I spent two nights alone in the Amazon rainforest with a machete, bow and arrows, and what I could fit on a belt (no food). AMA.
EDIT: The website for Bushmasters has crashed under the load. I found another site that also gives some information here: http://www.natureandkind.com/destinations/country/tour/bushcraft-survival-course
EDIT 2: The site is back up, but I'll let you google it to keep the load manageable. Google "bushmasters amazon" without the quotes.
Edit 3: I may have unintentionally given a poor depiction of the Amerindian tribes. Referring to them as "natives" probably conjures images of facepaint and loincloths. However, they dress just as we did, and are familiar with the technology that they need to use in their daily life - engines for the boats, chainsaws for cutting through trees, walkie-talkies, etc. They can carry on a regular English conversation but in my experience weren't overly talkative, preferring to demonstrate rather than explicate.
After graduating college last spring, my mom said she thought I should go on a vacation. Rather that traveling around Europe like most people, I thought I'd do something a little more exciting (and a bit cheaper). I always wanted to do a survival course, but thought it would be cool to do something a bit more exotic than usual. So I stumbled upon this company called Bushmasters (site currently down) that runs survival trips in the Amazon rainforest (Guyana) and other locations (desert island, and soon to be Arabian desert).
The first week and a half are regular camping days with the group to help you acclimate to the environment. We learn basic survival skills - finding dry wood, starting fires, fishing, foraging for helpful things we can get from the environment. I'll answer questions about this, but it wasn't overly strenuous or challenging so I'll focus on the fun part.
For the last two days, each of us in the group are taken to separate locations to stay for two nights. We are far enough that we don't see each other, but you could hear their chopping in the distance.
You are allowed to bring:
- Machete and fish knife
- Bow and arrows
- Bait rod (a sensitive fishing rod that we made earlier)
- Iodine and canteen
- Some paracord
- Fishing line and hooks
- Flint and cotton
- Mosquito repellent
- Edit: Camera, obviously. :)
Also, anything you found from foraging in the previous excursions. This included:
- Kukrit nuts: They often have grubs inside that you can eat (they taste kind of nutty and crisp, not bad), or use for bait if you want to catch real food
- A cotton like material (I forget the name) that burns better than regular cotton and doesn't get wet (BIG plus)
- Some solidified sap that makes a fire burn hotter and smell like Christmas
- Bushrope for tying things
You weren't allowed to bring food, but I scarfed a Clif bar before they took me out.
The first thing you do is work on building a shelter.
You have to work quickly because once the sun goes down you can't do shit. The first day isn't too bad with not having food, but I cut down a Heart of Palm to get something in my stomach. I don't like the taste of it very much, but at least it was something.
My shelter was really uncomfortable, but I still managed to fall asleep. The next day I woke up and the ground was moving - turns out there was a swarm of army ants that was going through my camp. Sorry I didn't get a picture, I was too panicked, thinking now I would need to find a new place to sleep. But they passed right through, no problem. That day I focused on improving my shelter and catching some food, along with making a fire. Everything went pretty well - I worked my way up the fishing hierarchy (caught a bait fish with a grub from a Kukrit nut, and I caught a catfish with the bait fish within 5 minutes of putting my line in the water.) I was able to build a fire and enjoy my delicious fish (one of the best I've tasted). You can see it cooking in the picture of my shelter.
That night, however, I found out just how inadequate my shelter was. A tropical rainstorm started, (it was the worst rain I had ever seen), and no matter where I put my head, there was always a constant drip on my forehead. I finally was able to experience Chinese water torture first-hand :) I didn't get any sleep that night - I just curled up as best I could and had to wait it out. It was pitch black too - although I could see the rain with the occasional lightning strike. It was the longest ten hours of my life.
We bring along a walkie-talkie in case things get out of hand, and I was really tempted to use it. Once you turn it on, you're considered out of the "competition" and will be taken back to base camp. The thing that made me not give up was mostly the realization that it would be raining back at base camp too. I found out later that everyone else in my group was thinking the same thing, and our entire group stuck it out.
As morning came, the rain abated, and I got to work making a fire. I thought we'd be rescued soon, but I didn't want to take a chance. I was freezing cold, and besides, in a real situation, it's important to make a fire so people can find you. I was able to get some semblence of a fire by throwing all my cotton at the driest wood I could find (very hard after a rainstorm, so I tried shaving off the outside of what I had). Luckily I was rescued soon after that.
It turns out I was the only one who managed to both catch and cook a fish. And this is someone who just graduated with a major in Computer Science, when one of our group members was a soldier in the Swedish army.
So that's my story. It was an amazing experience, and I am never lacking something interesting to talk about now. Sometimes I'm a bit of an asshole when people complain about first-world problems, citing my experiences, but I only do that in good fun. If I were to do it again, I'd like to choose a different location. The Desert Island survival is more challenging, but you also get to jump out of a helicopter into the water and swim to shore. I'm happy to answer anything about the trip, me in general, or Bushmasters if you're interested in doing something similar.
I have another picture of me (I'm in the front of the boat) as proof here, but I can provide more photos if needed. I have some Survivorman-esque videos as well, but I haven't edited or uploaded them.