Adventures of a Lifetime

It’s not hard to put together a list of classic encounters with the natural world: journeying across the Serengeti, swimming in the Great Barrier Reef, trekking up Mount Kilimanjaro. But the adventures on our list go a step further, helping us discover our place on this planet. From the ancient hunting rituals of the Kalahari Bushmen to the migration trails of polar bears, these ten trips are sure to awe and inspire.

By Jeff Hull

Photo by Taylor Kennedy (Getty Images)

Enter the Heart of the Jungle­—by Day and by Night
Rio Napo, Ecuador

Napo Wildlife Center is built on a lagoon swimming with caimans, electric eels, and piranha. The center invites guides to use its waterways to transport you to its 120-foot canopy tower, from which you get a bird’s-eye view of toucans, barbets, tanagers, harpy eagles, and hundreds of other varieties flitting about the treetops. Tours also take you to mineral licks, where parrots and parakeets congregate in a festival of color; or to local villages, where you can meet the indigenous Añangu people, who operate the lodge as an economic alternative to destructive resource extraction.

In the evening, you head out onto the Amazon in a dugout canoe. As the lush floras disappear into blackness, new marvels appear. Tiny lightning bug–like insects float around the lily pads at the water’s surface, like thousands of Chinese lanterns; bats skim past in search of fish; caimans, ocelots, and other critters that spend daylight hours lurking in the foliage begin their hunt for food. When you see the caimans’ eyes shining in the beam of your flashlight, you’ll know just how close you are to that long snap-trap full of teeth. Day trips to this part of the Amazon reveal its colorful wonders, but it’s the nighttime outings that keep you tingling in your skin.

Orangutans in the Mist
Borneo, Indonesia

As the last living remnant of a rainforest that once covered most of Southeast Asia, Borneo is a lost, remote world. Much of this island, which is split between Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei, still exists as it has for ages, home to species found nowhere else on the earth, including rare Borneo pygmy elephants, orangutans, proboscis monkeys, and a significant number of tree species. At the Camp Leakey rehab center, Biruté Galdikas studies orangutans and rehabilitates captured ones for reintroduction into the wild. (Galdikas is one of the “Leakey Ladies,” the trio—Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey were the other two—of renowned primatologists led to the field by archaeologist Louis Leakey.) It’s hard to get closer to orangutans in their natural habitat than at Leakey, which runs its own trips to the jungle.

Borneo’s rainforest is so dense and bewildering that traveling on foot is nearly impossible. So a visit to Camp Leakey means you’ll be transported via kelotok boats—think the African Queen, only longer and narrower. The kelotok allows you to float under low-hanging trees where proboscis monkeys frolic overhead and to approach other wildlife you’d never get close to while crashing through the jungle. The boats ply the rivers by day and provide a comfortable place to sleep at night, but the real highlight is waking to the layers of sound pealing through the trees.
Reach Camp Leakey via the Orangutan International Foundation:

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Issue 25

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