With fewer than 5,000 tigers left in the wild, by 2015 it may not be possible to lock eyes with a 500-pound Bengal outside the zoo. That's precisely why travel giants CC Africa and Taj Safaris are working so quickly. This month they open Banjaar Tola, an elegant 18-tent camp outfitted with hand-carved furniture and private pools. Set on the banks of the Banjaar River, overlooking the tall sal-and-bamboo forests of Kanha National Park, it's the duo's third lodge dedicated to tiger conservation in India.
+ Doubles from $1,440; tajsafaris.com.
Luang Namtha, Laos's jungle-choked northwestern province, was off the radar until the 1990s, when travelers started streaming in to check out the remote indigenous tribes. The Boat Landing, an open-air, thatch-roof backpackers' enclave, was the first lodge to promote culturally sensitive, mutually beneficial visits to the surrounding villages and to implement eco-friendly practices, like recycling and solar power.
+ Doubles from $35; theboatlanding.laopdr.com
Chalalan is the product of San José de Uchupiamonas, an indigenous Bolivian Amazon community located a jostling five-hour riverboat ride from the nearest town. The villagers built Chalalan's community-sustaining solar-powered cabins with the help of Conservation International and now welcome guests like family with traditional dinners, music performances, dances, and moonlight canoe trips through the Chalalan Lagoon.
+ $345 per person for four days; chalalan.com
In Panama, where migrating North and South American species collide in a cacophony of avian life, the best way to spot birds is, of course, in the treetops. At least that's what Panamanian banker-cum-conservationist Raúl Arias de Para thought when he recycled an old U.S. Air Force radar tower into a five-level ecolodge in 1999. The 12 rooms and observation deck, 45 minutes from Panama City, afford toucan's-eye views of the surrounding Soberanía National Park and the Panama Canal.
+ Doubles from $126; canopytower.com
Run in partnership with the local Kuku Yalanji tribe, Daintree is one of the few places where outsiders can interact with Australian Aborigines in their element. Guides offer painting workshops using ocher from the lodge's waterfall and hiking tours (a must for fans of Bruce Chatwin's The Songlines) to see medicinal plants and ferns with 25-foot fronds. Guests stay in a series of 15 elevated tree house-like villas ensconced in thick, misty rain forest, located a mere 40-minute drive e from the Great Barrier Reef.
+ Doubles from $457; daintree-ecolodge.com.au
During the two plane rides and canoe trip from Quito to Kapawi, guests survey endless swaths of Amazon stuffed with so many bird species that they may stumble upon a new one. But remote Kapawi is best known as one of the world's first tribe-run lodges. Achuars welcome visitors to their villages to try manioc beer and consult with shamans.
+ $695 per person for three nights; kapawi.com
Set in a thousand-acre private tropical rain forest reserve on the Osa Peninsula, Lapa Rios was Costa Rica's first ecolodge to combine creature conservation with creature comforts. Hardly a weed was harmed in the building of the 16 thatch bungalows outfitted with locally made bamboo furniture, solar-heated showers, and hammocks overlooking the Pacific.
+ $464 per person, per night; laparios.com
Chaa Creek began in the '70s as a hippie-run farm reachable only by dugout canoe; by 1981 it was Belize's first jungle lodge. Located in the Maya Mountain foothills on a 365-acre reserve, it has a medicine-plant trail, an iridescent-butterfly farm, and day trips to Maya temples.
+ Doubles from $270; chaacreek.com
Travelers in little-visited Honduras often feel a unique sense of discovery. This is especially true at Pico Bonito's secluded cabins, built with hurricane-downed timber in a remote stretch of rain forest near the eponymous national park and the Bay Islands. Horseback ride and whitewater raft one day, snorkel and visit Maya ruins the next.
+ Doubles from $180; picobonito.com
Embrace Borneo's clamorous jungle life at the 20-room Sukau Rainforest Lodge, a 45-minute flight from Kota Kinabalu, followed by a two-hour boat trip. The lodge offers tours in handcrafted wooden boats with ultraquiet electric motors and has a series of boardwalks with passageways for migrating elephants.
+ $370 per person for two nights; sukau.com