Survival in the Tropics

Whilst I was stranded on a deserted island for almost a month, I most certainly acquired the skills or essentials associated with ultimate survival.

The seven fundamentals that will help you stay alive are: food, shelter, water, optimism, courage, sharp predatorial instincts and a knack of being cunning when it matters. You must always ensure that the situation is under control, and that giving up is not an option. The following contains some advice on how to ensure your survival and how to escape these kinds of situations alive.So here’s how it went- on the 22nd of December 1976, I set out with my two friends Daniel and Scarlett on a boat to meet my uncle, who was the chief of the Lau Group of Islands. He was a powerful man, known throughout the whole country.

Around 13 hours into our journey, well into the early hours of the morning, our boat hit a reef and sank. Thankfully, we all managed to get off the boat and swim to the nearest island, which was around three or four kilometers away. Scarlett and I were empty handed, but we were thankful that Daniel had managed to salvage a large cane knife and a bag full of packets of Maggi Noodles.

When we arrived on the island, we were completely shocked since there were no signs of human inhabitation and no source of fresh water as well. It took us some time to come to terms with the situation, since we slowly realized that we were stranded on a deserted island with hardly any of the essentials required to stay alive. The first week went by fairly quickly. In terms of supplies required for survival, we faired alright.

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The noodles lasted us a week, but half of the packets were either filled with sea water from the swimming or damaged in some way, which didn’t help.We relied on coconut milk and drinkable sap from palm leaves for hydration, as they were in abundance. The next two weeks were much harder. We were starting to get sick of coconut milk and Maggi Noodles, so we made a point to find some food and a way of obtaining drinkable water. Even though things seemed dismal and hope was hard to find, we were at an advantage to some extent since we all had some skills that would benefit us. Daniel was a Biologist and a qualified Botanist, so he knew what tropical fruits were edible, and which ones weren’t.

Thanks to Daniel’s knowledge and expertise, we were able to survive on bananas, figs, pineapples and other tropical fruit. Even though we came across a number of fruits and plants, not all of them were edible. According to Daniel, some were very potent in terms of poisonous content and triggering allergic reactions. It is very important that you are able to determine whether or not a fruit or plant is edible. One way of finding out is by placing a small portion of the plant or fruit against your lips for around three minutes- if it doesn’t tingle, burn or produces any other uneasy feeling, then the fruit is edible.Daniel also knew how to extract water from sand, using a simple reverse osmosis filter and a device known as a solar still- both which required simple resources such as the sun and sea water. Scarlett was an excellent cook, especially when it came to meat.

She worked as a chef at a steak house for four years before pursuing her acting career. She had acted in a tropical castaway movie- except she had extreme luxury with her at the time. This was the total opposite. Still, she knew the fundamentals of island survival.I was a lot more ruthless on the other hand, and had spent a lot of time out in the bush hunting animals for food, as well as spear fishing out in the sea.

Since there were plenty of boars and wild pigs on the islands, my predatorial instincts were tested. I was also in charge of collecting wood for our beach bonfires. This was important since fire not only helped us cook our meat, but it also provided us with warmth and light- especially at night. Combining our skills and using them together was the best way of ensuring survival.One thing we always had to do was to stay close to each other. We had to stick together in order to stay alive, taking care of one another as if they were a sibling. On some occasions, a group member might go astray with a sense that all hope is lost.

This might lead to feelings of anger, failure and hatred. Thoughts of cannibalism and other inhumane acts may pop up here and there- but the key is to always stay positive. I believe that since Daniel, Scarlett and I were so close, we were able to stick together until the end- providing continuous support and motivation all the way.We always believed in those rare chances of being rescued- no matter how or by what, we were extremely determined to get off that island and embrace civilization once again. For days on end we collected all the wood we could manage to find in order to create smoke signals that could be visible from long distances. Using large rocks and stones, we formed the letters ‘S. O.

S’ across the sand on one side of the island, desperate to catch the attention of any passer-bys. After almost 31 days without any human contact excluding the three of us, we were finally rescued.Using the buckle of my belt, I had managed to reflect sunlight into the path of an oncoming helicopter which was on its way to Kadavu. It took me two weeks to realize the potential or ability that the small piece of metal had, and its importance when it came to helping us be rescued. Even though I had been trying for two weeks, it had all been in vain.

However, the Vodafone operated helicopter, which was on its monthly trip to Kadavu, had finally managed to spot us thanks to our signals of distress.It was an overwhelming experience, with feelings of joy and happiness bubbling within us all. We were so glad to be rescued in the end, and were extremely grateful for the pilot being able to spot us. Apparently we were far off from nearby land, and the helicopter had only taken that route due to adverse weather conditions. Daniel, Scarlett and I were extremely lucky, and we knew it. Even though we may think it may never happen to us, any of us could become stranded on a remote island next time we’re out at sea.

It happens, but the key is to be well prepared and to educate yourself beforehand on skills and fundamentals required to stay alive in such brutal conditions. Never lose hope- always believe in chances of being rescued or saved. The will to live and carry on is your strongest asset. Knowing how to obtain water, gather food, construct a shelter, and survive with limited resources is essential. Don’t take the situation lightly, and always remain aware of your surroundings. Be smart, be bold- but most of all, be brave.