A City Girl’s Guide To Surviving The Amazon Jungle

A City Girl’s Guide To Surviving The Amazon Jungle

Think it is relaxing to venture into a dense jungle with no electricity or city comforts? Think again, and adapt.

It was like a scene from Survivor where I took place in the Jungle Relay. On certain days, I also felt like Katniss of The Hunger Games struggling to survive in The Arena.

The Amazon Jungle had always been on my bucket list, and boy, was I thrilled when I was finally heading there. The adventurous soul and nature lover in me also selected the tour with the least city comforts: accommodation with zero electricity, jungle treks all day and getting up close and personal with Amazonic animals.

It was only when I started doing research that I realised what I had gotten myself into. You hear about people getting lost in jungles starving to death or being dehydrated. Watching Animal Planet or Discovery Channel would also paint a startling image of dangerous animals and plus -sized insects lurking around the jungle.

As much as I love getting away every now and then, I knew I was always a city girl at heart who enjoys the comforts and connectivity of a developed city such as Singapore. That is also why I learnt so much staying in the Amazon Jungle for four days.

Here are the top things to keep in mind if you’ve lived in a city all your life and decided to channel your inner Tarzan:

Keep yourself covered

The Amazonia is situated close to the equator and has the same sweltering heat as Southeast Asia, but surprisingly, it actually rains a lot in the region. This means that you are likely to be caught in the rain while trekking or taking a boat along the Amazon, and damp and muddy grounds are to be expected. 

Getting mosquitos and sandfly bites are a common occurrence. While threading through trees and plants as overcrowded as solid molecules, it is also entirely possible to get scratched by thorns of plants or have insects end up crawling on your skin.

This is why it is absolutely essential to protect every inch of your skin.

Gone were my days of fancy #ootds. My daily Amazon outfit consisted of Wellington jungle boots to make trekking easier, a Timberland windbreaker which also doubles up as a raincoat, and track pants to protect myself from mosquito bites.

Nail your survival packlist

When you’re stuck in the world’s largest tropical rainforest, hiking virtually from sunrise to sundown, it is essential to have all the right items with you in a backpack.

Packed food such as breakfast bars to give you energy, bottles of water to rehydrate yourself and insect repellant to protect yourself from numerous mosquitoes should make the top of your list. Like The Hunger Games accurately advises, people don’t die from fights, they die from dehydration or starvation.

Next up would be torchlights so you can navigate your way around at night, especially if you are living in an accommodation that does not provide electricity. Furthermore, night hiking is popular among tourists, as it is the best time to catch nocturnal animals such as tarantulas, bullfrogs and caimans.

Do not fear animals

The Amazon is famed for the Anaconda, and when you hear tales of this giant snake attacking people, it is easy to assume that the jungle is full of scary animals and that you should always watch your back. Just look at this snake we came across!

The truth is, animals are as scared of us, just as we are scared of them. Just before this snake was caught by our tour guide for us to snap a photo, it was terrified. When it was released, it slithered away so fast, it was gone in seconds.

I learnt that animals do not intentionally attack us unless we provoke them, or they are ridiculously hungry. This thought took my nerves away and made me more open to learning about animals in a real-life setting. It enabled me to get up close without worrying, which was an amazing experience that watching documentaries could never replace.

And hey, these adorable, furry animals – the sloth, and the woolly monkey – definitely won’t scare you!

Walk downhill to find water

The locals certainly gave us good advice on what to do if we got lost: Always walk downhill to find water. Water would be the fastest way to travel and find someone as most of the Amazon’s population live near rivers and most tributaries would lead to the Amazon River.

In fact, 17-year-old Julia Kopecke, the sole survivor of a 92-passenger flight that crashed in the Amazon in 1971, followed this tip. Despite being in shock, she recalled her father’s advice on how heading downhill in the jungle leads to water and water leads to civilisation. She did exactly that, bushwalking for 10 days, and finally stumbled across a hut where she reunited with her father.

Always be observant of your surroundings

Another tip to prevent getting lost would be to always leave a trail, just like Hansel and Gretel. This sounds cliche but you would start taking it seriously when you are immersed in the depths of the jungle where you see nothing but canopy and soil. As you hike, make markers with torn clothing or brightly coloured and reflective objects. Do not use anything edible as it will end up getting consumed by animals.

When it comes to trekking techniques, never head in a straight line, and always look ahead for gaps in the rainforest. Conserve your energy by moving slow and steady. Use a long branch as a walking stick and to clear bushes in your path. More importantly, always avoid grabbing vines or plants as many rainforest plants have thorns and may emit irritants or even poison to your skin.

Bring your own entertainment for the night

Constant connectivity has spoilt us rotten, especially for a digital native like me, who gets hopelessly frustrated and restless without Internet access or my entertainment devices.

The bad news is that this won’t get any better when you’re in the jungle and staying in a plain hut with nothing except a rickety wooden bed, table and shower area. Don’t count on getting a SIM card either because there’s no reception deep in the jungle.

If you’re someone like me who likes to watch or read random stuff before you go to bed, despite being tired from trekking all day, it helps to bring your own entertainment to tide over the final hours before you go to bed. Bring a Kindle or a book to read (with the help of your torchlight of course!), and load movies and music into your tablet or laptop.

No power points? Fret not and ensure you always have power banks with you. If you’re in a group, even better, as you get to “ration” the power banks.

Live an open-minded and minimalistic lifestyle

If you booked a trip to the Amazon Jungle, you are clearly already someone who’s open to new experiences. That said, there will be moments when you will question your decision to stay there for a few days.

Always remember, you’re in the Amazon Jungle, so the city rules no longer apply and you have to adapt with minimal resources. After my initial discomfort, I had to remind myself that I was where I’d always wanted to be and that it was going to be one of the best experiences in my life. I wasn’t going to let the lack of comfort ruin it for me.

Living in the Amazon Jungle made me realise that we only learn when we put ourselves out of our comfort zone. It taught me how to be calm under stressful periods and brought life lessons that will definitely continue to shape the rest of my life.

About Author

Ellyne Phneah
Ellyne Phneah

Elly is constantly on perpetual wanderlust. Having conquered 5 continents and 33 countries, she enjoys off-the-beaten-path places and filling her life with adventure and stories. Outside of travel, she is a closet geek, aspiring yogi and dancer, animal lover, and a die-hard Game of Thrones fan. Find her on Instagram @upyourelly


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