The Heart of Adventure: The World's Top Jungles

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A trek into the jungle offers a voyage back in time to an untamed, primeval land. However, the jungle world as it has existed for millennia is undergoing changes almost daily. Thanks to the encrouching "modern" world, the rivers are being dammed, the rainforests cut, and the creatures of the wild driven from their last sanctuaries. With every passing season, primitive tribes become more modernized, and the wilderness becomes less wild. The jungles are still there, but we may be the last generation to explore such territory in all its mystery—so if you plan to go, go soon. But if you're uncertain where to go, don't worry. Just review our list of the world's best jungle habitats, grab your compass, spray on the insect repellant, and away you go.

Papua New Guinea: Back to the Roots of Man
The New Guinea tribesman, his face vividly painted, and his head ringed by an elaborate headdress, epitomizes the exotic appeal of jungle culture. Papua New Guinea, one of the last refuges of Stone Age tribes, is a land of primitive traditions, of mysticism, and of magic. For those seeking to experience unique tribal cultures, this land of razor-back mountains and hidden valleys is a compelling destination.

In recent years, interest in Papua New Guinea (PNG) has increased dramatically, as Westerners seek out what has been the ultimate in exotic travel. With the growth of tourism has come change. Few areas remain truly wild anymore, and few tribal cultures have not been altered by contact with the modern world. For instance, many people plan their trip to PNG to watch the colorful Highland ceremonies, called sing-sings. While still culturally fascinating, these shows are now performed more as tourist attractions rather than the rare and special cultural events they once were. And yet, Papua New Guinea is still exotic, with beautiful, pristine jungle habitats largely untouched by civilization and some remaining opportunities to observe ancient tribal lifestyles and customs. Many tribal peoples do remain isolated from the modern world, in villages accessible only on foot.

Consider taking a 14-day sea/land journey that combines canoeing on the Sepik River with a 4-day trek to the Tari Basin. Or consider the more popular method: combine coastal visits with short highland treks, travelling travel by foot and dugout canoe, finishing the trip with a rewarding and relaxing lodge stay.

Practically Speaking
The principal areas for tourism are the Sepik River, its tributary the Karawari River, and the high Tari Basin, home of the Huli people, so well known for their ceremonial face-painting and fantastic wig-hats.

After choosing where you want to go, do a bit of comparison shopping among the many options available. Some people will want to sleep in bamboo huts in remote villages, while others will prefer more deluxe accommodations.

There is no preferred time to travel in New Guinea. Like most equatorial regions, it has no dramatic seasonal changes. Conditions in the highlands, where most treks are run, is temperate year-round because of the 5,000-foot to 6,000-foot altitudes. Expect warm days, with light rain most afternoons and cool nights. In the coastal and Sepik River areas, days are hot and humid while nights remain warm and steamy. January to March is the wet season, and mosquitos can be very bad, so bring long pants and shirts, and the best anti-malarial medicines you can find. Good sunblock is a necessity at all times.


Paul McMenamin is the author, editor, and photo director of the original Ultimate Adventure Sourcebook.

Published: 30 Jan 2001 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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