One moment you’re walking along a rainforest trail enjoying the incredible sounds and sights, when suddenly you spot monkeys hopping from tree to tree. You definitely want to get pictures of that, so you go off the trail following the monkeys. Before long, you’ve been so busy looking up and chasing the monkeys that now you have no idea where you are, and more importantly, where the trail is.
It can happen as easy as that. It’s happened to me. Would you know how to survive in the jungle? See these essential jungle survival tips for what to do if you ever get lost in the jungle.
Tips come from Mauricio Odio-Truque, a search and rescue specialist for more than 20 years in Costa Rica, and owner and expedition leader of Outdoor Adventures.
The best way to survive in the jungle is prevention says Odio-Truque. Don’t get lost in the first place.
- Always tell someone where you are going and approximately when you plan to return.
- Don’t go into the jungle alone.
- Familiarize yourself with where you are going: a map, the terrain, where the trail goes, and how much time your route will take.
- Always carry with you the basic ten essentials of survival. For Costa Rica, a rain jacket and a big trash bag (rain protection & shelter aid) also will serve you well.
- Always stay on marked trails. Do NOT go off the marked trail, especially if you are on your own. When in doubt, it’s best not to continue and instead turn around and return. You could end up following an animal path rather than a real trail.
- Don’t mess with wildlife. Get too close and things might not end well for you. Especially don’t follow wildlife off the trail.
- If you still end up getting lost, follow the acronym STOP.
- Stop. Rest. Don’t panic.
- Think: about where you came from & where you are.
- Observe & Organize: where you are, landmarks, orientation, etc.
- Plan. Make a plan what to do. Don’t just aimlessly start walking. Clear your mind of emotions – panic, fear, anger.
- Be patient. A lot of times you might not actually be lost. You might just be disoriented as to where you are and where you are supposed to be. Stopping and letting your mind settle may help you realize you actually do know where you are. And if you told someone where you were going and what time you expected to be back, then people will look for you.
- Conserve your energy & control your emotions. If you don’t think you can find the trail and you really are lost, it is better not to keep wandering. Find an open space where you will be visible rather than hidden. If there is water close by, that’s even better. But don’t be immediately next to the water in case of flash floods from rain, and because the sound of the water could drown out the sound of someone calling for you.
- Manage your resources. If you need shelter, better to find an existing place that could serve as shelter rather than try to build one. In Costa Rica, big buttress roots of trees are easy places to put branches or palm leaves over – or that big plastic trash bag – to make a shelter. Use your flashlight to check first for snakes, scorpions, big spiders or other animals. For a fire, use a few long pieces of wood that you can push farther into the fire as you need. In the jungle, low hanging branches of trees tend to be drier than branches lying on the ground.
- Call for help. If you brought your cell phone with you and you have signal, use it to call for the nearest help (your travel companions, the lodge where you are staying, your tour company, etc.). Be sure to have those numbers. Use your emergency whistle to periodically steadily call for help – uses less energy than your voice.
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