How To Survive If You're Lost In The Amazon Rainforest

The sprawl of the Amazon rainforest reaches nine South American countries, including Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Colombia. And it's home to countless deadly threats.

From poisonous plants to ferocious predators, the Amazon rainforest is not the kind of place you'd ever want to get unexpectedly lost. If you were to be dropped into the jungles of the Amazon, supplies like a first-aid kit, protective clothing, and a robust supply of food and water would be ideal. In the event of an unexpected stay in the wilderness, however, there are things you can do to survive even without advance preparation. It's all about knowing where to look and keeping calm while making the rainforest work for you. That and a bit of luck.

Disclaimer: This list is meant for entertainment purposes only.

  • Keep Your Feet Dry And Covered
    Photo: Fritz Rudolf Loewa / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    Keep Your Feet Dry And Covered

    One of the most important things you can do to survive the wilderness, a jungle, or any less-than-ideal elements is keeping your feet dry. Jungle terrain features a mix of mud and flora and, with heavy rain possible at any time, the moisture and humidity never really abates. In that environment, staying dry can be a challenge.

    Before you even venture into the jungle, having waterproof shoes is a bit of a mixed bag. They may keep water from getting in, but they also keep sweat from getting out. Making sure your feet can breathe is key. You could try wrapping any extra gear, clothing, or plastic material around your feet by day and airing them out at night.

  • Cover As Much Skin As Possible

    The Amazon is full of bugs, snakes, poisonous plants, and other things you just don't want touching your skin. It may be hot, humid, and unpleasant to keep covered up, but the less skin you have exposed, the better.

    When Juliane Koepcke found herself on the floor of the Amazon rainforest after a plane crash in 1971, she knew what surrounded her:

    Insects rule the jungle, and I encounter them all: ants, beetles, butterflies, grasshoppers, mosquitoes. A certain type of fly will lay eggs under the skin or in wounds. Stingless wild bees like to cling to hair.

    Another threat - the fer-de-lance snake - is a nocturnal creature that attacks its prey from jungle floor and tree trunk alike. 

    One more danger is sunburn. If you're wearing a hat, your head, neck, and face will remain relatively safe, but you'll have to be as aware of potential sun reflection from water sources as the rays beating down from the sky. There's a lot of leaves overhead, but the sun is dangerous nonetheless.

  • Don't Eat Anything You Know Is Not Safe

    With dangerous plants and animals at every turn, finding safe food in the Amazon isn't easy. Gileno Vieira de Rocha, who lost his way in the rainforest, resorted to eating bugs, something readily available and safer than unidentifiable plants and fruit. De Rocha commented that he "couldn't find any fruit or animals to hunt [and]... resorted to catching flies and wasps" to stay alive.

    Survivor Juliane Koepcke knew that much of the forest wildlife could be poisonous. Koepcke survived off of sweets she found in the wreckage from her downed flight.

  • Find (Or Make) Adequate Shelter
    Photo: L(Phot) Will Haigh/MOD / Wikimedia Commons / Open Government License 1.0

    Find (Or Make) Adequate Shelter

    Especially at night, you'll want to find shelter. You may need to build your own, using large leaves and other shrubbery to make a tent of sorts, but you might find something that serves the same purpose in the rainforest. Shelter is also key if you find yourself in a torrential downpour, which is common in the Amazon.

    When you find or make shelter, higher ground is ideal. You want to make sure you're not in the path of any potential running water and that you have a fire nearby to ward off bugs, critters, or any other threats.

  • Make Sure You Rest

    One of the things that worked against Juliane Koepcke was her inability to sleep. Pain from her injuries - she suffered a broken collarbone, a lacerated arm, a concussion, and eye trauma as a result of the plane crash - combined with incessant insect bites kept her from sleeping. She became increasingly exhausted as her time in the jungle went on.

    Koepcke did move slowly as she traversed the rainforest, but keeping up one's energy is important in the heat and humidity of the Amazon. Dehydration and overexertion are as deadly as any illness or wound.

  • Do Not Panic

    When Tara Ramsey and her group ventured into the Amazon rainforest with jugs of water, three days' worth of food, and a guide named Pedro, she was told to trust him. Pedro advised her of dangerous snakes, pointed out unique plants, and led the way to a cocoa farm where the group also happened upon a school. Unfortunately, what happened next was her biggest fear - they got lost. Instead of panicking, however, she left that to Pedro and tried to stay calm. 

    Not panicking is essential to survival in any high-stress, life-threatening situation. When Juliane Koepcke was lost in the Amazon, she trusted in her knowledge of the jungle and didn't panic, even when she stumbled upon caimans - carnivorous reptiles - while trying to make her way to safety.

    While panic is both a physical and mental response, psychology professor Jonathan Abramowitz cautions that "anxiety is fueled by catastrophic thoughts" and "you need to analyze your situation and think rationally" to survive.