Inspired by Bear Grylls, adventurist and host of Discovery Channel’s Man vs. Wild, I’m going to share with you some tips on surviving in Africa’s wilderness, without becoming dinner. Rest assured, all certified safari excursions are completely safe and you won’t ever need to use these tactics—but just for curiosity’s sake, don’t you want to know how you would go about avoiding the dangers of Africa’s savannah on your own?
Here’s a scenario for you: You’re driving by yourself and your vehicle breaks down. You have no food, no protection from fierce predators and the scorching sun, no water, and no direction on where to go. What do you do?
Here are 3 ways to survive in the African savannah in the most vulnerable state—as prey:
1. Find water: Many times, it won’t rain for weeks or months in the savannah, which is why finding water is such a difficult task. There are several ways to find water sources throughout the savannah. One way to find water is to search for animal tracks and follow their footsteps to see if they lead to water. If you come across a fast moving river, you’re in luck. Streams and rivers that sit without a current can harbor parasites and bacteria, which is why it’s important to find a fast moving river. You should boil the water though, no matter what, to prevent bacteria and organisms from entering your body.
If you don’t find a river, it’s time to dig. Many times, water will be beneath the surface of a dried up river bed. Before committing to digging a hole that could take up to 10 minutes to dig, it’s important to find the lowest part of the river bed (water will collect here). If you do happen to strike water, use a piece of clothing to act as a sponge and trickle the water into your mouth.
2. Find Food: Finding food can be just as difficult as finding water, but if you do find water, chances are there will be food in the area as well. Throughout the vicinity you may find some berries and fruit, but before eating them, it’s crucial that you check to see if they’re poisonous. Here are a few tips to test a fruit or berry:
• The smell of the fruit plays a large role in detecting whether it is poisonous or not. First, cut the fruit open. If it smells like peaches or almonds, it’s poisonous.
• If the fruit passes the scent test, it’s time to place the fleshy part of the fruit on your skin. Rub this part of the fruit up and down your forearm and wait a minute to see if it produces a rash on your skin. If so, it’s poisonous.
• If the fruit passes the above tests, it’s time to bring the fruit to your lips. If you feel a burning sensation on your lips, the fruit is not safe to eat. If not, move the fruit to your tongue, but don’t swallow. If the fruit doesn’t agitate your tongue, take a bite of the fruit and wait several hours to see if you become sick. If not, the fruit is edible.
3. Protect yourself against predators: When walking through the African bush, it’s crucial to keep your attention on every element around you. Being observant will help you to avoid unwanted “surprises.” Depending on which animal you see in the bush, you want to know different tactics and movements to avoid becoming their dinner.
If you see a lion, keep your distance, remain calm, don’t turn your back, and don’t run. Move your arms, head, and feet around, and clap your hands together to avoid them coming closer. Slowly back away from the lions while continuing to face them.
Although lions can be extremely intimidating to see in the wild, especially if you’re by yourself and lost, there are a variety of other animals to be careful of including buffalos and black rhinos. Both species need their space, which is why it’s important to always keep your eyes open and stay clear of these animals. Rhinos have a fantastic sense of smell and hearing, which makes up for their lack of good eyesight. Because of their keen sense of smell and hearing, it’s important to be extremely quiet and know the direction of the wind to prevent your scent from lingering in their direction.
Do you have any other tips for surviving in the African savannah? If so, we’d love to hear them in our comments section.