Tagarchief: rainforest

How to survive in the Belizean rainforest?

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.

Find water

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.

Vines

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.

Belize Jungle Survival

 

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.

Coconuts

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.

Belize Jungle Survival

 

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.

lean-to-shelter

Keep moving

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.

Find Food

Termites

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.

Fruit

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.

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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.

 

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Survival in the jungle of Belize

‘You would expect the machete to be much sharper.’ Linsay puts her index finger on the sharp side of the machete she just received from our Marcos Cucul, a Maya guide with an exceptional experience when it comes to surviving in the jungle.  Like a real-life Lara Croft she puts the machete back in the sheath hanging around her hip.

There were two reasons why we chose Belize as our travel destination: the Belize Barrief Reef and the Belizean jungle. The latter was added to be terrain we were not familiar with, us deciding to take a Jungle Survival Course with Maya Guide Adventures. Spending three days and two nights deep into the Belizean rainforest, on a place where jaguars, boa constrictors and the puma have their home. This experience would make acquaint us with the hostile environment of the jungle.

Belize Jungle Survival

 

The jungle as a source of food

The many poisenous snake species, hunting jaguars and the lack of food the next few days make this environment one of the most dangerous ones we ever found ourselves into. That we were on our way to camp presented some fun stories about the many botflies in this area, laying eggs under your skin via mosquitoes, giving you a burning feeling as they live as parasites, not yet included. And believe us if we say that you will start worrying seriously when you see the first five mosquito bites appear. Fortunately all those worries disappear when you got bitten fifty times (no exaggeration) and spend all your time scratching the itch.

Belize Jungle Survival

 

How hostile the jungle environment may well be, at the same time it’s a great source of food and water. With lots of rain having fallen out of the sky the past few days above mainland Belize, lack of water was no issue. More than once during our journey we found ourselves in thirty centimeters deep puddles of water and mud. ‘Taste this. It’s very nutritious.’ Marcos gives us a stem that looks like an asparagus and cuts his open. ‘This is the fruit of the Pacaya palm.’ Inside there are numerous green stamens that remind us of the hyped loombracelets. The taste is very bitter. Too bitter to our taste. ‘For tonight.’, he says and starts picking the pacayas from the tree. Okay, so our dinner would be bitter loom bracelets, so what? Fortunately, soon after Marcos pointed out to a tasty way of washing it down. He grabs a vine and tells us this is called the tea vine by the local people of Belize. When it’s boiled in water, you get a delicious kind of jungle coffee. In the evening, it turned out to be our cup of tea.

Belize Jungle Survival

 

The jungle as our new home

With many snakes being camouflaged by the foliage on the ground, a tent isn’t the safest option to spend the night. A hammock on the other hand… Trees are easily found in the jungle and with a tarp hanging above our hammock, we’re assured of a dry and safe night. At least, that would ‘ve been the case if we hadn’t drunk too much jungle coffee, making us pee at least three times a night. Opening your hammock, check with your head torch if there aren’t any snakes laying underneath your hammock and looking for a decent spot to ‘drain’ the coffee. Just in time, it springs to mind that I better check for snakes here as well. When I return to my hammock barefeeted, I hope that mosquitoes didn’t take advantage of that opportunity to accompany me in my cocoon. Alas, the buzzing of a still actively hunting mosquito marks the beginning of a short, but severe battle before I can continue my night’s sleep…until my next visit to the loo.

Belize Jungle

 

Setting traps and looking for food

No alarm clock in the jungle. Only a family of howler monkeys that isn’t too happy with our stay in their territorium. Their intimidating roar is what wakes us up in the morning. Our first task of the day is boiling water from the nearby river on the campfire. After another cup of jungle coffee (I know…) and some grilled pacaya for breakfast, a serious challenge lies ahead. With a sharpened machete in hand, we chop ourselves a way through the dense ferns and plants of the jungle, looking for food. Our plan is to set a trap, hoping to catch a bird. However, for this we need some bait. It takes nearly an hour before we reach a small river where we start wading and looking for snails, the favorite snack of several birds living in the lower parts of the jungle. ‘You see this?’, Marcos says. ‘These small mushrooms are edible. With his machete he cuts the small mushrooms off the fallen tree trunk and puts them in his pockets.

Belize Jungle Survival

 

Once back closer to camp, we look for the perfect spot to set a trap. A piece of string, a flexible small tree, some branches and our bait. That’s all we need to set up the type of trap you only see in cartoons. Step by step we are explained the different knots used that will trigger the trap when a bird nibbles the bait. And let’s hope it doesn’t get catapulted pops up in my mind when we test the trap with our finger.

 

Nothing to do except waiting, so for now we have to look for a different way of filling our stomachs. Besides pacayas, snails, shrimps and small fish, there is another important source of nutrition to be found in the jungle: the heart of palm. With the aid of our machete we cut the trunk of the palm tree until it collaps. A chore not to be completed in five minutes. Once cleaved in half, a white mass appears, similar to the a huge asparagus. The clog is big enough to eat for a few days and tastes delicious when grilled.

Belize Jungle Survival

 

Hiking at night in the jungle

I have a terrible fear of snakes. Big or small. When Marcos tells us that everyone in Belize, including himself, is very cautious when it comes to the snakes that live here in Belize, I’m relieved I’m not the only one. Or should I start worrying instead since he just confesses he’d rather not encounter them as well? Fortunately, most snakes (and other animals in the jungle) are nocturnal. Including the jaguar and the tapir that we would like to catch a glimpse of. There is no other way but to go out there at night. It’s 2am when we carefully crawl out of our hammock and prepare ourselves for a night hike. About fifteen minutes later, we witness the first sign of wildlife: jaguar tracks. Only thirty meter away from our camp. ‘Only a few hours old.’, Marcos says.

Belize Jungle Survival

 

Our hope for seeing a jaguar increases, eventhough our best chances are the next few days when we camp three days in the Cockscomb Basin Nature Reserve. Hiking at night through the dense jungle is way more exciting than in daytime. You can feel that is everything is becoming more active now. With our head torch that lights up the little eyes, we never noticed until now how many spiders there are around is. Not much later, we are about to see the largest of them all: the tarantula. Although it crawls back into his hole shortly after. With a small branch, Marcos lures the tarantula outside his hole giving us the opportunity to admire it.

Belize Jungle Survival

 

Despite having hike for two hours in the dark and not having seen a jaguar, we have the feeling of having been very close. When the next morning we wake up (no howler monkeys this time), it’s time for us to return to the outside world. Real jungle survival experts we have not become. Time was too limited for this, but we did have a great first introduction in surviving in a – for us – completely new environment. One of which we dare to state it’s not the last time we have spend time in.

Do you want to learn how to set traps, how to build a shelter with ferns, how to get water from vines or what you can eat in the jungle? Maya Adventure Guide offers Jungle Survival training courses suited for every level. During our own three day adventure we learned a lot and the experience gave us a taste for more. For sure, we will return to Belize in the future and embark on a longer jungle survival adventure.