Surviving on the heart of a palm tree, the minty-fresh taste of a termite or the woody tones of a water vine might be the nightmare of any traveler. However if you have an adventurous spirit and find yourself in the jungle with an empty food pack and water bottle, you will need to find a way to survive. Fortunately, the rainforest has so much to offer. Here are a few tips on how to survive in the Belizean rainforest.
Humans can survive weeks without food, but only a few days without water. So your first concern should be to find water in the jungle. And yes, even though you find yourself in the rainforest, one of the wettest environments on this planet and – if your lucky – maybe in the rainy season or hurricane season, this still doesn’t mean that it will be easy to find a lifesaving beverage when stranded in the jungle. Sure, you can stand in the middle of the jungle with your mouth open, waiting for the rain to pour in, along with al the other bugs and bacteria you weren’t expecting. However, a better way would be to use nature’s resources.
In the Belizean rainforest, there are three types of water vines. Look around for a hanging vine that appears to be a loose root. Cut the end of the vine off and cut the vine down. Hold it up and let the water drop in your mouth.
There also is a tea vine you can use to make coffee of it. During our jungle survival course we enjoyed it near the campfire.
For those who are stranded in the jungle without a knife or machete, the coconut is an alternative. Bust it open, using a hard surface to reach the water. The same you can do for the Cohune fruit. Try to make a deep hole in the coconut in stead of busting it wildly. You don’t want the milk to drain out before the had the chance of drinking it.
Boil rain water
If you are unsure if the water you found is drinkable, boil it. This works for rain as well.
Start a fire
Having fire is important to boil water and keeping you warm. Due to the wet environment, it’s not always easy to start a fire in the jungle.
Look for dried wood (bamboo won’t burn well). This could be difficult but if you can’t find any scattered on the ground search for holes in trees and cut away pieces from this area. It will be dry and you can build a fire with it. Damp wood will burn once your fire has been started.
Make a shelter
If you’re stuck in the rainforest for a long time, you will need a shelter to keep you safe. However you don’t want to put too much time and effort creating a shelter, so you probably want a simple construction. Your best option is to create a lean-to, a structure that will lean up against a tree. Use branches to built the structure and cover it with (palm)leaves.
The reason why you not want to put too much effort in a shelter is that it’s best to keep moving. You probably want to reach civilization in the near future, so the only way to do so is to keep moving. Orientate yourself may be hard when you’re lost in the jungle, so here are a few tips.
Follow a source of water
Streams or rivers generally lead to some kind of civilization so your best bet is to follow a river. This way you also have a source of water closeby.
Track signs of wildlife
If you don’t find a river or stream, look around you for signs of wildlife and see where they are heading. Animals seek out for water as well and have better natural instincts than us, humans.
The taste of fresh mint is a great way for settling your stomach. Besides that it also has a few other health benefits. Unfortunately,they can be difficult to obtain when they are crawling around a tree. Minty-tasting termites are one of the delicacies in the rainforest. However, for a meal you would need so many that it’s practically impossible, but they make a light snack on the go.
Here’s how to do it:
Find the biggest nest you see. It looks like a massive tumor on the bark or branches of a tree. If you have a knife, slash it open. If not, find a rock or stick to bash into the nest. For a full meal, give it a good whack. If you’re just looking for a small snack, get your hands in there. Let them crawl onto your hand. Grab the bugs between your front teeth and snack away. If you get it in the right spot, there’s a very satisfying pop. They have a great minty taste and the protein will keep you alive.
For those who are not to keen on satisfying themselves with insects (or are vegetarian, is that possible with insects?), the jungle provides another source of food: the fruit of the Cohune Palm Tree. They look like miniature coconuts and grow on tall trees. Unless you’re quite a climber, satisfy yourself with those that fell on the ground. Crack the shell with a stone and you can scoop out the meaty inside. It has an earthy flavour though. Another type of fruit easily to be found in the Belizean rainforest is the pacaya.
Just remember to stick to eating stuff you know. Look for things such as pacaya, the heart of the palm tree, snails, … If you can’t find any of these don’t try any of the other fruits or plants around you. You never know what could be poisonous. Instead, focus on trapping animals.
Set up traps
Setting up traps isn’t so hard. In fact, the best traps are the easy ones. Traps allow you to catch small mammals or birds when you are asleep. This saves energy for your other tasks.
Another option is to catch fish. Making your own spear is easy if you have small knife at hand. In the Belizean jungle, you can find crab and snails in the streams. However the crabs are only active at night.
Watch for predators
Predators in the jungle are all around you and they come in all different forms. The best thing you can do is move quietly and as quickly as possible. You don’t want to seem like a threat to anything. That means, if you do see something, back away slowly and be prepared for anything.
Be aware of your surroundings and listen to any suspicious noises will also keep you safer because you’ll be able to react faster. Listen for changes in the noises around you as well. A change could signal danger.
If you don’t have a machete or large knife at hand, it might be useful to make your own weapon, like a sharpened bamboo for self defense.
Avoid bad experiences
It’s easy to get a bad experience in the jungle as there are so many nasty creatures and plants in the jungle that may harm you. Snakes is one big worry. Another is an army of ants. For your own safety, do everything possible to avoid army ants. Once their train is broken, they will follow the scent of whatever got in their way, swarm it, and attack it. Also, mosquitos will bite you. Just try to limit the number of mosquito bites, since they can leave the larve of the botfly under your skin. It takes several weeks for it to erupt and even though it won’t kill you, the experience is extremely unpleasant.
Another piece of advice: be careful with mushrooms. While there are some types that are edible, most of them are poisonous.
Here a few more survival tips if you find yourself lost in the jungle:
- If you don’t have any mosquito repellent, tie a t-shirt over your head and let it hang down over your neck.
- Rub mud on your exposed skin. Once it dries, it will form a crusty barrier against mosquitoes.
- Use campfire smoke at dawn and dusk to help repel insects.
- Shake out your shoes or boots before you put them on each day. Scorpions and spiders like to hide inside them.
- Rivers and streams often lead to human settlements.
- Look to monkeys for advice on what kinds of fruits and plants are safe to eat.
- Leave piles of rocks along your trail as a rescue signal.
- Break branches at eye-level on your path to let rescuers know which direction you’re traveling.
- Use a smoke signal to alert rescuers. Find an open spot for the smoke to rise, then cover the fire with wet palm fronds for several seconds at a time in bursts of three, the signal for distress.