. But President Trump is moving full speed to strip Bristol Bay, even after scientists found it would result in “complete loss of fish habitat” from lack of environmental protection. Decisions from the Trump administration are expected to be made soon on whether or not this 20 square mile mining operation, known as Pebble Mine, will be permitted in the heart of Alaska.
To add insult to injury, the administration approved a plan to open up 1.6 million acres of the Coastal Plain in the neighboring Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas development, as well as plans to lift restrictions on logging in the Tongass.
This will not stand. Go here to write to our president and your local representatives.
Another way you can contribute is to is to turn your next vacation into a give-back trip. Tongass National Forest welcomes volunteers of all backgrounds and ages. Depending on your length of stay, volunteers and interns contribute to forest activities such as counting birds, maintaining hiking trails, restoring watersheds, and serving as campground hosts.
As you can see, rainforests do a number of cool things for us. And I didn't even get to mention all the others (I didn't forget about you, Amazon).
These incredible regions are a source of fascination and incredible importance. However, the biggest threat to rainforests is both direct and indirect human-caused destruction.
The good news is you can help the rainforests and the wildlife living in them. And the next time you're planning a vacation, consider traveling to the rainforest to witness nature's jewels for yourself.