Jungle Survival Training

Ben and Ant

Ant hunter

Update – Video added at end.

Keeping Ben, Zoe and Lara alive, fit and healthy is our top priority. As kids they are inquisitive, independent and prone to getting distracted by anything that looks fun or interesting. Within minutes of our arrival on Ilha Grande Ben had caught the biggest ant you never wanted to see. I am pretty sure Ben hasn’t been bitten by ants as he was super confident. I then imagined him playing with a local spider which may not be as harmless as our homegrown Daddy Long Legs and thought we better do some jungle awareness training.

Our house backs onto virgin jungle and Ben and Zoe being intrepid little explorers were dead keen to see where the path up into the jungle behind us went and were soon packing for their ‘trip’. Smelling an opportunity in their super keenness to go I announced that they had to pass ‘Jungle Survival Training’ before they could leave. ‘Oh Dad, do we have to?’, ‘I want to go now’ fell on deaf ears and I sketched out a quick lesson plan. Obviously not that quick as Mo went out and came back 3 hours later and we were still at it!

Taking a leaf out of TV’s Horrid Histories to engage the audience I started with jungle dangers and tales of blood sucking leeches, dinner plate sized spiders and snakes that look like branches had the desired effects. I had an attentive audience and children who were not so keen to wander off the beaten path!

Training was to be followed by a test which they had to pass. If both of them answered any question incorrectly they would not be able to go. A tough message and I wondered how they might take failure as it wouldn’t be a good idea to let them go if they didn’t pass?

(In case you are wondering about letting a 9 year old and 7 year old wander off into the jungle alone I sneaked off to have a look. The stone steps soon went into a rabbit track and petered out not far above the house. Basically nowhere to go apart from very steep and impassable dense vegetation, perfect!)

We covered a lot of ground including touching on:

  • Urban dangers – what they were used to like cars, excessive TV and eating McDonalds
  • Jungle dangers – getting lost, heat exhaustion, dehydration, uneven ground, steep hills, snakes, spiders, ants, mosquitos, leeches and cannibals (only joking!)
  • Filing a route plan (telling someone where you are going) – start, finish, route, time out and back, number in group. They even sketched out their route on paper.
  • How to use their mobiles – turning on and off, unlocking, making a call, who to call (they have memorised my mobile number, we need to work on Mo’s) and the Brazilian emergency number 911, checking battery and signal level and keeping charged. Note: on Ilha Grande phones only work in the village!
  • Navigation – landmarks, looking back to memorise your route, marking a route, timing how far you have gone. (Plenty more to cover on this topic!)
  • Jungle clothes – long trousers and sleeves, good footwear, fast drying
  • Water – how much you need, wee colour and frequency and how long you can live without air, water and food (Rule of Threes), being hydrated to start with, watching each other for signs of dehydration and heat exhaustion
  • Suncream – what ‘factor’ means, when to put on and how long it lasts
  • Signalling for help – whistle, shouting, torch, smoke, large signs
  • Morse code for Save Our Souls
  • Walking skills – going down hill is harder/more dangerous than going up, facing the hill when very steep, dangers of loose jungle footing, eye height dangers when watching your feet, walking at the pace of the slowest, walking for 30-60 minutes and then having a rest to cover maximum ground
  • Useful kit to take – rucksack to keep hands free, plenty of water, torch, insect repellent, first aid kit, whistle, torch, sun cream, hand sanitiser, mobile, cigarette lighter, knife (we kept it to the real basics that they could learn to use)
  • Always staying on tracks as they are likely the easiest route, lead somewhere, you can be found and you don’t get leeches etc. dropping on you!
  • Not scratching mossie etc. bites!

You can click on photos to get a big version (if you want to!). A spider we found close up, red is not a good sign though…

Ilha Grande Spider

Ihla Grande spider – prettier and bigger than UK ones

UPDATE – This is actually a Jumping Spider (Psecas Euoplus) which is the most common spider in South America. It can jump up to 40 times it’s height and is one of the prettiest. On the deadly scale it is probably only 2/10 as it’s bite is like a bad wasp sting (no personal experience) unless you are allergic, in which case bad news.

We did a bit on First Aid and looked at:

  • Checking for danger to yourself
  • Not panicking at the sight of ketchup etc.
  • Talking to and reassuring the casualty
  • What to do with – bleeding, breaks, heat exhaustion, dehydration and snake and spider bites
  • Getting others if available to call for help
  • Get help ASAP

Emergency SOP’s needed some consideration as ‘events’ are never straightforward and we wanted them to remember this:

  • STAY TOGETHER – The last thing we want is 2 lost children!
  • Stay on a track
  • Use mobile if it works
  • Signal to get attention
  • DON’T go and get help unless you are very, very close and can see where you are going i.e. along the beach.

A lot to take in for Ben and Zoe. So how did they do? We did the test a few hours later after dinner and they were amazing, almost 100% was remembered and they didn’t need to search Google once! They must be little sponges for information and I am looking forward to seeing what they have remembered in a week or two’s time.

Training was yesterday and this morning they went on their expedition, returning after 15 minutes looking rather flushed from the heat and climb and letting us know the path didn’t go anywhere :-).

Here is my first attempt at a video after they returned:

We are off to another beach tomorrow by boat and have a 30 minute jungle walk through to Lopes Mendes beach which is meant to be one of the best in Brazil. Hopefully this will satisfy their explorer wanderlust.

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Bill Cook
    Jul 25, 2012 @ 07:47:54

    Excellent training programme and super test results. Why has the spider got a chilli pepper stuck in its bum?


  2. Siobhan Claudine Chapman
    Jul 25, 2012 @ 09:22:50

    Wow Martin, what great training. Could have done with you on our Duke of Edinburgh’s Award expedition 🙂 Mo was especially good at the not panicking at the sight of ketchup bit! Could have done with some slightly better bandaging practice though – Marley’s ghost anyone?
    Siobhan xxx


    • Mo
      Jul 26, 2012 @ 15:13:24

      Hi Sionhan, Brings back some great memories! Great experiential learning on map reading that day! Martin Ben and Zoe just off for a longer expedition! I’m sure they’ll be more sensible that we were!! Lovely to hear from you. Mo xx


  3. freespirit41
    Jul 25, 2012 @ 10:51:38

    Well done Ben and Zoe, it must have been very hot in the jungle.
    O xx


  4. Oscar M
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 07:34:43

    I was in Ilha Grande when i was 21 it was beautiful!!!! (Oscars Mum)


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