Jungle Survival in Costa Rica

Many travelers consider parts of Central America to be paradise given the many beach resorts one can stay in. However, getting lost away from civilization with little in the way of supplies makes for a survival challenge that not many would want to face. The heat, the humidity, and the many dangers can make for an uncomfortable adventure. Which makes the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica the perfect place for Survivorman, Les Stroud, to walk us through 7 days of survival tactics.

Les begins on the beach many miles away from civilization. On one side of the beach is 1000 of miles of open ocean and on the other is dense jungle. His equipment includes a pair of long pants, swimming goggles, three pens, and a multi-tool (looks like a Leatherman).

During his investigation of his immediate surroundings, Les notes the tide levels and that there will likely be tidal pools he can check in on for fish. The beach also has various debris that might come in handy such as a broom handle. For immediate hydration and some sustenance, Les gathers coconuts (both green and sprouted) which are plentiful. With coconuts providing necessary hydration, he is able to shift his focus to building a platform out of wood on which to sleep. His goal is to remain off the sand and away from the various bugs (cockroaches, sand fleas) and crabs that crawl around at night.

On day 2, he still continues his search for fresh water and gets lucky when he finds a stream. The water is cold and looks clean, but he avoids drinking it for the time being. It is after all jungle water so it is likely filled with parasites. Ultimately he will need to purify the water by boiling it in a conk shell once he is able to get a fire going. First up though is putting a roof, in the form of a lean-to, over the wood platform he built on day one.

With a survival shelter built, Les turns his attention to building a fire. Using the broom he found earlier as a spindle, he gets a fire started fairly easily using a the fire bow technique. Fire, in this case, is needed for protection, cooking food, and boiling water rather than for warmth. The first thing he cooks are snails he gathers from the tide pools. Les describes how the water that comes out of the snail shell should be clear. If instead it is green, they shouldn't be eaten.

On day 3 Les' focus turns to acquiring more food. With the ocean at his feet, the obvious thing to try is fishing with a makeshift spear. He also uses the elastic waistband from a pair of underwear to help propel the spear. Despite the threat of sharks that are in the area, Les ventures in to the water and after much trial and error he manages to spear a fish. Intuitively one might remove their clothes when going in to the water, but Les keeps his on so that he has some protection from jellyfish and from being scraped by rocks and corral.

Day 4 starts off with Les checking his boots for scorpions. Apparently more people die from scorpion stings in their shoes than in any other way. The smartest thing to do in this sort of situation is to stay on the beach, but in the interest of the show, Les decides to venture in to the jungle and look for a trail. He packs his fire starting tools as well as preparing a fire bundle using a coconut stuffed with tinder and a hot coal.

The jungle is dense and requires a lot of hard work to get through. Les sweats profusely which is better than not sweating since that would indicate that he was dehydrated. During his trek, Les comes across a water vine from which he tries to extract water. No luck though as it is dry. To make matters worse, he cuts his finger with his knife. Infections in the jungle can be very bad so he covers the cut with a makeshift bandage.

When it becomes dark, Les selects a large fallen tree on which to rest for the night. He opts to not build a shelter since staying warm is not a concern. And the fire bundle he brought along has gone out. Unfortunately for Les, despite being off the ground, he is bothered by ants (there are 3.6 million of them per acre) and other insects and regrets not having a fire which would keep things at bay.

Day 5 marks Les' second day in the jungle lugging 55 lbs of survival and camera gear. The day is largely uneventful, but this time around Les builds a fire for the night using the fire bow he brought with him from the beach. He also has managed to kill a lizard along the way which he cooks over a fire.

On day 6 Les continues his walk through the jungle eventually coming upon a stream. Although unsafe to drink, Les is more concerned with dehydration so he drinks from the stream. He also lies in the water to bring his core temperature down to offset the effects of the heat and humidity of the jungle. The stream also guides Les back to the beach and deciding that the beach makes for easier travel, he takes this opportunity to get out of the jungle.

Following the shore does indeed work out for Les as he comes across a small establishment the following day. Rescued at last!

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