6 of the world’s most extraordinary forests

By Shona Owen

Not all forests were created equal. Some are utterly mind-boggling and out-of-this-world beautiful, and worth travelling half way across the world to see. Here are six that should be on your list.

1- Madagascar

Photo: Dudarev Mikhail / Shutterstock

1. The Avenue of the Baobabs, Madagascar

Madagascan folklore describes the baobab as the most beautiful of all trees: they are said to have boasted of their beauty so enthusiastically that God decided to turn them upside down forever. Lining a dirt road in the Menabe region, this unique baobab forest reaches 98 feet high with some trees more than 800 years old. Named the ‘mother of the forest’, the baobab helps support animal life, with the hollow bark home to snakes, bats, bush babies and even humans, and the fruit and leaves are important sources of food and medicine. Capable of storing up to 100,000 litres of water in its trunks, the baobab is quite literally the African ‘tree of life’.

2- Zimbabwe

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2. Petrified trees of Kariba, Zimbabwe

Ghosts of Zimbabwe’s past poke through the calm waters of Lake Kariba, creating a spectacular and eerie sight. Among the largest man-made lakes in the world, Kariba was created when the Zambezi River was dammed in the early 1960s, covering an area of around 5,000km². Once a forest of acacia, mopane and marula trees, it is now home to crocodiles and hippos while elephants, fish eagles and lions roam the lake shores.

3- Japan

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3. Sagano Bamboo Forest, Japan

Situated along the western edge of Kyoto, Sagano Bamboo Forest became popular during the Heian period (794 to 1185) when noblemen would use it as a quiet refuge away from court. Now you’re unlikely to get the place to yourself as it’s a favourite spot for locals to dress up in kimonos and have their photos taken. However, one phenomenon makes it unique: the sound of the leaves rustling in the wind and the creaking of the 30ft-tall bamboo as it grows up to 100cm per day. It has been selected by the Japanese government as one of 100 sounds that should be heard and preserved in Japan.

4- Poland

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4. Crooked Forest, Poland

Planted in 1930, the Crooked Forest in western Poland is steeped in mystery, with no evidence as to how the grove of 400 pine trees grew with a 90-degree bend in the base of their trunks. There’s a host of theories ranging from beliefs that snow damage caused the odd curve to the idea that the wood was deliberately shaped for ship and furniture construction. Taking the knowledge with them, most of the men in the area were called up for military service in the Second World War, leaving behind traces of a history lost in the form of these bizarrely shaped trees.

5- California

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5. Giant kelp forests of Monterey Bay, California

Sprouting faster than bamboo, the giant underwater kelp forests can grow as much as 2ft each day. Held upright by air-filled bladders, kelp fronds reach straight up for the surface, creating a subterranean cityscape. The kelp beds of Southern California are home to rockfish, leopard sharks, sea otters and sea lions. Grab your scuba gear and take an underwater tour of Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary as you descend into the depths of the green algae.

6- Costa-Rica

Photo: Dmitry Burlakov / Shutterstock

6. Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica

Straddling 10,500 hectares of virgin forest, Costa Rica’s Monteverde Cloud Forest is an ornithological melting pot of more than 400 bird species, including 30 varieties of hummingbird. Exotically named, outrageously plumed and all visible from the treetop walkways, you can witness everything from the iconic Keel-billed Toucan to the fabulous Resplendent Quetzal. You can trek into the forest and walk across treetop suspension bridges, or swing over the forest on the world’s longest zipline.

Exsus Travel can arrange a tailor-made holiday to any of these destinations.

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