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Tags: Malaysia, Jungle Survival

Ultimate Jungle Survival Guide

Swap your toothpaste for a warm blanket, keep your machete and spectacles close, and other jungle survival tips

Just one month into our internship, Jialin and I were issued a challenge — select an adventure listed on Seek Sophie that is a step out of our comfort zones. With that in mind, we picked what we thought would be the most challenging — a 2D1N Jungle Survival Challenge by L.O.S.T. Borneo. Spoiler alert: We survived.

Here are several tips that might have made our experience easier had we known about them earlier!

1. Pack light and leave your toiletries at home 

We had to trek rough terrains and steep inclines for about two hours before we got to base camp. We had packed everything on the recommended packing list, but as we lugged our 45l camping bags into the jungle, we wished we had packed far lighter. Particularly since in addition to our load, we were also provided with a 1.5l water bottle, a personal machete and a hammock (another tip: no need for sleeping bags too)! 

Packing the hammocks and machetes provided by L.O.S.T. Borneo before we set off.

For instance, we quickly realised during the expedition that we did not need our toiletries. Given that we washed up in a waterfall, we didn't use any soap for fear of polluting the water; and as it was only a short 2 day trip, we could have done without brushing our teeth. So don't pack as you would for a usual holiday, and leave that conditioner and toothpaste at home! 

2. That being said, pack warm.

We were warned that the night would get cold, but even with 3 pairs of socks, a long-sleeved shirt, and a light jacket, we found ourselves shivering into the night. Granted, we were told it was exceptionally cold because it was dry season, but we wished we had over-prepared that night. So do pack an extra sweater or fleece. You can also request for a fleece blanket from L.O.S.T Borneo in advance.

3. Strap, strap, strap away!

Jialin pushing through and conquering the wilderness

Some inclines required using our hands for additional support, so make sure to have straps for all your cameras and equipment. If necessary, get straps for your eyewear too — I dropped my spectacles in the waterfall and spent an additional 10 minutes scouring the rocky floors for it. This may not happen to you, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Trust me, you’d need perfect vision to navigate around the jungle.

Above-mentioned waterfall where I almost lost my spectacles

4. Have a day bag you can carry around.

While we were foraging, we realised two hands weren’t enough to hold an 1.5l water bottle, a personal machete, and our “gardening loots”— it was basically a juggling act. Thankfully, Hanry, our amazing guide, used his quick wits and experience to do up make-shift straps for us, but this could have all been avoided with a day pack. Click here to watch our Meet The Guide video featuring Hanry!

Straps made out of wild ginger stems to hold more ginger (and our bottles)

5. Pay close attention to your guide

Hanry explaining to us the uses of different flora and fauna.

Throughout our treks, Hanry would point out different plants for us to note — some are edible, some has medicinal value, some are poisonous. Initially, we only focused on the stories and not so much on the plant itself. Later, we realised we had to spot and forage these plants by ourselves. Lucky Hanry’s mini pop quizzes along the way (“do you remember what plant this is? What is it for?”) helped us slowly identify and differentiate the various plants.

6. Take care of your personal Jungle Mastercard.

“The jungle is a supermarket, and the machete is your mastercard.”

One thing that we did not expect is how much we came to rely on our machete. From clearing paths, to carving wood candlings for starting a fire, to foraging for food, everything required assistance from this handy blade. We aren’t sure what we would do if we are ever stranded in a jungle without a machete, but let’s hope we never have to find out.

7. If at first you don’t succeed, try again.

One of our favourite moments was sharing stories by the campfire.

Initially, we really looked forward to starting our own fire. But as we went back and forth trying to generate enough friction to create an ember, we remember the feeling of wanting to give up; of wanting Hanry to do it for us instead. On our third attempt, we used the last of our arm strength (#RIP triceps) as Hanry counted down the longest 10 seconds in our lives. And then we saw it, the smoke coming from the wood shavings underneath. This experience isn’t easy, but it definitely gave us accomplishments to remember for life (starting fire: check✔️ , building shelters: check ✔️).

This experience turned out completely different from what we had imagined. We expected to eat worms, dig our own toilets, and use leaves for toilet paper. Instead, we had decent meals and a proper toilet with running water. And then there were the experiences we never thought would happen, such as drinking water directly from a freshly cut bamboo.

We drank water straight out of a bamboo, using a bamboo straw carved by Hanry.

“To some, survival is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. To others, survival is  a way of life.”

Somehow in the jungle, we were content with even a simple boiled tapioca for lunch. We truly enjoyed the simple things. I remember sitting by the campfire at night, as Hanry shared his stories with us; I remember spotting a lone firefly and getting excited over it; I remember staring at the star-filled skies from our hammocks in peace and quiet. Hanry once said, those who intentionally choose adventure are stronger, and come out stronger. If you’d like to experience this for yourself, book a trip here.

This was us at the end of the 2 days — we've never been happier to see 100 Plus waiting for us at the end of our 2 hour trek back to civilisation. Thank you Hanry for being so generous with your knowledge and passion for the jungle.

Watch our jungle survival experience here!

Afterword: This article was written by Charmaine, an intern at Seek Sophie who gamely headed into the jungles of Borneo with her fellow intern Jialin, and they lived to tell the tale. 

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