Everything in the jungle thrives, including disease germ breed at an alarming rate and parasites can make jungle survival uncomfortable. Nature provides water, food and plenty of materials for making shelters. Indigenous peoples have survived for millenia from hunting and gathering, but for the outsider it can take a long time to get used to the conditions and the non stop activity.
Native peoples wear little, except as ornament, but the newcomer, uninured to insects and leeches and unaccustomed to moving through dense jungle growth, needs to keep as covered as possible.
Clothing may become saturated by perspiration but it is better than being stung, scratched and bitten all over. Do not remove clothing until you halt and then, with humidity at 80-90percent there is no point hanging it up to dry except in the sun or by a fire. Clothes saturated regularly by perspiration will rot. Except at high altitudes, both equatorial and subtropical regions are characterised by high temperatures, heavy rainfall and oppressive humidity.
Temperature and Rainfall
At low altitudes, temperature variation is seldom more than 10 C (50 F), and is often 37 C (98 F). At altitudes over 1500m (5000ft) ice often forms at night. The rain has a slightly cooling effect but, when it stops, the temperature soars.
Rainfall is heavy, often with thunder and lightning. Sudden rain beats on the tree canopy, turning trickles into raging torrents and rivers rise at an alarming rate, but- just as suddenly – its gone. Violent storms may occur, usually towards the end of the “summer” months. Prevailing winds create variation between winter and summer with the dry season (rain once a day) and the monsoon (continous rain).
In south east asia, winds from the Indian Ocean bring monsoon, but it is dry when the wind blows from the land-mass of china. Tropical day and night are of equal length, darkness falls quickly and daybreak is equally sudden.
Jungle survival dangers
Wear a net over your head, or tie a tee-shirt or singlet over it, especially at dawn and dusk. Better, take a strip of cloth long enough to tie around your head and about 45cm (18in) deep and cut it to make a fringe of vertical strips hanging from a band that will hang around your face and over your neck.
At night keep covered, including your hands. Use bamboo or a sapling to support a little tent of clothing plus large leaves, rigged over your upper half. Oil, fat or even mud spread on hands and face may help to repel mosquitoes. In camp a smoky fire will help keep insects at bay.
Good footwear and protection for the legs is essential- they are most exposed to leeches, chigoe and centipedes. Wrap bark or cloth around the legs and tie it to make puttees.
Slashing your way through jungle you may disturb bee, wasp or hornet nests . They may attack, especially hornets, whose stings can be especially painful. Anywhere left bare, including your face, is vulnerable to attack. Run! Don’t drop anything, you wont want to go back for it! Goggles would help protect the eyes. As you work up perspiration there are insects, desperate for salt, that will fly to the wettest parts of the body. Unfortunately they also sting. Protect armpits and groin.
Keep clothing and footwear off the ground. Then scorpions, snakes and other nasties are less likely to invade them. Always shake out clothing and check boots before putting them on and be wary when putting hands in pockets. On waking, take care. Centipedes tend to curl for warmth in some of the more private body regions.
Beware caterpillars too! If mosquitoes and leeches sucking your blood, painful bites from centipedes and the risk of scorpion and snake bites are not enough, look out for hairy caterpillars. Be careful to brush them off in the direction they are traveling or small irritant hairs may stay in the skin and cause an itchy rash, which may fester in the heat.
Leeches lie on the ground or on vegetation, especially in damp places, waiting to attach themselves to an animal (or a person) to take a meal of blood . Their bite is not painful but they secrete a natural anticoagulant that makes it messy. Left alone, they drop off when they have had their fill- but if you are covered in them you must do something! Do NOT pull them off. There is a risk the head will come off leaving the jaws in the bite, which could turn septic. Remove with a dab of salt, alcohol or the burning end of a cigarette, an ember or a flame.
Everything is likely to be damp. Take standing dead wood and shave off the outside. Use that to start your fire. Dry bamboo makes excellent tinder (store some), so does a termites nest.
A large variety of fruits, roots and leaves are available. Banana,papaya,mango and figs are easily recognized. (Papaya is one of the few plants with white sap that is edible).
The large, thorny fruit of the Durian, of southeast Asia, smells disgusting, but is good to eat. Palms provide an edible growing point and manioc produces massive tubers- though they must be cooked before eating. Taro, wild potato and some kinds of yam. You must also be prepared to remove poisons before they are eaten. You may find the wealth of tropical foods hard to identify, if your not sure use the test described on the food page first.
Deer, pigs, monkeys and a wide range of animals can be hunted and trapped according to location. In primary jungle, birds spend most of there time in the tree canopy among the fruit and berries. Place traps in clearings and lure birds with fruit. Near river traps can be baited with fish or offal for Fish Eagles and similar species which patrol rivers for prey. Parrots and their relatives abound in the tropics- their mad screeching makes their presence known from early morning. They are cunning so get them used to taking bait before setting the trap.
Snakes are easier to catch go for the nonpoisonous constrictor and very tasty. Catch them using a forked stick. Rivers support all kinds of life: fish, plants, animals and insects. If you have no fishing tackle small pools can be dammed and then emptied with a bailer fish and turtles in surprising numbers in mud. Fish from slow moving water are more likely to be infested with parasites. If suspect boil for 20 minutes .