Amazon survival training

One of the canoe for sale

 Why train with the Ecuadorian army?

"With our amazon expedition in mind (see Morona expedition) which we wanted to do that same month in complete autonomy, we knew we lacked kedge on the environment as well as survival skills necessary for such expeditions."


How?Luck struck when we met Tom, an American from the US army who worked with the Ecuadorian amazon special force called the Tigres.  This was a troop highly trained in protecting their Peruvian/Colombian border.  We asked Tom if the Tigres were willing to give us an introduction to the basic skills needed to survie in the Amazon and they agreed!

Who?The commander would be “Tanguila” an indigenous himself who had dedicated most of his life to the army.  2nd in line would be Bayas another career solder from the city of Guayaquil.  Both men were proud and happy to train us especially since this was their first experience training civilians.

Threats of the Amazon -  If you were to guess, the anaconda? Nope! It’s the “conga ants” or “bullet ants” which as Bayas explained sting like a bullet.  Falling into a nest would also be deadly.  However these ants are easily recognizable due to their size of 5cm long, making them one of the largest ant species in the Amazon. 



Remedies -Tanguila told us of many medicinal plants during our trainings which we later had to identify, and remember what part of the plant to use and how to transfor it into a remedy.  Some plants were known to eradicate parasites, help scarring, make you less hungry etc.. one example was the “mate de diablo” which we drank in tea form to help upset stomachs.  We used its large seeds as a cander for that night since the seed can burn slowly for hours!

How to make a shelterWe used various water proof leaves and vines that lined the jungle and actually made a pretty nice hut!  For fire we learned to recognize bark of the chontilla tree, one of the driest in the Amazon which can start a fire within minutes.


Water Source - “bejucos” which are lianas are key!  They contain the most water when lying horizontally.  We’d need to cut both ends and tilt the liana vertically into our mouths to drink the water coming out.  Because of their abundance Tanguila told us he never carried water with him.

               " The most important item in the amazon is your machete, the rest nature provides for"


Food Sources - We learned how to make fishing canes from a plant that has a strong and flexible stem as well as strong filaments in its leaves that we intertwined to make the fishing line.  Of course catching a fish was another story and requires much more experience.  We also learned to recognize "palmito trees’ the source of heart of palm” a well-known delicacy in developed countries. 

As for insects,the most common were the “lemon ants” which lived in a symbiotic relationship with the trees.The tree provided sap for the ants and in return the ants prevent any other vegetation from taking root around the tree by leaving highly acidic excrements around their nests which were located in the branches.  When we opened a branch up, and licked the ants off, we understood why they're called lemon ants! Lemon ant as they had a tangy citrus like taste.




Raft Building -  Our final challenge and “exam” was to build a raft solely from the Amazon’s resources.  This exercise allowed us to demonstrate the skills we’d learned with our machetes and the knowledge we had acquired over the week.  Five logs of balsa wood was waiting for us as well as other types of branches with very hard bark that could be used as nails.  We then had to go out in the jungle and find some lianas strong enough to tie the logs together along with the nails.  After building the raft we were expected to paddle (with paddles we’d also carved out) and navigate our raft back to the military base 30km away.



"In the end we build a lasting relationship with Bayas and Tanguila, learned jungle secrets and realized surviving in the Amazon is much easier than a North American forest!  The Amazon as Tanguila had said provides you with everything you need from helter to food to medicinal plants.  All you need is a machete handy and you’re set!"