As many of you know, I recently spent a few weeks in the Amazon Rainforest as part of my Ecuador itinerary. I am sure most of you are wondering how a wimp like me ended up in a place like that and I can see where you’re coming from!
I hate being outdoors, I’m scared of anything that moves quicker than me (which is most things) and I am terrified of creatures with more than two legs. Throw in an all-round nervous disposition and you would assume that this visit would be a disaster.
To an extent, you would be right. I would be lying if I said there hadn’t been hairy moments in the rainforest that scared me. However, I have come out the other side feeling like Jungle Jane and most importantly, still alive. Considering I managed to survive my time living wild, I think this leaves me qualified me to dispense advice. So here it is, just for you, my ultimate jungle guide for surviving the Amazon rainforest.
Amazon Rainforest Survival Guide:
Find a jungle staff
The jungle is a wild place. The paths haven’t been sanded and the hills haven’t got steps. The terrain is rough and untamed which means it isn’t always the easiest land to navigate. To avoid any unfortunate accidents with gravity, search for a walking stick early on to aid your travels. You don’t want to fall over anywhere, who knows what could be lurking around!
Make sure you’ve had a rabies shot
This is obvious but you would be amazed how many people would rather take their chances than pay for the jab. I understand that it is not the cheapest vaccination to have or indeed the nicest – it comes with some horrible side-effects and multiple injections, but it is pretty important… Stop being such a tightwad and pay up.
It might not save your life (sorry to tell you that this is dependent on how far you are from a hospital) but it will certainly buy you some much needed time in which to seek medical assistance.
Everything is bigger than it needs to be
Without doubt, the worst thing about the jungle for us wimps is that everything is unnecessarily large and terrifying. Don’t like roaches? That’s cool, we’ll double the size of them and give them wings. Truly horrific.
It’s not even just unusual insects that are scarier in the jungle though. How many people are afraid of ants usually? Not many I would guess. Wait until you see the bullet ants in the jungle though, some of them compete in length with my thumb. Now take a minute to look at your thumb and let that sink in…
Spiders aren’t too much of a problem…
To be fair, this depends on your perspective. I would say that a dirty great tarantula crawling on my leg is a big problem. However, let it be a comfort that very few spiders in the rainforest are likely to kill you. Tarantulas, despite being some of the largest spiders in the Amazon, can only deliver a painful but non-lethal bite.
The big mafia boss and the one to avoid at all costs is the Brazilian Wandering Spider. The bad news is that this guy is nothing short of a murder waiting to happen. Luckily anti-venom is stocked at many hospitals which is great… if you can get there in time. I’d say look up them up so you know what to avoid but let’s be honest, all spiders are gross so you probably don’t want to get close to any of them.
Make sure you know where is safe to swim
The rainforest offers some truly beautiful swimming spots equipped with jungle beach. Some of the rivers are safe for tubing, swimming, rafting…you name it! However, other sections of the river are not so safe. Home to Red Bellied Piranhas, Electric Eels and Black Caiman, the rivers leading to the Amazon can be scary places. Always check you know what is lurking beneath you, or you may get a very unpleasant surprise.
Always take a flashlight if it is dark
Perhaps the most foolhardy thing to do in the jungle is navigate at night without a torch. Everything that wants to kill you is more likely to come out when it is dark (the myths are true) so you will need to take extra precautions to avoid getting hurt.
To be honest, you should never get caught out without a light because it is something that is so easy to prevent. Make sure you carry a head-torch in your bag at all times and use your phone for back-up. Trust me when I say navigating the jungle in the dark is downright stupid, not to mention petrifying.
Stamp your feet loudly whenever you walk
There are plenty of snakes in the jungle and many of them have the ability to kill you. Always stamp your feet hard as the snakes will feel the vibrations and slither away. Snakes are far more likely to show hostility when they have been surprised, so make sure that they know you’re coming by making lots of noise. It is worth noting that the majority of really dangerous snakes come out at night which only reiterates the importance of remembering that flashlight!
Do not pee in the river!
When asked during a tour what the most dangerous creature of the Amazon is, not one person in the group got the correct answer. Surprisingly, it isn’t a spider or snake but actually something much more innocent in appearance. You may never have heard of Candiru but it is truly the stuff of nightmares.
These small parasitic catfish are famous for forcefully launching themselves up the urethras of anyone foolish to pee in the water. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they then use the spines along their backs to lodge themselves in the urinary tract. This is said to be agonisingly painful and will take a long complex operation to resolve.
Do not touch any of the creatures
If I see anything that looks alive, I’m probably not going to touch it. To me, that just makes sense. Tim, on the other hand, is not like this and will pick up pretty much anything. From Tamarins to Circadas, he’ll just go right in there and scoop it up. This has resulted in screaming insects, expletives and stings. The lesson here is simple, don’t touch any of the creatures. It’s just plain stupid. (Sorry Tim.)
Even the plants are trying to kill you
It is easy to assume that the worst danger in the jungle is the animals and insects living there. This is not necessarily the case though. The plants are also vicious and will severely maim you if you happen to get on their wrong side. Many of the trees here are covered in long spikes which will definitely hurt you should you lose your footing and sidle into one. There are also palms with nasty hanging vines. These have long barbs all the way along them that will easily tear through the bottom of a boot. Nothing is safe.
Know what to do in the worst case scenario
This is the most important piece of advice for surviving the jungle: know what to do if all goes wrong. Make sure you have a travel first aid kit close to hand in case of minor stings or cuts.
If you are unfortunate enough to be bitten by anything, try to kill it and take it with you when you seek medical attention. This will help the doctors to diagnose your condition and save valuable time when hunting for an antivenom. Of course, everybody knows prevention is better than cure so watch where you’re putting your feet and you’ll be fine. Probably.