Survival Skills for the African Wilderness

I’ve just returned from a great weekend away on a wilderness survival skills course.

Wilderness Survival CoursesNow I must say, before the weekend, I was a little dubious as to how useful a course teaching the basics of wilderness survival and bushcraft would be for my Africa trip – no doubt it would be interesting, fun and I’d probably pick up some new skills, but how could a weekend in the woods near Salisbury prepare me for the African wilderness?

On the contrary, the course was tailored specifically to teach skills and offer advice on anything related to cycling through Africa. We covered different types of shelter and how to put them up, lighting a fire with only basic materials, preparing food – pigeon and squirrel (because if you can gut a squirrel, you can gut anything!) – and cooking it on an open fire, different types of water sources and making safe it to drink, basic navigation techniques and discussed a number of health and safety issues relevant to travel in Africa.

Desert AdventuresPrior to the weekend we sent, at the request of Joe who ran the course, a list of questions and concerns about our Africa trips which were also discussed and the excellent advice provided by Kev, who has extensive experience of travelling in Africa, was invaluable.

I take from the weekend, lots of advice about kit including several things I had not previously considered, which will no doubt make the trip more enjoyable and likely to succeed.

More importantly however, I now feel confident that in the unlikely but potentially disastrous event that I get into trouble in the African wilderness, I have the knowledge and confidence use the skills I have learnt to deal with any situation calmly and effectively until I can get help.

I am now 100% focussed on cycling through Africa, with any fears or concerns I may have had allayed, and I can’t wait to get started…

Wilderness Survival Weekend Team
Me, Alan, Ian, Kev, Glenn and Joe

So with that, my thanks go to Joe and Glenn of Wilderness Survivial and Kev from Desert Adventures for their invaluable advice and teaching, and lastly to Eye on Africa for suggesting this opportunity originally.

Ian  Alan with his dinner  Joe
Before  After

8 Responses to “ Survival Skills for the African Wilderness ”

  1. The meat looks good,I have always wanted to visit Africa.

  2. Hi there!
    It is the usefull couse for survivel in Africa since most of the part are still wild/jungle(bitten trak.

  3. I made a survival course years ago. It was great fun also.

    But I think for your Africa trip it’s more important to some phrases in French:
    – “Who is the chief in this village?”
    – “Where can I get water?”
    – “Where can I get food?” etc

  4. Have to agree with you there – my French is rusty at the moment, but improving slowly…

  5. If you have the basics you’ll improve very fast in France and struggling later in Morocco/West Africa with the pronunciacion…

  6. Hi Helen,

    I have been reading your website – it is very well organised and your trip sounds so exciting. I’m particularly interested because I’m starting a similar bike trip in the opposite direction in 3 weeks time, also on a Thorn with a Rohloff (..aren’t they awesome…) The wilderness course you did looks excellent. One worry I still have at the moment is what to do when in close proximity with elephants – this is a possibility early on in our trip when we go through Botswana, and then again in Tanzania. Did you guys discuss anything like this?

    We’ll be following your progress. Maybe our paths will cross somewhere in Africa…..


  7. On the course, we talked about camping in areas that may have wild animals – specifically, always sleep in your tent with the fly sheet on. Sleeping out under the stars may be appealing but would be a real risk if animals came through your camp at night. In a tent you will be hidden from view. A bright colour tent would also be better as then animals such as elephants will be able to see it and less likely to accidentally trample on it. It was also suggested that you don’t pitch under a tree for example – elephants may come to eat the leaves and not see you. I also wouldn’t camp too close to a water source which may be used by animals.

    In terms of coming across elephants during the day, we didn’t really discuss this, but I would say keep a safe distance from and downwind from them. If they are eating they probably aren’t interested in you. Try not to startle them and certainly don’t get between one and it’s offspring/rest of herd or even water. I think this would apply to any wild animal. If you do accidentally come across one, back away quietly but quickly and take an alternative route (i.e. detour around them).
    If an elephant charges, I’m not really sure the best plan of action – I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that. I guess the two options are stand your ground (not sure I’d have the guts to do this, unless I was stunned by fear!) or run away as fast as possible although this is probably futile as elephants are fast – if there’s two of you, you only have to be faster than your partner ; )

    This is just my thoughts is not necessarily right. Getting advice from a ranger or guide may be a good idea if you have other concerns.

    Polly – I’ve sent you an email with some links also.

  8. Helen,
    Here’s wishing you the best of luck. I lived in Kenya for 7 years and frequently camped alone with an old fashioned scout tent. The animals are no bother. Leave them alone and they will leave you alone. Snakes are different they like the warmth at night and would love to get in your sleeping bag. Most of the other creepy crawlies are a nuisance but shake out your clothes and boots everyday.
    I will follow your journey with great interest.
    A little Swahili might help, but I reckon you know that.
    May all that helps be with you.

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