A trip to the rainforest is not at the top of everyone’s travel wish list. And, it’s certainly not the first place many parents think of when planning a family holiday. However, this post will show you that there are many great reasons you should visit the rainforest with kids.
It’s thought that tropical forests cover under 10% of Earth’s land mass and only 3% of Earth’s total surface area. However, they have the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Consequently, they offer the widest variety of animals and plants anywhere on earth.
Taking your family to a rainforest would create a unique travel opportunity and leave you with unforgettable memories. Whether you plan a trip to the rainforest in South America, Africa or to South East Asia you are certain to have the trip of a lifetime.
Read on to find out what you can do when you visit the rainforest with kids and our best reasons to go:-
See amazing wildlife
Of course, the main reason anyone would visit the rainforest with kids is for the wildlife. Without exception, children love animals.
Obviously, everyone has their own personal favourite animal to see and this may influence where you choose to go.
The Amazon is the largest tropical rainforest in the world and can offer the widest variety of species. However, if you want to seek out a specific, endemic species, you should research the best place to go. For example, head to Rwanda or Uganda in Africa for mountain gorillas, Madagascar for lemurs or the Galapagos Islands for giant turtles. However, if, like us, it’s orangutans you want to see, you’ll need to go to Borneo in Asia.
If you want to guarantee that you’ll see a protected species, there may be a local conservation centre you can visit. Here you will find endangered animals which have been rehabilitated after being orphaned. Centres such as Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Borneo or the Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage in Uganda care for abandoned, endangered animals and help rehabilitate them in their natural habitat.
Develop the power of observation
For the real jungle experience, get out of town and head deep into the rainforest. However, it’s not like a zoo and the rainforest wildlife won’t always be easy to spot. Therefore, kids need to be patient and develop their observational skills. Animals may be high in the canopy (trees) or low on the ground. The wildlife will often have good camouflage or be wary of humans (except for monkeys, which are everywhere!).
Remember to take quality binoculars for the family and teach your children to focus. This way, they’ll get the ultimate close-up experience. Kids will soon get the hang of it and before long, will know exactly what they’re looking for and where to look.
Spotting the animals will become an integral part of the adventure. There is certainly kudos in being the first to spot one!
Connect with nature
If you’re travelling to the rainforest with children, it’s advisable to book a guided tour. This will likely include all river tours, rainforest treks and night walks. These tours generally include a local guide, food, accommodation, and transfers and provide the perfect opportunity for spotting wildlife.
Often an early morning or sunset boat tour is the best way to spot the animals, as they come down to the river bank at the cooler time to drink.
However, don’t just expect to see wildlife when you are on a trek. Train your children to enjoy the nature in the vicinity of the lodge. Look out for a monitor lizard strolling around the huts or a gecko sitting on your table. Watch out on the railing for a resting preying mantis or the little, brown frog squelching in the mud.
As your children become more observant, they’ll be the first to spot these. Just remind them not to pick anything up!
Awaken your senses
It is likely that a rainforest adventure will be a new experience for any family. Therefore, this is an ideal opportunity for the whole family to maximise the use of their senses.
In the rainforest, the cacophony of screeching, buzzing, and squawking from animals, insects and birds is constant. At first, this racket is overwhelming, but you’ll soon attune your ears to the never-ending concert of rainforest sounds. Kids love guessing which sound belongs to each creature.
There will also be an abundance of new colours to enjoy. Brightly coloured flora and fauna will be everywhere, so keep your kids on the lookout. Even better, let them have their turn with the camera, so they can really appreciate what they are seeing. It may be worth investing in a waterproof one if you are taking river trips.
In addition to new sights and sounds, your nose will definitely appreciate the fresh scent of flowers and ancient trees. A welcome change to the normal odour of cars and factories. It won’t take long to find out why the rainforest is often referred to as the “lungs of the planet”.
Meet the locals
On the journey to the rainforest, children will pass local villages. Visit one if you get the chance. It will be a great experience to see the contrast in lifestyles and cultures of the local people. Children will recognise differences, both positive and negative and can appreciate things they take for granted at home.
Your rainforest guide will be the best person for the children to quiz on real life in the jungle. They will have plenty of genuine rainforest experiences to keep the children (and you) entertained and enthralled.
Kids can enjoy tales of home raids by cheeky macaques, childhood experiences of getting lost in the rainforest, accounts of unexpected encounters with snakes and elephants. Not the sort of bedtime story they will get at home.
Connect with new people
As well as meeting the locals, your children can connect with other travellers. It is highly likely that there won’t be many other kids on the trip. However, backpackers are generally friendly and more than happy to share stories of their travels.
Children can learn a lot from contacting with new people from around the world and discovering new viewpoints. Making new connections can help develop children’s confidence and social skills.
A visit to a rainforest with kids can also help strengthen healthy family relationships. You will be spending a lot of time together, creating memories to look back on for years to come.
Have fun, whilst learning
A visit to the rainforest with kids is certainly educational, as well as being fun. What better way to learn about the habits of rainforest wildlife than to see them in action? What can beat learning about environmental issues, than seeing them first-hand?
An actual trip to the rainforest will pique their interest in the natural world more than any book or movie could possibly hope to achieve.
Reduce your child's screen time
The rainforest is a perfect holiday destination if you want to reduce your children’s screen time. There are no screens and usually no wifi. No laptops, no television, no Netflix, no phones. And the great thing is, you won’t miss it at all. In fact, with so much rainforest exploration, you’ll probably be too busy or tired to notice.
Downtime will be a much-needed relax on a shady hammock. Fresh air, mindfulness and adventure will replace sitting in front of a screen. A break from social media will benefit the whole family and time spent outdoors will improve health and wellbeing.
Face up to environmental issues
Unfortunately, it is no longer possible to visit a rainforest without confronting some of the issues of deforestation and endangered animals. Rainforests are currently being destroyed at a rate of about 78 million acres a year. Unfortunately, this is having a dramatic impact of the biodiversity of the forest.
A visit to the rainforest with kids can open young eyes to the world environmental issues. It can really help kids consider changes they can make to help.
Have fun in the rainforest
Fun must be a prime reason for taking any child on holiday. A rainforest visit may not be a traditional type of fun. However, the trip is exciting and will develop children’s explorer instinct.
The trip may take them out of their comfort zone. However, experience shows that children are quick to broaden their horizons and adapt to new environments.
A visit to the rainforest with kids will tickle their curiosity and hopefully instil a sense of wanderlust.
So, if you want to encounter some of the world’s best wildlife, connect with amazing nature and people and add some adventure to your family travels, then the rainforest is your perfect holiday destination.
We chose to go to the rainforest in Borneo on a quest to see orangutans in the wild and it really was the trip of a lifetime. If you want to read more about our family’s adventures, please read: 12-day Borneo itinerary: the ultimate travel guide.
Here you will see that our family trip to the rainforest was much more than a hunt for endangered species, as we were able to visit Turtle Island, go snorkelling on some amazing reefs and white-water rafting, as well as enjoying some much-needed relaxation time on a beautiful beach.
10 top tips for a visit to the rainforest with kids:
- Take plenty of quality mosquito repellent (with Deet).
- Pack high factor sun cream
- Bring the correct clothes – long-sleeves, long trousers and long socks are all needed for a jungle walk
- Drink lots of water
- Take some snacks
- Pack travel games or puzzle books (for downtime) – Remember there are no screens!
- Teach children to use the binoculars and camera
- Remember a torch for the night walks
- Pack a UV flashlight if you want to spot scorpions
- Have lots and lots of fun!
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