Surviving in The Jungle in The Event of An Unexpected Emergency

Surviving in The Jungle in The Event of An Unexpected Emergency

When you go into the jungle on your nature trips, you usually try to bring enough of what you need for the duration of the trip. But what happens if an emergency happens and you have to spend more days in the jungle?

In the jungle, anything can happen, especially during the rainy season. In Malaysia, it rains quite often throughout the year. This is especially so during the North-East and South-West Monsoon seasons. In the jungles, heavy rains can bring about 4 main problems for nature adventurers, that is, flash floods, landslides, fallen trees and damaged tracks.

Flash Flood

Flash Floods

The rivers in the jungles are very prone to flash floods. Water levels can rise drastically within minutes. In worse case scenarios, the swollen rivers can wash away trees and other debris, leaving destruction in its path.

Always avoid camping on a river bank. You may be sleeping when a flash flood occurs and may not be able to get out of its path in time. There are occasions where whole campsites were washed away, and even the big 4×4 vehicles were swept away by the powerful waters. Always set up your campsite away from the river or on higher ground. Check the vegetation next to the river. If it is covered with traces of mud, it could mean the banks flood regularly when it rains.


Landslides are quite common on hilly areas in the jungle. These landslides can block the track that you travelled on to get in and prevent your vehicles from driving out. In cases like this, you try to dig your way out if the blockage is not too bad, or in the event that you can’t, try to find an alternative route to bypass the landslide. In the event that this too is not possible, someone has to walk out to get help. This person has to be fit to climb over the fallen earth and trees and then walk to the nearest settlement however far it may be. And if you have enough people where you are stranded at, more than one person may go for help. Make sure they have enough food and water with them to survive the journey.

The rest of you should set up camp in a safe spot. Do not camp next to the landslide area as another landslide may occur there. Try to conserve whatever food and drinks you have to last until help arrives.

Fallen Trees

Fallen Trees

Trees falling at the campsite is very dangerous. Before setting up camp, check that the trees around the spot are healthy. Old dead trees have rotten trunks and branches which may break off and fall on your tents during heavy rain or strong winds.

Sometimes you will also have fallen trees across the tracks. If the trees are small, you can cut them with a parang (machete) or saw. But if the trees are huge, you will need a chainsaw to do the job. Having winches fitted to 4x4s helps as they can winch the cut branches and trunks away from the track.

Damaged Tracks

This a common problem on jungle trails during the rains. Surfaces that were hard with lots of traction can turn into mud pools the gets the vehicle’s wheels spinning without making any headway. Sometimes the soil gets washed away leaving deep slippery ruts or deep holes. This is where having a winch can get you out of this sticky situation. Never travel solo into the jungle. Always have a buddy or more, with more than one 4WD vehicle, just in case you and your vehicle need to be rescued. You will also need to have the necessary recovery equipment in your vehicle. In the event that you do not have a winch or other recovery equipment, make sure you have a minimum of a parang and spade. This way you can cut logs and branches to fill the ruts and give some traction to get your vehicle out.

Good Habits When Going On Nature Trips

When planning your food requirements, always carry more in case of eventualities, especially when going deep into the forest. There were a few times when we had planned for a 3-day trip, but because of unexpected events, we were stuck in the jungle for an extra day. There was even a trip where we expected to travel 24km into the jungle within a day. The last trip we had been to that location took 12 hours to get in, and 24 hours to get out. This time we planned for a day’s travel each to get in and out, with 3 days to enjoy the activities at the campsite. Due to the tracks being very bad, it took 3 days to get in, and another 3 days to travel the 24km to get out again. We had allocated 5 days for the trip but it took us 6 days of travelling from dawn to dusk, with no time to enjoy the venue.

Fortunately, our habit of carrying extra food rations ensured that we had enough food and water to last us until we got out.

A bad habit I noticed is that on the last day of a trip, campers would empty their water containers to lighten the load on their way out. Now if they were to face any of the situations mentioned above, they would not have any water to last them another day. Keep whatever food and drinks with you until you reach civilization. Anything can happen when you are least prepared. Heck, anything can happen even when you are prepared.

If you are going to spend a few days deep into the jungles, head for the nearest police station before the entrance to the trail head. Let them know where you are going to be in the jungle and when you expect to come out. This way, they will know to send a rescue team if you do not turn up after a day of your estimated time out.

Another good idea is to learn how to start a fire without a lighter or a match. You also need to practice the techniques as knowing how to, and actually doing it are very different.

It’s also good to study what are the fruits and vegetation you can eat in the jungle. If you are stranded with no food or water, knowing what’s safe to forage for can mean your survival. Learn which vines hold drinkable water and when to avoid the liquid that comes out of a vine. Normally the water that comes out of a vine should be clear with a slight woody taste. Avoid drinking it if it is cloudy or has a smell.

What to Do When Lost in The Jungle

It is always good practice to take notice of landmarks when entering a jungle. It could be a tree with a funny looking branch, a big rock with a shape of something familiar, or any other object that you can remember. To get out of the jungle, just follow these landmarks as you come to each one.

If you did not take note of any landmarks, head in one direction until you reach a trail or stream. Following a stream downhill can lead you to settlements and people.

Normally you hear of people lost in jungles walking in circles, often returning to a spot they were in earlier. We normally tend to walk towards the left and end up in a circle. To avoid this, pick out a landmark in the distance and head towards it. Then pick out another in the same direction you are headed for.

Another way is to look at the direction of the sun. You will walk in one direction if you keep the sun directly in front of you. But remember that the sun changes direction at noon. If it was behind you in the morning, it will be in front of you in the afternoon.

Keep yourself hydrated. It can be very hot in the tropical forests. You can find water in certain vines as well as in bamboo. Never drink from a stagnant pool as it may contain animal feces or urine. Drinking this water will make you very sick. If you are unable to boil water from a stream of do not have water purification tablets, you can drink the water directly from the stream or river. It may or may not give you a tummy ache, but you have to stay hydrated.

Do not be worried about wild animals or snakes. As long as you do not bother them, they would rather avoid you and move away. In more than 50 years of making trips into the jungles, I have never had an animal or snake attack me. I’ve seen tigers, elephants, wild boars and lots of different snakes. They just moved away as fast as they could.

The most important thing to remember when in any of these situations is to stay calm. Take a look at the situation you are in and what you have on hand to help you. Then make the best of it. The person who is calm and in control of his wits has a better chance of surviving.

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