You've been warned!
Jungles are stunning. Boasting mind-blowing biodiversity, inhabited by the most beautiful creatures on Earth, concealing some of the most spectacular natural treasures, they have long been one of the most exciting things to visit in this world. But they can be immensely dangerous for humans. Be it animals, flora, or weather conditions, jungles live by their own rules. And in the majority of cases, these rules are too tough for the ordinary human being to handle. Often disrespecting these laws means injury, illness, and subsequent death. Jungles are to be treated with respect. Some are to be avoided altogether. We’d like to take you on an adrenaline-infused journey to the latter.
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WHERE: Colombia and Panama
One of the rainiest places in the world, the Darién Gap is undoubtedly among the most dangerous too. It’s here that the Panamerican highway, which connects North and South America, stops. It’s a gap, if you will. And a terrifying one at that.
Stepping inside the lush jungles of the Darién Gap without a professional local guide often can be equivalent to suicide. Apart from the natural dangers like heavy rainfalls, hard terrains, the absence of trails, poisonous flora and fauna, there are also human-made ones. This National Park is located right at the border of Colombia and Panama, a vital land connection that sees regular migrant crossings and drug trafficking. Also, the FARC, a Colombian Marxist guerilla group is actively present here. This creates additional dangers to potential travelers attempting to cross the jungle that can result in kidnappings and deaths.
While it is not generally recommended to attempt trekking here, since the beginning of the 20th century there have been many attempts to cross the Darién Gap on a bike, on a Range Rover, or a motorcycle. In 1979, evangelist Arthus Blessit even tried it on foot while bearing a giant wooden cross. Nevertheless, the advice is quite obvious: you probably shouldn’t go there, and definitely don’t go there on your own.
Translated as “The Dark Forest,” Andharban is a jungle stretch near the historic city of Pune in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. A medium-level hike leads you to the breathtaking views of the lush hills, endless waterfalls, and spellbinding valleys. While it is not dangerous per se, during the monsoon season there are typically reports of people missing, getting lost, and dying on the trek. The unpredictability of the weather and extremely heavy rain can create floods in a matter of seconds and it’s very easy to get in trouble in Andharban. Still, it’s a gorgeous and underrated outdoor jungle adventure that is quite accessible to embark on. But if you decide to do it, take an extra precaution and come in prepared.
INSIDER TIPIf you are on the lookout for other dangerous wildlife in India, there are villages in the southern Gujarat state where humans live side-by-side with extremely perilous mugger crocodiles. For dwellers of the Charotar region, seeing a reptile in the courtyard is no big deal.
Papua New Guinea Jungle
WHERE: Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is astounding–a place still untouched by mass tourism. Located just off the northern tip of Australia, it remains an enigma for the majority of travelers. The third-biggest island country in the world, it boasts a whopping 851 indigenous languages spoken on its sprawling territory and includes mind-blowing biodiversity.
And then there’s the endless Papua jungle. The country is home to the world’s largest rainforest after the Amazon and Congo. While it’s gorgeous, it’s also an extremely perilous place to be. Firstly, there are several uncontacted Indigenous tribes that don’t want to meet you. Secondly, meeting the local animals like cassowary (a.k.a. the world’s most dangerous bird), six-foot-long Papuan black snake (whose venom paralyzes you in a matter of hours), and a hooded pitohui (or a toxic bird) doesn’t sound too welcoming either.
Uru-Eu-Uaw-Uaw Indigenous Territory
Uru-Eu-Uaw-Uaw Indigenous Territory is located deep in the Amazon jungle of the Brazilian state of Rondônia. It’s home to several Indigenous tribes, many of whom are uncontacted. Ranchers and loggers, however, have sought to seize parts of the forest, leading to an ongoing war for the land, which has often resorted to violence and mass killings. This makes the jungle territory an exceptionally unsafe place for any outsider. But more importantly, it’s a sad case of conflict between economic interests and an indigenous way of life.
North Sentinel Island Jungle
WHERE: North Sentinel Island, India
The Sentinelese tribe is one of the last isolated Indigenous people in the world. Their Indigenous home, North Sentinel Island, possesses an untouched natural beauty and miles of pristine jungle. However, the Sentinelese have made it clear that they do not wish to be contacted, and there have been incidents where people who attempted to get in touch with them were killed in an attack. The most recent case was that of an American Christian evangelist, John Allen Chau, who attempted to get to the island illegally by bribing fishermen to take him there. With a mission to convert the Sentinelese to Christianity, Chau tried to get close to the island several times and later was killed, presumably by an arrow.
Some parts of the world deserve not to be touched by globalization, often because contact may bring death to the community through diseases and destroy their way of life.
In the heart of the Amazon rainforest, there is a river so hot it can boil alive any animal or human that has the misfortune to fall into its waters. It sounds like a romantic jungle legend, except it’s actually true. Smoke wafts above this 82-foot wide and 20-foot deep miracle of nature. At the hottest points, it can reach a deadly temperature of 94 degrees Celsius (201 degrees Fahrenheit).
The origins of such an anomaly are shrouded in local lore and ecological disaster. The river existed in the legends of the Mayantuyacu Amazonian community that lives along its shores. They believe that this body of water is home to Yacumama, a mighty snake-like river spirit. Research led by Andrés Ruzo, who authored a book on the river, has shown that such extreme temperatures are most probably caused by the fault-fed thermal springs that flow into the river because of the malevolent practices of the large oil companies upstream.
Sơn Đoòng Cave
Like something out of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, Hang Sơn Đoòng cave in Vietnam is a geological feat to behold. In fact, it’s one of the largest caves in the world, so gigantic that there is a jungle inside. Yes, you read that right, a full-fledged rainforest ecosystem underground. Moreover, the size of this subterranean miracle is so big that you can easily place the whole of downtown L.A. underneath and the skyscrapers wouldn’t even scratch the ceiling. Oh, and there is also an underground river to make it even more scenic.
Grand as it is, it is a very difficult place to get in. Vietnam allows only a certain number of visitors per year and it seems logical. Without proper guidance, you’ll find yourself among all the dangers the ordinary jungle possesses and it’s all underground. Definitely not your regular hassle-free cave visit experience with a few passages and several cool stalactites inside.
Central Amazon Basin
The Amazon river is Earth’s longest and one of its most precious waterways. Also, it is the home of red-bellied piranhas and candiru. In other words, finding Nemo would be close to impossible with these predators around. Piranhas are well-known beasts poeticized in horror movies and shown in aquariums around the world. A drop of blood and any body part in the water and you risk being eaten in a matter of seconds by these sharp teeth-bearing creatures of the Amazon. Candiru fish are a less-known menace, but its ways are much more pain-inducing. You see, while piranha does the killing quickly, candiru invades the urethra. That’s why locals treat rivers with respect and extra care. Nobody wants to be an object of a piranha attack, much less a candiru one. Still, these creatures are a part of a threatened Amazon ecosystem and they are a work of beauty in their own twisted way.
The list of deadly animals in the jungles of Malaysia is long and colorful. Starting with a gorgeous Malaysian tiger that, although rare, can still be lurking around, to the omnipresent disease-bearing mosquito; from giant attacking elephants to huge poisonous tarantulas. Also, you can add illegal poachers and loggers who are often armed and ready to kill anyone who interferes with their delinquent and nature-threatening deeds. In fact, Malaysian rainforests tell a tale about mistreating a huge ecosystem. As the number of animals is decreasing due to deforestation, hunting, and industrial mining, soon enough the lush greenery will become a thing of the past.
INSIDER TIPA great thing about Malaysia is that you can have a danger-free jungle experience too, staying at one of the many wildlife resorts around the country. There is a superb Mulu Marriott Resort and Spa, Belum Rainforest Resort next to the 130-million-year-old Belum-Temengor Rainforest and Tabin Wildlife Resort, which has excellent animal-watching opportunities.