RAFTING THROUGH THE RÍO PLÁTANO BIOSPHERE RESERVE [HONDURAS]
Hail the monkey god on this 12-day rafting expedition through the R'o Pltano Biosphere Reserve in eastern Honduras, a primordial jungle where more than 100 archaeological sites are covered with petroglyphs of the primate deity. On the R'o Pltano, you'll run Class III-IV rapids and float through serene limestone grottos, encountering en route the full Animal Planet menagerie of macaws, tapirs, spider monkeys, anteaters, and, with any luck, jaguars. At trip's end, you'll "hot dance" in a Garifuna Indian village. OUTFITTER: La Moskitia Ecoaventuras, 011-504-441-0839, www.honduras.com/moskitia. WHEN TO GO: December-August. PRICE: $1,430-$1,765. DIFFICULTY: moderate. DOCUMENTING RARE RAINFOREST PLANTS [CAMEROON]
Thanks to 4,000 resident species of plants, Cameroon's 6,500-foot Backossi Mountains are a horticulturalist's dream. Join scientists from England's Royal Botanic Gardens and Bantu guides for 13 days to help inventory rare forest flora such as endangered orchids, edible fruits, and a new species of bird's-nest fern. You'll camp in a nearby village or bunk in a community hall and learn to prepare local fare, including plantains, fu-fu corn, and cassava. OUTFITTER: Earthwatch Expeditions, 800-776-0188, www.earthwatch.org. WHEN TO GO: March-May, October-November. PRICE: $1,295. DIFFICULTY: moderate.
EXPLORING NAM HA [LAOS]
The Lao equivalent of a national park, the 858-square-mile Nam Ha National Biodiversity and Conservation Area in northwestern Laos offers some of Southeast Asia's wildest rafting and trekking. Spend ten days paddling Class III whitewater on both the Nam Ha and Nam Tha rivers, sleeping in villages and bamboo-and-thatch bungalows at the Boat Landing Ecolodge, and trekking with local guides deep into the jungle, on the lookout for tailless fruit bats and Asiatic black bears. OUTFITTER: AquaTerra Ventures, 011-61-8-9494-1616, www.aquaterra-ventures.com. WHEN TO GO: June-January. PRICE: $1,150. DIFFICULTY: easy to moderate.
ECO-TRAIL SAFARI IN KRUGER NATIONAL PARK [SOUTH AFRICA]
Go trekking with rangers on the newly designated Lebombo Eco-Trail, which runs for more than 300 miles along the previously off-limits eastern border of South Africa's Kruger National Park and Mozambique. You might encounter rhinos, zebras, and even the lowly dung beetle in Africa's most biodiverse park. You'll also trek into nearby 200-million-year-old Blyde River Canyon and stalk lions on a walking safari. OUTFITTER: Sierra Club, 415-977-5522, www.sierraclub.org/outings. WHEN TO GO: September-October. PRICE: $3,695-$3,995. DIFFICULTY: moderate.
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