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What to Do When You Are Lost In A Jungle

jungle survival tips

About survival in the jungle

If you’re thinking of a jungle adventure, make sure you are fully prepared for the undertaking, writes SAGER AHMAD.

GOING into the jungle is not a stroll in the park and we should be prepared — physically, mentally, medically as well as spiritually. Despite so many stories in the past about people who have gone missing in jungles, there are still recent cases of people getting lost.

Those who made it back or were found alive must consider themselves very lucky. Being lost in the jungle is not a pleasant experience.

If you come out alive, you can boast (a bit) to friends. But remember the anxiety you have caused, with parents, relatives, friends, rescue units and the general public worried for your safety.

Recently, Nor Umaisarah Sameaun, a Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) student went missing in the jungles of Pahang for 19 days from Feb 7. She was with a group of 36 Kesatria UiTM members who climbed Gunung Tahan, the highest peak in Peninsular Malaysia. She was enjoying the scenery not far from the Bukit Botak campsite when the group packed up and left without her.

jungle trekking tips

Knowing how to survive when you are lost in a jungle is crucial

She didn’t even know how to get back to the campsite but she did the right thing by keeping close to a river, sleeping in between rocks and drinking from the river before her rescue.

An experienced guide is a must. If you go in a big group, break into smaller groups comprising experienced and novice trekkers. The leader of each group should do a head-count every time the group stops for a break and gets ready to leave.

Tips for survival in the jungle in case you are lost

Here are more tips on what to do if you’re lost in the jungle. It is loosely adapted from Jungle School. To be lost simply means you are all alone and you cannot see or hear your friends anywhere. Don’t panic. Apply the S.T.O.P approach — Stop, Think, Observe and Plan.

STOP – Take a deep breath, sit down if possible, calm yourself and recognise that whatever has happened to get you here cannot be undone. You are now in a survival situation and that requires you to:

THINK – Your most important asset is your brain. Use it! Don’t panic! Move with deliberate care. Take no action, even a step forward, until you have thought it through.

OBSERVE – Take a look around you. Assess your situation and options. Take stock of your supplies, equipment and surroundings.

PLAN – Prioritize your immediate needs and develop a plan to systematically deal with the emergency. Make a plan and keep to it. Adjust your plan only as necessary to deal with changing circumstances.

tropical jungle

A tropical jungle

Things to do when you think you are lost

Shout “HELLO” at the top of your voice and then listen attentively for one minute. Repeat after a while.

If you have anything metallic, like a frying pan, beat it for a good 10 seconds, stop and listen attentively.

If they can hear you, your group members (if they are nearby) will normally call out your name. Stay put and let them come to you. Do not scream “HELLO” again. Scream your friend’s name out aloud instead.

If it is dark, move nearest to where there is a gap or opening in the jungle. Change a dark colored shirt for something bright.

Keep screaming. If there is still no response, take a few deep breaths and keep calm.

Arm yourself with a stick if you don’t have a machete. It will be your weapon for the rest of your situation. Look for pebbles and keep them as they are a handy weapon. Look carefully two meters around you for any sign that is man made.

If you have to move, go downhill, not up. This saves energy and will lead you to water.

Observe the sun as you walk. Is it behind you, on your left or right or in front of you?

Try and mark your trail but do it in a consistent manner. Break small twigs facing the direction you are heading and at chest level to indicate it was made by a human. You may also use a sharp object to mark trees facing you, for easy identification by rescuers. Break off large palm leaves and leaving them either on the ground or on tree barks pointing like an arrow to where you went.

When moving, make as much noise as possible. This will prevent any unwanted incidents with wildlife.

How to survive the night in a jungle

If you have to stop for a short or an overnight rest, try and find a clearing. This allows airborne rescuers to see you. If you have brightly colored shirts or any material, spread them out in the gap area so that airborne rescuers can easily spot them.

If you need to stop for the night, gather all the twigs you can find and place them around your rest area like a fence.

Pull down rattans or creepers and use them as ropes to make a natural fence. Wildlife will avoid crashing against heavy concentrations of dried deadwood as this makes noise and exposes them to predators. Find dead bamboo and place them near you. Stamp on them whenever you hear wildlife, to scare them away.

Don’t stop at cascading rivers or waterfalls as the sounds of crashing water will prevent you from hearing potential calls or shouts from ground based rescuers.

Walking downhill and towards the river would be the best and fastest way to civilization. Walk downstream and always arm yourself with a stick. Avoid muddy river banks. You may get stuck and there could always be crocodiles lurking nearby.

Observation that increases the chance of survival

Always observe the vegetation. Is the forest thicker with lots of undergrowth or can you easily negotiate through the forest floor? Thick vegetation with lots of rattan and creepers indicates that the area was once cultivated, so you could be very near agriculture land and human population. The presence of small birds is also a sign that there are fruit plantations nearby.

If you see bigger trees, you could be walking deeper into the forest reserve. Avoid this!

Damaged vegetation or animal droppings can tell you about the type of wildlife there. Elephants tend to loiter near oil palm plantations and tigers prefer cattle farms.

Look for human footprints as these will lead to civilization.

Garbage like small plastic bags and styrofoam containers means that people use the river for recreation.

Other travel tips that you might be interested

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  • How To Take Good Pictures During Your Holidays – Discover how to take better photos with your compact camera on your vacation. Find out all the photographing skills you need to capture that perfect scene.
  • Tips for Surviving the Deadly Waterfalls – Learn about these safety tips and precautions on how to avoid dangerous water current when you visit some popular waterfalls in Malaysia.
  • Most Common Tourist Scams in Asia – Asia is a vibrant travel destination but there are plenty of unscrupulous individuals trying to make a quick buck out of unsuspecting tourists. Be smart and don’t be caught unawares.
  • How To Avoid Falling Sick in Your Vacations – There is nothing more miserable than falling ill and having to spend the holidays recuperating in hotel rooms, hospitals or even cutting short your trip duration.
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