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Handbook for Survival in the Rain Forest

Search for water and food

Searching for Water

The very first priority for any survivor in the Rain Forest is to find water that is fit to be drunk. It is very easy to find water in the Rain Forest, but one has to take precautions in order not to drink contaminated water, because that could easily cause, not only, later health problems but, very possibly, acute and immediate problems for your health..

One of the main dangers in the Rain Forest is to drink contaminated water, because of the diseases you might catch such as dysentery, typhoid and even cholera; these waters also tend to be full of parasites and amoebas that will produce acute and many times fatal diseases. Amongst the parasites, one of the most dangerous ones is the tremátodos since they can be found in quiet pools and other contaminated waters. These parasites can enter your body, both through drinking the water or directly through your skin, as when you walk into a swamp. The way to avoid these illnesses is to boil your drinking water for at least three minutes or use water purifying tablets, or to wear your clothes when walking through a swamp.

Muddy water from a swamp can be made drinkable, even if smelling bad, if boiled for at least three minutes and then let to settle for at least 12 hours and then sifted through a piece of cloth before drinking.

A simple test to determine whether water is contaminated is to pour some very fine sand on top of the surface of still water in a bowl. If the sand floats, the water is contaminated, since it is then more dense, but if it falls quickly to the bottom, it means that the water is reasonably clean. (See Drawing 8a).

test to determine whether water is contaminated
Pour some find sand If the sand floats If the sand sinks
Very contaminated Less contaminated

Drawing 8a

We recommend that you drink water from a relatively fast flowing stream or river and preferably from its deeper part since there are often twigs and insects close to or on the surface.

You can find safe drinking water in the nuts and shells of certain types of palm trees and you can also drink the dew that accumulates on the leaves of trees or inside some of the lianas that hang from trees and that are at least of a thickness of 3 to 5 centimetres. Cut them into lengths of approximately a metre and a half, keeping both ends facing up, and when you lower one end, you will find a trickle of water, which, although it may be bitter in taste, is ok to drink. The best way to go about it is to fill a bowl or bottle with the water and then drink from there instead of drinking it directly from the liana, because of the possibility of insects falling into your mouth. (See Drawing 8b).

Drawing 8b

Searching for Edible Plants

There is a lot of food in the Rain Forest, but one must learn to recognise it and stay away from poisonous plants. If you see monkeys or other animals, including birds, eating from the fruits of a tree, these are usually, but not always, good to eat.

However, in the cases of finding something you do not recognise as having eaten before and when you are not sure if it is safe, it is always better to nibble on a small piece and after tasting it, wait for approximately an hour to see if it causes any adverse effects. It is preferable to peel them first and even boil them because they may contain pathogenic organisms. Do not eat them raw unless you recognise the fruit from before.

Amongst the best vegetal food in the Rain Forest, we can find:

The so called Wasaí, palmito or Chonta heart of palm. It is a palm tree with a tall and slender trunk crowned by a bunch of palm fronds, but there are no leaves or spines on the trunk, which is smooth. Look for a free standing palm tree so that it will not get tangled in the brush when you cut it down. Cut it at the base using your machete, cut loose the light green coloured part which you will find approximately at one metre below from where the leaves start and this part you can eat raw without cooking. You must be sure that you are treating with a Wasaí palm because it alone among the different palm trees has a very pleasant taste, the others can be very bitter and even cause irritations in your throat if you try to eat them.

The so called Yarina is another palm tree with a short stem and large leaves. From this palm tree we can not only eat the fruits with their white flesh and which are a good food, we can also use its leaves to build a shelter. The seeds can be eaten either raw or cooked. (See Drawing 8c)

Palmera de Chonta Huasaí
Palm tree Chonta Huasaí
Palmera de Yarina
Palm tree Yarina

Drawing 8c

The so called Aguaje is a type of palm tree with a rather short trunk and covered with a kind of scales and its leaves are large and open. Its fruit has a nice taste and is very nourishing. It can be eaten after being soaked in water for a few hours. It is very sought after by animals as for example the so called Sachavaca or tapir, and also by wild pigs such as the so called Huangana or white lipped pecarry and also the so called sajino or collared pecarry and you will often find tracks of these animals on the ground below this palm tree. When the palm tree grows old it will eventually fall to the ground and after some time on the ground when its softer inside spongy vegetable has started to rot, one can search for beetle grubs or so called Suri inside. They look like a white fat worm with a segmented body and black head, which one breaks off before eating them, either raw or cooked over the fire, making them a great source of fat and energy. In order to know whether there are any Suri grubs inside the trunk, one has to bend down and put your ear onto the trunk to listen for the sound of the grubs eating. Once you hear them you use your machete to make a wedge shaped hole in the trunk and you then put your hand into it and draw out the Suri grubs. (See Drawing 8d)

Palmera de Aguaje
Palm tree of Aguaje

Drawing 8d

The Palm tree called Pijuayo is a very tall palm tree with big leaves and the trunk covered with spines. The fruits are found in big red clusters hanging close to the leaves and will turn yellow when ripe. The fruits are boiled before eaten.

The so called Anona and the so called Sacha Chirimoya which both look much alike and both are found in areas close to the swamp lands. (See Drawing 8e).


Drawing 8e

The false peanut or so called Sachamaní is of a green colour and its leaves are like stars with five points. They are very rich in proteins. (See Drawings 8f).

Sacha Maní
Sacha Maní

Drawing 8f

The coco nut which is very common all over the Rain Forest and apart from eating the nut itself, you can also drink its water.

The so called Uvilla or Wild grape. It is a very tall tree, which produces clusters of very hard seeds, each of an approximate size of between 1.5 centimetres to 3 centimetres. As mentioned it has a very hard shell and it has a large seed of brown colour. When they ripen they turn into a black colour. (See Drawing 8g)


Drawing 8g

The so called Cocona, grows on low bushes and is of a reddish yellow colour, somewhat tart in its taste but very agreeable.

In the Rain Forest it is also possible to find the so called Granadilla and also the Maracuyá or Passion fruit, well known around the world.

The so called Arbol del pan or Bread fruit tree has a very dense crown with large leaves. It has a big fruit and the seeds that you find inside are edible, either boiled or roasted. (See Drawing 8 h).

Arbol de pan
Bread fruit tree or Arbol del Pan

Drawing 8h

Looking for Food of Animal Origin.

In the Rain Forest it is easy to find many small game animals, but it is probable that you will not be wearing fire arms so you will have to make do with basic and rustic traps, built according to the type of animal you want to catch.

a) Suspended Slip Knot Running Noose Trap.

You have to set the trap close to a young flexible tree sapling or some other flexible bush. You bend the sapling downwards and you tie the end of the rope to the top of the tree. At the opposite end of the rope you tie a wooden stick cut in the form of a trigger and this part is secured to a wooden stake that has been set into the ground. At the end of the rope you make a slip knot in the shape of a running noose, wide enough to allow the head of the intended prey animal to enter. All this you then secure vertically between two small wooden stakes. You then position the bait at one of the sides of the running noose. (See Drawing 8i)

Suspended Slip Knot Running Noose Trap
Suspended Slip Knot Running Noose Trap.

Drawing 8i

b) Harpoon or Spear Trap.

This type of trap tends to be very effective. To make one you tie a length of bamboo, or else the so called wild cane or a flexible tree branch to the trunk of a thick tree in a vertical position. Then you sharpen the point of a stick, or even better, a cut off sharp edge of bamboo, which you then tie on to the lower part of the flexible part of the trap. (See Drawing). This sharpened point should point in the direction of the thick tree trunk. Then you should extend a low slung rope across the animal path, to be used as the trip trigger. When the prey animal crosses the path, it will push against the rope and thus setting off the contraption and the pointed harpoon or spear will kill the intended prey animal. (See Drawing 8j)

Maximum 45% Angle / Contraption and Trigger<br>Harpoon or Spear Trap
Maximum 45% Angle / Contraption and Trigger
Harpoon or Spear Trap

Drawing 8j

Catch fish can be very useful as a means to satisfy the need for food and fish is plentiful in the streams and lakes in the Rain Forest, but they are difficult to catch unless you have appropriate equipment for it.

If you have caught a fish please follow the instructions below:

a) In the Rain Forest, because of the heat, fish tend to decompose or go bad very quickly, so it is better to eat them as soon as possible.
b) Always start by eating the fish in small morsels and wait a few minutes to see if they cause any ill effects. If there are no ill effects you can safely continue eating them.
c) Do not eat the intestines or the egg sacks of the fish.

Fish will normally feed, although it is not a fixed rule, just before dawn and just after the sun goes down, thus making these times the most appropriate for trying to catch them.

If you fish during the hot hours of the day, try doing so in a fast running stream and if you fish during the afternoon try your luck in a deep pond.

When the fish are too small to catch using normal fishing gear, improvise a net using a branch with a forked end. Tying the ends of the fork together you forma circular frame, and then you use a piece of cloth i.e. a shirt or one of the natural cloths that you can find at the foot of palm trees. You tie this to the round frame and form a sort of conical sack with it. Used in an adequate manner this contraption is quite useful for fishing in swampy areas and wet lands. (See Drawing 8 k).


Drawing 8k

There are many ways that you can improvise a harpoon or fishing spear.

a) You can tie your jungle knife to the point of a wooden rod.
b) You can sharpen a long bamboo or wooden rod and then you tie two thorns or spines to the point at the front end.
c) By using a branch, which ends in three smaller branches, which you sharpen to a point.

For fishing in clear streams and trying to catch bigger fish it is very useful to use the harpoon or fishing spear but it is important to know that, due to the deviation of the light rays in water, the fish is not to be found in the exact place where you see it. It is necessary to aim below the image the fish projects in order spear or harpoon it. (See Drawing 8l).

Drawing 8l

You can also make stationary traps for fishing, as can be seen in the following drawing. (See Drawing 8m).

Drawing 8m

General Information
How to determine
your position
Auxiliary signals
for air rescue
How to prepare to
enter the Rain Forest
How to get around
in the Rain Forest
How to build a shelter in the Rain Forest
Search for water
and food

Searching for

Search for edible

Looking for food
  of animal origin

Dangers within the
Rain Forest
How to ford a water course
How to act during
a thunderstorm
How to act when encountering natives
Snake bites. Prevention
Insect bites