Top 10 tips for jungle treks
The words “jungle trekking” can conjure up all sorts of images to the newbie trekker. Before my first jungle trekking experience in Sumatra back in 00 , I had no idea what to expect. I envisioned spiders the size of dinner plates, snakes hanging from every branch, hacking my way through choking vines with a machete, sweat pouring down my face as I gasped and scrambled my way through the forest covered in giant leeches.
While a trek on a RAW Wildlife Encounters tour may contain some of the above, the reality is entirely different. RAW Wildlife’s massively experienced local guides have spent their lives exploring their jungle and know it better than we know our own backyards.
Whether you’re a newbie trekker or an old hand, jungle trekking is for everyone and it’s an experience that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. I’ve consulted with some of our experienced local guides and we’ve come up with these tips to help you get the most out of your jungle experience.
1. Hydrate! Drink before you go, drink on the go, drink when you arrive! Drink before you’re thirsty and drink - times as much as you think you need! Dehydration is your number one enemy while trekking. The rainforests of Sumatra are hot, and you will sweat out almost more water than you can drink in.
2. Protect yourself from predators Protect yourself from predators While you will be trekking through jungle that is home to tigers, elephants, wild pigs and snakes these aren’t the predators you need to worry about, I’m talking about mosquitos and leeches. Mosquitos are drawn to darker colours so avoid wearing black, and they also tend to go for wrists and ankles, so it’s helpful to wear long pants and long sleeves.
Mosquito repellent is an absolute necessity it works to repel both mosquitos and leeches. As for leeches, it all depends on the weather more rain means more leeches. These tiny critters are harmless. Best way to avoid leeches is to tuck your pants into your socks, your shirt into your pants and douse your skin with insect repellent.
3. Fuel yourself well! Set yourself up for trekking success! My best treks have all come after a night of good sleep and a hearty breakfast. My worst trek came after a late night with too many Bintangs! et a solid night sleep before your trek. Even if you are not a big breakfast eater, try and eat something substantial in the morning. Pre-trek, during and post-trek jungle food is all provided by our local guides or accommodation, and is all delicious!
4. Dress for success Unless you’re blessed with extremely rare and unique beauty genes, (in which case I’m super jealous) jungle trekking ain’t pretty. It’s about being comfortable and practical! In the tropical heat, lightweight clothing is best, and quick-dry material is essential.
Long pants are best for protection from insects as well as the sticks and spikey vines that occasionally trip you up. Long sleeves are optional, but minimum of a t-shirt both for cultural sensitivity and for protection from the flora and fauna.
5. Put your best foot forward While many of our guides trek barefoot or in flip flops, I wouldn’t recommend trying this yourself! The key things here again are comfort and suitability! Ideally, you need something that can go from walking through rocky rivers to taking you up steep slopes without slipping. Look for something non-slip, water proof or quick drying. Light-weight sneakers, or specific outdoor shoes are your best bet.
6 . Pack light Whether you are embarking on a day trek, overnight trek or longer, the golden rule is less is more! While the guides will be carrying all the essential equipment for cooking, shelter, and entertainment, you’ll be required to carry your own backpacks! Bring the minimum amount of clothes you’ll need if you bring quick-drying clothes, it is easier to just rewear them on day two (nobody will be able to smell you over their own lovely scent)!
7. Embrace the jungle toilet The great thing about jungle trekking is that you don’t have to go far to find a loo! The jungle provides myriad spots for popping a quick squat behind the privacy of a fern. Embrace the life of the jungle and leave some enrichment for the animals to investigate later! Anything particularly offensive should be gently covered with leaf litter.
8. Look and listen Humans make a racket in the jungle! Even when we’re doing our best to tread lightly, the animals can hear us miles away. As local RAW guide -ack told me, “give yourself to the nature.”
Meaning heighten those senses that have been dulled by television and noisy malls and the chaos of modern life; look up into the canopy every few steps - look for movement; use your ears, listen for the tell-tale crack of a faraway branch or the distinctive swooping wing beat of a hornbill. Slow down your pace, your breathing and your mind and let the jungle take over!
9. Respect Remember that you are visiting the animal’s home, not the other way around. Have respect for the incredible eco-system you are in dispose of your rubbish responsibly. Respect all the plants and animals you come across keep your voices low and listen to your knowledgeable guides at all times. RAW tours endeavour to immerse you in the culture of the places you visit, so appreciate the opportunity to learn about different ways of life and respect the culture of the communities you are visiting.
10. Keep smiling! Probably the most important thing on this list! A positive attitude and an adventurous spirit will enable you to get the most out of your jungle adventure. RAW Wildlife tours are unique in that the wildlife leaders and local guides, along with other people on your tour, will become like family. The bonds you form while spending time in the jungle are amazing. RAW Wildlife Encounter tours are about the journey just as much as the destination, and what a journey it is!