ExpeditionForces exists out of group of adventures with mostly a military (including special forces) or indigenous back ground (in some cases both). We are involved in retrieval, search & salvage expeditions in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. We also organize Jungle survival courses, expeditions leadership courses, in-Country TV Production Fixer, Scientific expeditions and adventure travel expeditions.

Brazilian soldiers generally have to retire around the age of 32 without any sort of real pension or help. Many of these men who used to spent most of their days in the rainforest have a hard time adjusting back to city life and finding any sort of sustainable income. Many end up jobless and homeless or working in factories where they get depressed. In the worst cases they end up working for drug cartels. We have made it our mission to hire these soldiers and provide jobs where they can still spend the majority of their time in the rainforest doing what they love and do best: Survive! Further we also hire many indigenous people who have an immense knowledge of the rainforest and its wildlife and who are incredible assets for our jungle survival trips and expeditions. 

In general you can find more info on our website: https://www.expeditionforces.com/ To get some insight in to some of our expeditions you can read more here: https://www.expeditionforces.com/post/wading-and-swimming-through-rivers-deep-in-the-amazon

Some more pictures on our Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/expeditionforces/

My Proof (Patrick van de Velde): https://imgur.com/NuWSm5G

Ask me anything!

Comments: 116 • Responses: 49  • Date: 

claire024 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA! What’s something even experienced people like yourselves dread running into or having to deal with while on one of your expeditions?

expedition_forces42 karma

My Pleasure!
Quite a few things actually! I am not a big fan of flies that lay a larva under your skin for example.
Other ones would be:
Drug traffickers, Pirates (yes on the Amazon river), illegal gold miners, having to cross rivers in very remote areas which still have large black caimans, walking in to a wasp nest just to name a few.

claire010 karma

Oh, this definitely needs to be a show! Stay safe!

expedition_forces17 karma

Thanks, it might actually become show. Working on that!

randathrowaway12116 karma

What do you do if you run into such unsavory people?

expedition_forces7 karma

De-escalate, back out and find another route.

BuffaloSurfClub2 karma

Any times where you couldnt de-escalate and had to "work" with them or pay them off etc?

expedition_forces3 karma

We have gotten lucky so far and were able to just de-escalate and back out without any money or other things involved.

errol_timo_malcom13 karma

What is the value in recovering the LEOs - are you contracted by the owners or is this a recovery of precious metals? Thanks!

expedition_forces15 karma

Great question! We are contracted by the owners. Sometimes its information, sometimes its proprietary and other times just about cleaning up the mess.

223specialist4 karma

Can you give us a range of what recovering a satellite costs?

expedition_forces17 karma

If its a small LEO and it didn't fall in a too remote area then it could around 7000 US$. If this same LEO would fall in a very remote area then you are looking at at least 20,000 US$. For anything that is larger it becomes a lot more.

RHJfRnJhc2llckNyYW5l7 karma

What is the net margin on those recoveries?

expedition_forces4 karma

That highly varies from 4000 - 10000 per week.

Random_Thoughts-10 karma

Have you stumbled upon, or been contracted to lead expeditions too, any lost ancient cities?

expedition_forces22 karma

I actually was once contacted to lead an expedition for a TV program for this purpose but unfortunately the person in charge of the emails at that time never forwarded me the request....

We have discovered during one of our recces an uncontacted indigenous community before (we did not make contact).

Random_Thoughts-7 karma

Are you required to report stuff like that to anyone?

expedition_forces12 karma

Not required but most indigenous lands require permission from FUNAI.

Zonerdrone2 karma

How do you tell the difference between contacted and uncontacted? The level of technology?

expedition_forces8 karma

Usually by how isolated they are and how far they are away from populated areas. There are many different levels so to speak in the Amazon:

- Indigenous people that live in regular cities that have normal jobs, etc.
- Indigenous communities that are not that far from major cities and who wear normal clothing have access to things like small motorized boats, shotguns and even electricity and TV.
- Indigenous loners/Family that live by themselves inside the rainforest in a self built home usually along the river. This includes most of our indigenous staff.

- Indigenous Communities that are contacted regularly but still hold on to their traditions (partly naked and still worship their nature gods). These can at time be hostile to strangers.

- Indigenous communities that have been contacted in the past but now refuse all contact. Mostly they will be hostile to anyone coming on to their land

- Indigenous communities that have never been contacted before. Most likely they will be hostile.

Zoetje_Zuurtje9 karma

What's your opinion on Bear Grylls?

expedition_forces29 karma

Haha great question. Honestly have never watched too many shows of his but he was SAS Special forces so that does say a lot.

Some of what they show might be a bit off but that probably more has to do with TV/show business then with him directly. For example I know form some of my coworkers who were part of the crew for other TV survival programs where the filming team would put a snake on the path of the survivor in advance without the survivor being aware of this. So the reaction of the survivor was authentic but the snake did not get there by chance.

Zoetje_Zuurtje8 karma

That's interesting! As a survival instructor, is there a go-to checklist for things to do? I imagine there's stuff like water, food, and shelter, but I'm not really sure what comes next.

expedition_forces9 karma

Its correct that you have the basics like Water, Fire, Food & Shelter. Food of course also includes making traps, etc. What is however just as important is navigation and being able to get out. My main part during the expeditions is navigation.

Zoetje_Zuurtje5 karma

That must be quite difficult. How do you know where you are without GPS? I know where I'm going, but that doesn't tell me much.

expedition_forces7 karma

We have always two people walking with a GPS and one person doing regular checks with a Compass just to make sure. In a survival situation in the Amazon lets say a Plane crash you can use the sun for your direction as you are at/near the equator.

jnkbrn9 karma

What tools, gear or accessories are a must during your expeditions? So cool!

expedition_forces19 karma

The number one tool will always be the machete and something to sharpen it (file or stone).

Besides that we use old school ALICE gear (All-Purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment) as its lighter and less hot then modern day military MOLLE gear. this helps us have a lot of our gear in hand reach and keeps some pressure of our backs.

Important tech are GPS, satelite phones, radios and a compass to fall back on.

good med kits of course. Shotguns, rifles, handguns and crossbow for protection.

Water purifying kit is also important though often we drink from the clearer creeks without it.

There is a lot more of course.

SelfAwake3 karma

A crossbow?

expedition_forces9 karma

Crossbows are not regulated so they can be a good alternative for guns when we are not allowed to take any and are good for hunting and even fishing. Further since the last few years there are now repeating tactical crossbows that are both small, easy to carry, pack a punch and can shoot arrows quickly.

TheGuv698 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA! I have always been fascinated by the Amazon and jungle survival.

I am deeply troubled by the level of deforestation being described in the media. I know deforestation in the Amazon increased under Bolsonaro. So - is the deforestation as serious as we are being told? Do you remain hopeful for the future of the Amazon & the Indigenous people who live there?

Thank you for your work!

expedition_forces29 karma

Almost all of the deforestation is done at the edges of Amazon in areas we don't frequent often. I wouldn't be able to really give an accurate answer to that. What I do remember when a few years back when the media mentioned that the Amazon was burning that I never noticed this personally but again we dont go much to the edges of the Amazon.

It probably is up by a bit but I'm not sure by how much and personally haven't seen a difference.

What I have noticed however is that the problem with Illegal gold miners is getting worse and worse. The current government seems to do very little about it.

Its especially a big issue in the north in Yanomami territory where the illegal gold miners kill the Yanomami for their land, poison their waters and spread diseases intentionally like it's still the year 1700. Its heart breaking and now some of the last uncontacted tribes are even getting attacked.

We were on a mission last year May in the north of Brazil near the border of Venezuela when 15 boats full of armed miners opened fire on a Yanomami village. In the panic a 2 and 5 year old Yanomami girl ran in to the river and drowned.

Very little attention is given to this worldwide and its just really sad.

TheGuv695 karma

Thanks for your response. Yes, it is truly heartbreaking that this situation is not getting more attention globally. These people deserve our utmost respect & protection.

Maybe a change in government will help? There has been lots of talk about UNDRIP recently - UN declaration for rights of Indigenous peoples. But that doesn't seem to change much.

Again thank you. You lead an exciting life. I work in environmental enforcement but ocean based. I'd love to join an expedition!

expedition_forces2 karma

It might, problem as the most of the previous governments were very corrupt as well. I think only internal pressure from the Brazilians and external pressure from other governments can really cause any change.

Sounds like you have a great job as well! Definitely you should join one of trips!

Zonerdrone1 karma

I just went over the plot of Rambo in my mind....especially the part where he ripped out a guy's trachea.

expedition_forces1 karma

The French Foreign Legion fights Illegal Gold Miners in French Guyana. They might have some Rambo's there!

lopedopenope5 karma

How do you remove them from remote locations once you have found them?

expedition_forces5 karma

As it's often impossible to use a helicopter we have to take it apart and carry it out of the jungle to our boat. This can be tough especially if we have to swim

APicketFence4 karma

Why would they land there, and wouldn’t they be obliterated on impact?

expedition_forces6 karma

Mostly because of a malfunction. Their supposed to land them in places where their easy to pick up but this goes wrong at times.

These are Low earth Orbit satelites. Their not completely in space and they fall down with a parachute. That said at times they can be quite broken up.

totalballer174 karma

That's insanely cool. Can I ask, how do people get into a career like "adventuring"? Like there's no bachelor's degree in adventuring. Is it usually a military background?

I always hear about these insanely cool jobs like backpacking through the Amazon or the Arctic- jobs exactly like yours. What skill sets would you look for? How could someone get into your field, or any similar field if you know of other similar "adventurer" companies?

expedition_forces8 karma

Good question!

I would say the main way to get involved with this kind of work is to move to remote place somewhere in this world (for me it was Guyana and Brazil). Get involved with adventure travel and take as many courses as you can: Wilderness first aid, risk assessment courses, leadership & navigation courses, survival courses, PADI (scuba diving) certificate, mountaineering courses, etc.

Another way would be to do all those courses first and then apply with adventure travel companies.

Being former military definitely helps but it is not a must.

Scautis4 karma

What's the longest amount of time you've spent on one expedition?

expedition_forces14 karma

Most expeditions for salvage purposes take between 1 - 3 weeks and sometimes as short as 5 days. The longest was 7 weeks. Lots of tracking through the jungle with some days walking 16 hours a day and only eating one meal a day late in the evening. We lose a lot of weight during those trips.

falseconfessionwar3 karma

What is the most important tool that you carry?

expedition_forces3 karma

Machete is definitely the most important tool. Besides that GPS/compass and Satelite phone.

matt2012bl3 karma

have you been contracted to take prospectors to remote locations to look for gold or gems?

expedition_forces4 karma

I have a few friends in Guyana who try their luck themselves and some of my colleagues have been involved with Discovery channels gold rush.

randathrowaway12111 karma

Does it ever succeed?

expedition_forces1 karma

I believe they found some gold but nothing too major. There are of course some larger and local Guyana mining companies that have mines in Guyana that do very well.

divine_narcisuss3 karma

What was the scariest encounters you have in those jungles?

expedition_forces25 karma

Probably when a very large Anaconda tried to get in our boat at night. It was spooky. One of our indigenous guides recognized its sounds as it was under our boat. Up to that point I didn't even realize they make any noises.

rplaughl1 karma

How to handle that situation? If a snake of that size wants to eat you, it will unless you kill it, right?

expedition_forces3 karma

With Anaconda's if you are not in the water yourself its pretty much about moving yourself away. In this case we moved to boat to another spot. Their slow on land.

If you are in the water and one grabs you then your pretty much screwed. Even if it can not swallow you it will still drown you.

EatTheBiscuitSam2 karma

How do you deal with insects while in a jungle?

expedition_forces2 karma

There is really only so much you can do and in the end it is really about learning to bear up with them. Like if you start training MMA/kickboxing and you start with sparring you have to bear up with getting hit in the face. Initially it is tough but you get used to it.

You will get stung by mosquitos you will get bit and stung by ants (the stinging ones are mean bastards), you will walk in to wasp nest at some point, you will get needles of plants in to your skin, you will get cut by bamboo, you will be full of ticks all over your body. There is no way around it really without overheating yourself.

That said we do use mosquito netting where needed to sleep, we use long-sleeved clothing (except at camp), we use mosquito spray, alcohol and local indigenous salves on our skin.

When we sleep near cattle pastures it is more risky due to vampire bats which often carry rabies. I have seen people that got bit through mosquito net and they didn't notice it and they would wake up the next morning with their net and hammock just covered in blood.

fwambo422 karma

What's the weirdest thing you've found by accident while tracking down a satellite?

expedition_forces3 karma

hmmm honestly mostly what you expect lots of animals and plants. You do find the odd abandoned camp site, loners living out in the jungle which can often be a bit weird and we found some stone ruins once in the jungle where apparently a thriving community once lived until they all ran off as the whole town got overrun by ants.

When you get to really isolated places weird things do happen. One time we came around a river bend and there was a giant river otter sitting on the river bank eating a piranha. It dropped the piranha and started chasing our boat. It was completely fearless of humans and probably never saw a human before. I have seen many Giant river otters and they never react like that.

One of my friends there works as a diver for the Fire department in Brazil and he has to search and pull out the bodies of recently drowned people in the Southern Amazon. If you see how their bodies come back sometimes after just laying in the water for 30 minutes or so its crazy. After 30 minutes their bodies are filled with Candiru fish and after an hour or more just the bones are left.

randathrowaway12112 karma

Have you ever hired people without a military/indigenous background? For instance the people you've trained yourself

expedition_forces3 karma

Yes we have. Our LT. who also worked as a prison warden for a few years took in one of the drug traffickers that he met there and we employed him after he finished serving his time.

randathrowaway12112 karma

So training with you would potentially prepare one for employment in such a field?

expedition_forces2 karma

Yes if you would join one of our Jungle survival or expedition leadership course this could definitely help.

randathrowaway12112 karma

Sounds interesting, if I show up for one of your courses and tell you that I'm that guy from reddit who wanted to get a job with you, what are the odds of you remembering me lol?

expedition_forces1 karma

We would remember you but it would still be quite unlikely that you would get hired on the spot as we mostly hire locals and secondly there would also need to be a position open. I meant to say more that it would help with building your resume to gain a future job in this field.

No_Entertainment21072 karma

Can you talk a bit about how exactly you navigate in the jungle when gps signals are blocked by the foliage? Navigating by compass in such a dense, featureless landscape seems almost impossible as even a small misstep in direction might throw you way off.

Also how long are the group expeditions you run usually and are they hiking or boating trips?

expedition_forces2 karma

Thanks for the question! We have some very good GPS devices and almost never have problems with this. Sometimes the GPS can be off by 5 meters or so but that Is why we have at least 2 people walking with a GPS. On top of that one of our men walks with a compass to check our direction. He actually won several compass navigation championships in the Brazilian army so he is really good at it.

Shortest would be 5 days longest could be several months. It really depends where the equipment is located. We usually try to get as close as possible by boat and in some cases by 4x4. From there on at times we continue by canoe and of course by walking. We try to keep the hiking part to a minimum.

For example one of the mission we left from Manaus by boat and traveled for about 4 days by boat for 900 KM one way. We went as close as possible to the coordinates by boat but then still had to hike 10 days to get to the coordinates return it back to the boat and then go back the same 900 KM.

What really is a problem is Satellite phones. They really only work on the rivers. That is why we always have climber on our team so that if necessary he can climb above the canopy to make an emergency call.

No_Entertainment21071 karma

Oh I'm really surprised to hear that. Most reports of jungle expeditions in modern times I've read seemed to suggest that gps devices are basically useless away from rivers, I think Lucy Edmondson also mentioned that they mostly relied on maps for that same reason. Are they special devices with better reception than phones or regular gps devices? What are they called?

I actually meant the group expeditions you mention on the website that you run in may and october that are open to the public. I'm looking at joining a long, challenging jungle expedition next year and have already had an offer from a company in Peru, but I'm still looking at other options. I'm mostly interested in the expedition element - moving across a large area of untouched jungle by foot or paddling a boat/packraft/kayak - rather than a survival/bushcraft course.

expedition_forces1 karma

Certain specific GPS devices work better under the canopy then others even those of brands like Garmin, etc. Where they actually fail us more is on the river as the maps for the rivers are often incomplete and not detailed enough. When you get to really isolated places the rivers aren't mapped at all. Neither are there accurate physical maps for the smaller rivers. This can cause a lot of wrong turns, dead ends, delays and even cause us to run out of fuel.

It can sometimes take a few minutes for the GPS to find its signal initially but once it has the signal I have not had any real problems with it besides it being off a few meters at times.

Sounds exciting, Peru is a great place! If you are interested in other options please contact us through the website. Our expeditions are indeed focused on trekking, and discovery and not on Survival/bushcraft.

No_Entertainment21071 karma

Interesting, thanks for the answer.

I'll drop you an email then! Is it ok if I send you a pm with some more questions as well at a later point? I'd like to pick your brain a bit about gaining jungle skills and such, but I need to organize my thoughts a bit before.

expedition_forces1 karma

No problem at all! Looking forward to your email and DM.


sid_2762 karma

What should you never-ever do when spending the night in the rainforest?

expedition_forces7 karma

If you need to go for number 1 or 2 at night never walk too far from your hammock. Especially at night when you slip out of your hammock and if you walk too far you will never find your way back to the camp. Even during the day just walking 10 meters in to the wrong direction can make you completely disoriented and lose your group.

SnooSeagulls93482 karma

Have you ever been attacked by the indigenous tribes? What did you do under such situations since it would be immoral to retaliate?

expedition_forces3 karma

This is something we avoid and pretty much the only reason why our missions sometimes fail. If we go in to an expected indigenous area we do a lot of recconnesaince first. At any sign of indigenous activity we pull out.

So in short, no never.

mfalkvidd2 karma

How do you know where to look for the satellites? Most satellite deorbit predictions I’ve seen have an ellipsis that’s multiple kilometers/miles long. Searching a large area in dense jungle for a small object sounds pretty challenging.

expedition_forces2 karma

Thanks for the question. I am not engineer and just the grunt on the ground. We are given coordinates. These coordinates I believe are send out by the device after it lands so for the most part they should be very accurate. Most of them actually have been pin point accurate but we had a few occasions when the it landed a 100 meters of or so and in that case it indeed took us several days extra to search for it.

Keep in mind that these are small LEO satellites that fall down with a parachute and not regular satellites that come crashing down.

53gecko532 karma

Have you ever come across any ruins/ interesting something from hundres or even thousands of years ago?

expedition_forces2 karma

Mostly just trees and plants! Wr have been to some caves with paintings in them. You do find the odd abandoned camp site, loners living out in the jungle which can often be a bit weird and we found some stone ruins once in the jungle where apparently a thriving community once lived until they all ran off as the whole town got overrun by ants.

53gecko531 karma

Very interesting! Speaking of the ants, I saw in one comment your team once encountered an anaconda. When people think of the steriotypical amazon jungle they see it filled to the rim with jaguars, leopards, poisonous frogs, and so on. How much of a difference is there from what the average person thinks in inside the amazon versus how it actually is? I would assume you are not coming across jaguars often but maybe would coming across a dangerous insect is a more usual occurrence?

expedition_forces2 karma

This is a good question and something people should be aware of when they travel to the Amazon or any rainforest for that matter.

Firstly once you are in the jungle its hard to really see anything as your view is very limited. You might see some insects and if you are lucky a few monkeys and birds but in General when hiking you see very little. As an example we tracked a group of 200 peccaries once and we could constantly hear them smell them, etc but never once they we get to see them. They knew exactly how to stay out of our fov.

When you are on a boat you see a lot more wildlife. But it is still limited compared to lets say Africa.

Coming to the next point most places tourists go to in the Amazon are not that wildlife rich anymore due to nearby population, hunting, poaching, etc. There a few exceptions to this like Manu national park in Peru but in general the popular places don't have too much wildlife to see.

You really need to get off the grid and travel to community run lodges in places like Guyana. There you can see a lot of wildlife. I see in general more wildlife there in 1 days compared to 1 week in Brazil.

However for our missions we often go in to very remote areas in Brazil and recently we were in an area that was completely untouched and you could see hundreds of macaws together and dozens of toucans together. You really don't see that anywhere anymore. So I guess in that sense Brazil still has the best jungle wildlife spots but it is not accessible to regular travelers.

For people that are mostly just interested in the Amazonian wildlife I would recommend to just go to the Pantanal instead. This is a super cool place and you get to see loads of wildlife including jaguars in the dry season.

In general when you got to the Amazon go for the adventure and vistas and just being in a very "alien" environment. Animals will be the bonus and especially if you enjoy smaller creatures like insects, frogs and birds you will not be disappointed.

What we see on a regular 4 day adventure travel trip in Guyana: Giant river otters, Black Caiman, spectacled caimans, Arapaima, turtles, a few snakes, frogs/toads, Iguanas, lots of birds including 3 species of Macaw and toucans, some agouti and Capybara, howler, capuchin, tamarin and spider monkeys and with a bit of luck a tapir. For jaguars you really got to go to the Pantanal. Anaconda's are also extremely hard to find.

Eafeaturerequest2 karma

I can imagine there are plenty of undiscovered plants and animals in the rainforest.. have you ever seen anything really strange or interesting?

expedition_forces2 karma

Yeah there is still plenty of that for sure. Unfortunately the amount of scientists that go deep in to the rainforest in the Amazon is really limited when you compare it to the small rainforests of for example Central American.

Truth is most scientist still prefer to go for drink in the evening which they can when stationed there and not be stuck in the "green hell" for months where you are completely isolated.

I have seen some fishes and insects that I was not able to identify but I am on scientist. When we are on a mission we really don't stop as we are always on the clock. I barely ever get time to take a picture. Recently we were in area that was really unexplored and isolated and the amount of wildlife there was amazing. You would see hundreds of Macaws and dozens of toucans together in groups everywhere. In many places in the Amazon you have to be happy to see a couple of macaws a day and maybe 1 toucan in your entire trip.

Kubrick_Fan2 karma

How much of the satellite is left ?

expedition_forces2 karma

Pretty much all of it can be recovered but sometimes it is indeed in several pieces.

pcetcedce1 karma

What is LEO?

expedition_forces2 karma

As was mentioned by another poster: Low Earth Orbit Satellites.

Throwawayhairy1611 karma

How would you use your skills as a jungle survivor instructor to defeat the 1987 predator assuming you were stuck in the Guatemala jungle and Arnold had already died ?

expedition_forces1 karma

get to tha choppa!

Honestly what can you really do? If it was in the amazon maybe set some sort of trap in the river with a number of electric eels and try to get it out of its suit and then maybe have it follow you in to bow and arrow traps

yldave1 karma

Have you encountered the pirates drug traffickers or illegal gold miners you mentioned and how did that go? How do you prepare for those encounters? Do you carry weapons?

expedition_forces3 karma

We had some run ins with drug traffickers, corrupts police officers and bandits and have been in some hairy situations including where I was threatened at gun point. I have also witnessed a few gunfights but personally have not been shot at luckily.

Besides a load of knifes and machetes depending on the mission/location we carry rifles, hand guns, shotguns and a repeating crossbow.

Beneficial-Memory1511 karma

Do you like apples?

expedition_forces1 karma

Love apples! At times we take them on expedition and on a mission when we walked 50 KM a day in an area with little water I felt like they saved my life!

sporkthedragon0 karma

Have a gun? If so how did you get.permissipn to carry it? Or do you even have permission?

expedition_forces1 karma

It depends where we are as we all have licenses for different areas/countries. If I don't have permission and I feel I need some more protection then I carry a Repeating Crossbow (RX Adder). In some cases we also get the local military to tag along.

Uresanme0 karma

Do you eat Brazilian farmed beef or dairy?

expedition_forces1 karma

Mostly Fish! We do eat beef from the Savanna areas near Boa Vista

Uresanme0 karma

Aren’t you concerned about the cattle industry clearing out the old growth forests for more farm land?

expedition_forces1 karma

Where we are in the central part of the Amazon this is not a big issue but I have seen it in the south western part of the Amazon near the borders of Bolivia especially. Its definitely bad there. Around Boa Vista in the north however the cows graze in the wild savannahs so there is not any forest getting cut down there.