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The Gap Year Blog

5 Mysterious Jungles

9 Jun 2017 15:00 PM

Jungles are mysterious by nature, full of mist, shadow and noises but some go the extra mile with particularly eerie or baffling qualities. Time to hop in the Mystery Machine for these 5 mysterious jungles…

1. Glowing Forest, India

The forest of the Maharashtra’s Bhimashankar Wildlife Reserve near Mumbai holds a peculiar secret. If wandering the woods at the right time of year, you’ll start to see the forest glow a vivid green. This glow doesn’t come from the trees themselves but something living on them.

Foxfire fungi, otherwise known as “Fairyfire” are a group of bioluminescent mushrooms. Their glow occurs when an oxidative enzyme called luciferase reacts with the fungi’s luciferin, catalysing a glow.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons | Ylem

Foxfire is rarely seen as it depends on the time of year and the amount of rainfall. The highest chance of seeing it is in the monsoon season between June and October. Much like the Aurora Borealis, even during its peak time there’s no guarantee the Fairyfire will show but its rarity adds to its mysteriousness.    

2. The Amazon Rainforest, South America

Obviously this forest makes the list! Sprawling throughout and across the borders of 9 South American countries, namely Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Suriname, Venezuela, Guyana, Ecuador and French Guiana, the Amazon Rainforest has a total area of 2.6million square miles. The main stronghold of the Amazon is Brazil with around 60% of the nation covered by forest.

As a whole the Amazon remains one of the most unexplored areas on Earth, on par with the deep ocean and cave systems. Despite being home to 1 in 10 known species on Earth, hundreds of new species have been discovered over the past decade.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons | Neil Palmer/CIAT

Another mysterious aspect of the forest is its people. The Amazon supports around 30million people and is home to 350 known indigenous and ethnic groups. The number of indigenous groups could be larger too as uncontacted tribes may be moving deeper into the jungle in response to expanding agriculture and unsustainable development. Collectively the Amazon takes up 40% of South America and absorbs approx. 430million tonnes of Carbon each year, making it a vital asset in tackling climate change.

3. The Crooked Forest, Poland

Located in West Pomerania, while the pines of the crooked forest are not technically a jungle, they’re still one of the greatest mysteries in silviculture. The 400 or so pine trees that give the grove its name bend 90 degrees at their base, growing towards the ground before curving upwards towards the light. This shape obviously appears counterintuitive to plant function; usually taking the path of least resistance toward maximum sunlight. This is where the mystery comes into play.

No one knows how they became this shape but there are many theories. Obviously the first port of call in any unknown is “Did aliens do it?” but even beyond that other theories are improbable at best, with some being so bizarre they barely grant serious consideration.

Photo credit: Pixabay | Ivabalk

The most widely accepted theory so far is, because of the uniformity of the trees, that they were grown into shape by human intervention. The purpose of this silviculture is thought to have been for the production of ribs in the hulls of ships, pre-grown into shape for strength and convenience. However, no one knows this for certain.     

4. The Jungles of Angkor, Cambodia

Jungle in this part of the world is dense and humid and the vine-choked remnants of an ancient civilisation make it impossible not to be fully immersed upon entering.

The collapse of ancient civilisations is always a mysterious subject and the fate of the Angkor civilisation is no exception. Only the nature-reclaimed temples remain today, the most famous of which being Angkor Wat but also include “the temple of faces” Bayon and Beng Mealea, the last trace of an Angkorian road. There are many other smaller temples, structures and bridges abandoned in the jungle.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons | Francisco Anzola

If the temples on the surface weren’t enough, the tropical forest holds secrets underneath it too. Aerial surveys throughout 2012 discovered other ancient temples and settlements under the forest floor. A follow-up survey in 2015 using the latest LiDAR scanning technology revealed several cities with some of the pre-existing settlements being part of a much larger whole. Once collated and mapped the cities under the jungle were seen to be advanced metropolises with sophisticated irrigation systems, the largest of which being Phnom Kulen; a central city under Mount Kulen the size of Cambodia’s modern capital Phnom Penh. This was one of the most significant archaeological discoveries in modern times, reinforcing the notion that the Angkor Empire was the largest and most advanced of its time.

5. Sapo National Park, Liberia

Designated in 1983 Sapo is Liberia’s only national park. The park itself spans 1,804 square kilometres within Sinoe County and is bordered by the Sinoe River and Putu Mountains.

Average temperatures of 26C and 91% relative humidity can sometimes put more temperate travellers off but given that the park contains the largest enclave of the last surviving Upper Guinean forest, those who do have the chance of seeing some pretty elusive wildlife.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons | Thomas Breuer

Sapo is perhaps most famous for its Pygmy Hippos, which are in fact the largest populations in Liberia. The park also contains a number of endangered African Forest Elephants but the exact population number remains a mystery as forest elephants are notoriously difficult to survey. Otherwise a whole host of vibrant birds, big cats and primates can also be seen throughout Sapo. 

By Thomas Phillips - Online Journalism Intern

Frontier runs terrestrial & marine conservation, community, teaching and adventure projects in over 50 countries - join us and explore the world!