Success Tips From Surviving In The Costa Rican Rain Forest

Recently, Bear Grylls, a survival expert, parachuted into the rain forest of Costa Rica. This is one of the most dangerous jungles in existence. It consists of over 300 square miles described as the most biologically intense place on earth.

Ninety four people had to be rescued there last year by the Red Cross. Bear described the purpose of his visit: “My mission is to show you the skills you need to survive the rain forest and find your way out.”

Part of success is finding your way and visualising the end result of finding your way. Bear Grylls visualised the warm bed which would be available when he reached civilisation.

Most of us already have a warm bed available but do not appreciate it enough! Many of us do not appreciate our computers enough.

To find our way home all we need to do is check out Enter your home address, and then press ‘enter’.

If you would like an aerial view, just click the ‘satellite’ button when the map appears. Of course, Bear lacked both a nice, warm bed and a computer!

He had only a knife and a water bottle. People that get lost in the jungle often have only the clothes on their back. Bear landed in the trees sixty feet up. He abseiled to the ground in style.

He decided to head downhill to find a stream or river to follow out of the jungle. There are many jaguars in this area of the rain forest but snakes and smaller creatures are more of a danger.

The forest undergrowth was really thick. Bear was getting nowhere: “I need another plan.” Successful people are not afraid to change their plans when necessary.

Lacking an aerial photo or computer, he had to climb the highest tree he could find to see a way out. This was risky.

Above the canopy all he could see was miles and miles of jungle in every direction. However he did see a slight depression in the jungle where one side was higher than the other. This suggested a river and gave Bear a possible direction.

Just walking along you need to be careful where you step. If you step over a log or grab a vine without looking you could be bitten. He spotted a fer de lance snake:

“These guys are responsible for more deaths in Central and South America than any other snake. Fer de lance means Lance Head. If that struck and bit me, I could well be dead before nightfall.”

Many snakes are highly dangerous. Two million people report snake bites every year. 60,000 of those who are bitten, die. Most of us fail to appreciate the comparative safety of our own lives and appreciation is a huge part of success. We tend to get more of what we are grateful for.

He spotted a stream and followed it for direction and water. You can survive three weeks without food but you can only survive a couple of days with out water.

If the water is fast flowing and creatures like cray fish are swimming around, it is probably harmless. It tasted good to Bear who drank freely.

The route Bear was following might not be the quickest or safest but: “This route is all I’ve got.” Successful people do not sit around moaning that they do not have all the info they need. They just use what they have.

He next came up against a steep waterfall. To go round it would take a couple of hours and it would be dark by then. He climbed down using some vines.

To make a shelter for the night, Bear needed a sharp knife. He found a quartz like stone which he smashed and ground and smeared on to some wet wood with the bark removed.

He then drew the knife up and down the stick to sharpen it. Skills are the ingredients of both survival and success.

Bear left the stream to find plants to eat. They are the easiest source of food in this jungle. They are plentiful and they don’t run away:

“Avoid bright red berries and, in most cases, plants with a milky sap. Test the juice on your skin to see if you react and try eating a tiny piece but be ready to spit it out.”

He found some black mouth berries which were packed with good natural sugars. Healthy eating and taking care of yourself is a key part of success.

Bear now looked for a place to shelter. The rain forest is a few degrees north of the equator. Days and nights are the same length in this area.

Falling trees and branches are the biggest killers of people in the jungle so you need to find clear ground well away from trees.

He needed a shelter because it was the rainy season and he also needed a fire not to keep warm but to give himself a break from the mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are annoying and can carry diseases like dengi fever and malaria.

Clear the ground with a stick and not your hands. There could be snakes or scorpions around. When I was a small boy in a concentration camp in China, I saw my father’s back badly swollen from the sting of a scorpion.

Its venomous sting cannot usually kill a healthy adult but the venom of some types of scorpions can kill the young, sick and elderly.

He used his knife and a branch as a hammer to cut down some small trees to help build his shelter. He used a makeshift bow and three pieces of wood to start a fire and put a termite nest on the fire to help drive off the mosquitoes.

Successful people use whatever they have available to achieve their goals.

Bear had a bad night of diarrhoea and vomiting and hardly slept at all. He felt cold and shivery. He was not sure what he had done wrong. He hoped he was not suffering from dysentery – a severe form of diarrhoea.

“I think I have just picked up a tummy bug perhaps by touching animal crap.”

Maybe it was the water Bear had drunk. Boil water for at least 5 minutes before you drink it.

Diarrhoea drains the body of water and salt and you are then vulnerable to heat stroke. Every year, hikers die because they don’t drink enough water.

Even though the jungle can make you sick it can also help you if you know what to look for. Bear, like all successful people, does not give up even when he is ill.

Instead, he remembered a milk tree – nature’s milk of magnesia – which he had passed half a mile back. He climbed back up the waterfall.

Nearly half the medicines we use were developed from rain forest plants. The pain killer Ibuprofen was synthesised from a vine called the monkey ladder tree.

Bear found the milk tree and sucked out the milky sap which would settle his stomach. Normally, milky sap is a sign of danger but not in this case.

He headed back down the stream and his appetite started to return. He cut down a palm sapling and ate some heart of palm. The centre is white and sweet and tastes a bit like asparagus.

“You can almost taste the nutrition in this.”

Bear got ready for another night in the jungle. He cut some sap from a camphor tree. Camphor is the stuff moth balls are made from and has the same repelling effect on mosquitoes as it does on moths.

He also used the camphor resin to help create a torch which would help him find shrimp or crayfish. Four crayfish made him a decent meal. His spirits were lifted as he watched the crayfish cook.

In a survival situation, the battles are won or lost in the mind. There is a story about Marcos Martinez, a 17 year old, who was separated from his uncle in this area and spent thirteen days and nights on his own in the jungle living off green bananas and contaminated water from the streams .

After 40 kilometres of walking a sick, dehydrated and disoriented Marcos staggered out of the jungle.

He said that what scared him most was thinking about the animals in the night but his faith in God kept him going. Whatever you use to keep up your spirits will help you survive. Sometimes it is nothing more than camp fire food which keeps you motivated. Successful people find ways to keep their spirits up.

It rained all night and the shelter worked for only about four hours. By morning Bear was drenched and demoralized.

He did not want to spend another sleepless night in the jungle. He wanted to get out of the jungle as fast as he could especially because he no longer had the river to himself.

There were spectacled caymans, close relatives of the crocodile, moving menacingly through the shallows. Further down river there might be American crocodiles which were twice as big and ten times as nasty:

“If I meet them I could be in real trouble. I am keeping the stick with me. You should never get near a crocodile but if you do the advice is to go for its eyes and its nostrils.”

Successful people like to be well prepared for possible trouble. Robert Ringer leaves nearly two hours spare to catch his plane. You never know what hassles may interrupt your best plans in the real world as opposed to the ideal world. The jungle is definitely part of the real world.

The river was now wider. Bear looked forward to completing his mission:

“There is every chance that by tonight I could be in a warm, cosy bed.”

He crossed the river poking with his stick to scare any river snakes away. On the other side, he cut down a balsa tree which could be the base of his raft. He used the bark to strap his logs together.

He headed down river and found the floating to be much faster than walking. He noticed that he was now passing mangroves – salt tolerant plants that grow out of the water. The tide was going out fast and pulling him along at a rate of knots:

“If I am not careful I could be carried straight out into the Pacific.”

Bear tried to find a way out through the mangrove swamp but found it a nightmare. He spent three hours climbing through the swamp but was getting nowhere.

He decided to get back on his raft and take his chances on the river. He reached the mouth of the river just as the tide was going out and was pulled out into the Pacific ocean.

“If you are caught in a current like this don’t fight it. You will just exhaust yourself. Just paddle parallel to the shore and sooner or later you will get out of the current and you can then swim for shore.”

Successful people do not panic. They stay calm, preserve their energy and use their brains.

Bear did all this and soon reached a beautiful beach He had no idea where the beach was but did not care because he saw the blinking of electric lights a couple of miles up the sand. He could relax now because electricity meant people and people meant safety.

The jungle can be intimidating when you are lost and it can quickly sap your strength. But it is an extraordinary world. It is also a world that is getting smaller. Every second, an area the size of a football pitch is gone. One day a rain forest to get lost in might not exist.

Bear commented: “I hope that day never comes because it is such a special place but, for me, it is definitely time to go home.”

Survive or succeed, then, by finding your way with whatever tools you have, by visualizing your goals, by adapting your plans, by learning useful skills, by keeping up your morale, by being well prepared, by appreciating and using what you have and by staying safe and healthy!

Above all, success follows action. Bear Grylls keeps moving and taking action even when he is ill. If we follow his example, we will not go far wrong.