The jungle is one of the last frontiers that we as humankind do not understand. The tangle of the jungle, with vines crisscrossing in every direction, along with the canopy of the trees, hides many hidden phenomena from us. Only the brave and adventurous have taken their machetes and chopped away at the dense vegetation to explore it. What these intrepid adventurers find is bizarre, mind-boggling, and always interesting. Scientists, archeologists, and anthropologists alike go to the jungle to learn a bit more about their fields, although they use different tools. Take a look and be shocked at the bizarre finds that people stumbled on while trekking through the jungle.
Costa Rican Spheres
In the 1930s, banana-growers flocked to the Costa Rican jungle to take advantage of the tropical temperatures needed to grow the delicious fruit. As they cleared the jungle, they discovered something that was clearly man-made: huge spheres of stone.
The stones range from tiny, to massive, two-yard-long structures weighing sixteen tons. They are protected now as historical artifacts; they are from somewhere between 300 and 1500 AD. In the past, people used to bore holes in them, thinking gold was inside (there wasn’t).
In the Guatemalan jungle, a massive stone statue of a face was uncovered in the 1950s, and forgotten about until the late 1980s, when Doctor Oscar Rafael Padilla Lara heard about it and went to go look for it.
Anticlimactically, when he found the site, the stone had been destroyed by anti-government rebels, who allegedly used the ancient sculpture for target practice. The stone head has been controversial, as the facial features are said to be Caucasian rather than pre-Hispanic, leading conspiracy theorists to purport that aliens had something to do with its formation.
Spanish conquistadors searching for gold in the Peruvian jungle were stymied at every turn by poisonous snakes, starvation, and, legend has it, the scalding waters of a boiling river.
This fantastical stream sounds like a myth from the oral traditions of the shamans from the area. However, geoscientist Andrés Ruzo actually found it in the remote jungle of Mayantuyacu. “Small mammals, reptiles, or amphibians regularly fall in and are boiled alive,” Ruzo says of the river. How this miraculous river boils is still a mystery to scientists.
The jungle forces animals to think of every survival strategy- including mind control. The Cordyceps fungus has spores that it needs to spread, but it needs to do it from a tall tree to get maximum dispersal. The problem is, the Cordyceps can’t climb itself.
What it does is diabolical. It infects ants and literally takes over their minds, forcing the zombie bugs to climb as high as they can on a tree. Then, the mushroom-like spore-spreading head bursts out of the ant, like something from Alien.
Lost City Of The Monkey God
Legend has it that there was a city in Honduras full of riches that was perhaps searched for as early as the 1520s by Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés. Since then, for five-hundred years, people have tried and failed to successfully map the so-called Lost City Of The Monkey God- until now.
Using a new laser-based technology called LIDAR, archeologists flew above and mapped the area. Lo and behold, the map revealed pyramids and plazas under the ground. They are now digging to study the details.
Swamp Ghost Rises Again
David Tallichet was an American restaurateur who is known as the father of the themed restaurant. When he wasn’t making Polynesian-themed eateries popular, he collected old warplanes.
One of the most amazing ones he bought was a World War II B-17 plane that crash-landed in a swamp in Papua New Guinea’s jungle. It was forgotten, with the vegetation in the jungle slowly overtaking it. However, in 1972, the “swamp ghost” plane was re-discovered, and transported to America for display.
Tarzan was a feral child who learned the way of survival in the jungle, but he only existed in the mind of author Edgar Rice Burroughs. However, Ho Van Lang has been living in the jungle for 41 years, and has not been touched by modern society.
His father took him to the jungle after the tragic deaths of the rest of their family during the Vietnam War and never looked back. They preferred wearing loincloths and hunting wild animals to living in society.
A fascinating species that you will find if you are in the jungle of the Congo is the Okapi, which is also known as a zebra giraffe. A quick look at how they look explains why.
Although they are not tall like giraffes, they are part of the giraffe family. The Okapi’s legs are striped, like a zebra’s. This mysterious animal was rumored for years in Europe to be a sort of African Unicorn. The animal is endangered, but mobs of armed poachers still hunt Okapi.
Drones that academics use to explore the Amazonian jungle has discovered something shocking. Aerial images show earthworks that resemble the early stages of Stonehenge. The geoglyphs were probably used for, “public gathering [and/or] ritual sites,” according to Jennifer Watling of the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography in São Paulo.
Stonehenge is actually 2500 years older than the jungle geoglyphs, but both societies were probably similarly developed socially. Watling says we should be in awe of the ” ingenuity of past subsistence regimes that did not lead to forest degradation.”
In the jungles of Sri Lanka exists one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites called Sigiriya. The main part of the site is a gigantic rock which is over 650 feet tall, and used to house a palace for King Kasyapa around the year 480 AD.
Sigiriya means lion rock, which referred to what archeologists had identified as a carved lions head, which since has unfortunately broken. The site is also an oasis of culture in the jungle- there are abundant frescos depicting priestesses on the walls.
Disappearance Of Michael Rockefeller
Michael Rockefeller was part of the Rockefeller family, with his father reaching prominence as Vice President. After attending Harvard University, Michael went to study the Asmat people of the New Guinea jungle.
At one point, the boat he was on overturned 12 miles from shore, but he told his shipmate, “I think I can make it [to shore].” Rockefeller was never found, despite an expensive and exhaustive search effort. People believe he made it to shore but was then eaten by cannibals.
In the jungles of South America exists a frog that would be helpful for biology students and anatomists alike. It is called a glass frog, as its skin is so translucent, you can see its internal organs from the outside, as if you have X-ray vision!
They are small, from 1.2-3 inches long, and you can even see its heart beating through the transparent bottom. The species is territorial and will use squeaky warning calls to keep other frogs away from it.
Dr. Damian Evans traveled from Australia to Cambodia and found “entire cities discovered beneath the forest that no one knew were there.” The cities are so large that apparently, one may even be bigger than the capital city Phnom Penh.
He and his team used LIDAR to shoot lasers into the ground of the jungle using a helicopter and soon mapped the never before seen city. This is not the first time he has done this either- in 2012, he uncovered Mahendraparvata, another lost city.
One of the biggest problems of deforestation is that it affects the native people that live in that area. The jungle is their home, and sadly, tribes have been, “victims of massive deforestation and gold washers who did not hesitate to violate the Indian’s territory to seize deposits of precious stones,” according to artist Philippe Echaroux.
To humanize the issue, Echaroux has made a unique form of street art: he projected faces of the Surui people onto trees in the Amazonian rainforest, to highlight the people affected by deforestation.
Satanic Leaf Gecko
One of the most amazing things about the jungle is the unexpected animals that have been discovered there by intrepid field biologists. The satanic leaf gecko is an incredible example of camouflage, as its leaf-like tail is uncannily similar to the surrounding foliage in the jungles of Madagascar.
It also helps that they are nocturnal, so the darkness enshrouds them even further as they go hunting. The gecko also can flatten itself to reduce its shadow, adding to its ability to hide from predators.
Written In The Stars
While many explorers put on their boots and chop thick vegetation looking for ancient Mayan civilizations, this 15-year-old boy took a more comfortable, elegant approach. William Gadoury of Quebec, realized that the Maya were very skilled at making calendars that were based on astronomical markers.
Gadoury reasoned correctly that the ancient civilization built their cities in line with the constellations. With this information in hand, Gadoury made a discovery of a new city, backed by satellite data, all from the comfort of his home.
The jungle is amazing, but this is a good reason to enjoy it from the comfort of your computer. Harvard University entomologist and photographer Piotr Naskrecki was walking around the jungles of Guyana at night.
Like something out a nightmare, he ran into a massive spider, which was the size of a newborn dog, with the body size of a fist. The Goliath birdeater spider is capable of delivering a venomous bite that Naskrecki says would hurt, “like driving a nail through your hand.”
Do The Worm
Entomologist Phil Torres was driving in the Ecuadorian jungles during a rainstorm. He happened to spot something wriggling around in the mud, so he got out to see what it might be.
While most regular folks would be freaked out by this surprise find, the entomology nerd was excited to find a massive worm. The Brobdingnagian earthworm measured a whopping four feet long and dwarfs Torres’ iPhone. It makes you wonder if there are any early birds that can even handle this worm.
The jungle is usually a self-sustaining tangle. It does not need fancy fertilizer or help from humans to grow. However, this area of the jungle in India was cut down to make room for coffee plantations and rice fields and after the farms closed, the jungle never recovered.
Pamela and Dr. Anil Malhotra were devastated by the deforestation they saw, and decided to buy fifty-five acres of the land, and re-plant it. Over twenty-six years, they’ve been able to nurse the jungle back to health.
Web Of Lies
In the jungles of Peru, a cunning spider builds up a web of lies. The spider is a new member of the Cyclosa family, and it is somewhat of an artist, almost like it is related to Charlotte.
It builds a web, like all spiders, but it adds something more. The Cyclosa also builds a fake spider from bits of leaves, pieces of dead bugs, and whatever dirt it might find. The spider is relatively life-like: it is complete with spidery legs. The decoy helps the spider hunt.
Men With Golden Guns
In a bar in the remote areas of the Amazonian jungle, gruff gold miners were telling everyone who would listen about how they had killed some of the indigenous peoples in the rainforest.
They even had a hand-carved paddle they stole to prove it. A concerned citizen leaked it to the police, and they are under investigation for the murder of ten tribespeople, which is about a fifth of the whole group! The clash between the native peoples and loggers and gold miners needs to be resolved.
Read Between The Lines
When history scholar Paul Kosok flew above southern Peru in the early 1940s, he saw massive lines in the rocks shaped like a bird. Since then, archeologists have found many of these “Nazca Lines” in the rocks, including massive crop-circle-like patterns of spiders, hummingbirds, and whales.
The lines’ purpose is still unknown. Some think the lines somehow helped map movements of planets and stars. Others think it is to do with marking water flow. How such large images were made 2000 years ago is still a mystery.
This amazing Amazonian jungle turtle was a shocking discovery to scientists- mostly because it is so hard to see. The Mata Mata turtle is fantastic at mimicry; its flat, brown-green shell is meant to look like a piece of bark, and the ridges and overall shape of its head look like fallen foliage.
Mata mata means “kill kill” in Spanish, but the turtle has also been renamed a whopping fourteen times in two-hundred years. The official Latin name being Chelus fimbriatus.
The Brazilian government flies planes with cameras on them to map the uncharted areas of the Amazonian rainforest.
One of these planes caught indigenous tribespeople, who were terrified enough of the loud, shiny flying machine that they shot arrows at it!
Teddy Roosevelt And The River Of Doubt
In his mid-fifties, former President Theodore Roosevelt went on an trying jungle adventure. Teddy joined Cândido Rondon, an explorer and military man to explore the Brazilian River of Doubt. However, the adventure was riddled with issues.
Most of the crew got sick and badly needed nourishment. Although the gang did not have any trouble with the Cinta Larga natives that they saw in the jungle, an internal struggle led to one expedition member murdering another! TR almost died, and he never fully recovered from this jungle trek.
Coming Of Age
Coming of age traditions in the jungle are ever-so-slightly different from what we would do in America. Instead of a lavish sweet sixteen, the Mawé people of the Brazilian jungle have a painful, terrifying tradition for their thirteen-year-old boys.
The soon-to-be men are sent out to find bullet ants. They then use an ancient technique to make a glove, woven from leaves, that are filled with the ants, with the painful stingers facing in. They then wear them for a grueling ten minutes!
One of the coolest mushrooms ever grows in the Brazilian jungle, at the foot of palm trees. The Neonothopanus gardneri mushroom is so remarkable because it glows in the dark! It uses the same parts under the hood that fireflies (also known as lighting bugs) use to give off their sparks of yellow light.
However, this mushroom glows green. The reason, scientists believe, is because the jungle canopy prevents mushrooms from spreading their spores by wind. Instead, the light attracts insects who can spread spores for the mushroom.
Cambodian Jungle Girl
In 2007, an incredible discovery was made. A feral woman was found, unclothed, and covered in dirt in the Cambodian jungle. She did not speak any discernable language, besides for three words: “father”, “mother” and “stomachache.”
At first, she was thought to have been the missing child of a family from a nearby village, but later a family from Vietnam claimed she was part of their family. She had trouble adjusting to civilized life, and preferred to sleep in a chicken coop rather than a bed.
After it became clear that the Germans were going to lose World War II, many of the top Nazi leadership, like Adolf Eichmann, fled on the sly to South America. In the jungles of Argentina, near the border with Paraguay, archaeologists discovered a potential Nazi hideout.
They found German coins from the years of the war there, and speculated that, “Nazis had a secret project to build shelters for top leaders in the event of defeat – inaccessible sites … in the middle of the jungle like this.”
Who says dragons only exist in Game Of Thrones? In the jungles of Southeast Asia, there is a lizard known as the common flying dragon. Although this creature does not breathe fire, it is still incredible, as they can basically fly.
They can leap huge distances and glide, as they have folds of skin that unfurl like wings, which catches a breeze and helps them float. They can go up to 200 feet in distance horizontally, while only losing about 30 feet of air vertically!
Dog Eat Dog World
Benedict Allen is a hardcore explorer who became infamous for his actions in the Brazilian jungles back in 1982. During his trek, Allen had adopted a half-breed dog who he named Cashoe to accompany him on his journey.
Soon thereafter, Benedict became infected with Malaria. Weak, sick, and starving, he did what most civilized people would never dream of. Allen turned to his companion and used him as a source of calories. Many were understandably outraged, but, thankfully, many doubt if this story is even true.
In the 1930’s, an aerial photograph of the Guatemalan jungle revealed a strange formation amongst the trees. However, it was not until the 1960’s and 70’s that archaeologists really understood what they found- a lost Mayan city.
It was ancient- almost 2,600 years old, and was thought to house 250,000 people. The settlement had pyramids that acted as temples. One of them is called La Danta, which is massive, at 236 feet tall. These days, the historical site is sometimes sadly looted of its artifacts.
The Baka people, also known as the Baka Pygmies, live in the jungles of the Central African Republic. Here, they are pictured carrying out their hunting ceremony. In the photo, you can see a pile of dried out leaves, which are actually the outside of the shelters they live in.
You can also see, though, modern clothing, and even a soda bottle. This group still lives split between the jungles, and village life. Their existence shows the far-reaching consequences of globalization.
Hidden Jungle Temple
In the jungles of Cambodia, there is an amazing hidden man-made structure. It is a Mahayana Buddhist monastery that is called Rajavihara. The premises has been amazingly overtaken by the jungle around it, with twisted roots grasping hold onto the sacred carved stone.
After the fall of the Khmer Empire in the 15th century, which was the Hindu-Buddhist empire that existed before modern Cambodia emerged, the monastery was abandoned. Now, the temple is a UNESCO World Heritage site and popular tourist attraction.
World’s Largest (And Smelliest) Flower
You are not going to find this flower, the Rafflesia Arnoldii, at your local florist shop. There are a couple of good reasons you’ll only find it in the jungle. First off, it is massive- at least three feet in diameter.
Nobody has a vase big enough to hold this monstrosity of a flower. Secondly, the smell is awful; it has the odor of rotting flesh, to the point where people call it the “corpse flower.” The rotting smell repels people but attracts the flies who pollinate the massive flower.