The trek, hiking and camping culture(s) are fast growing among the Kenyan adventurers. Every weekend there is a team heading out to an adventure at one place or other. The trails ventured are usually forests, ranges, moorlands and sometimes valleys with tough terrain and heavy vegetation cover.
In October 2016 a pack of four adventurers wandered away from the main hiking group as they hiked the Aberdare forest. They were found two days later after a rigorous rescue mission that involved the Kenya Police, Kenya Wildlife Service and a search party of about fifty locals.
Have you ever asked yourself how it would feel to be lost in the wild? What would you do? How would you be safe from the wild animals? Do you think you would be able to survive?
Although all this might sound a little far-fetched, and very unlikely to happen; we still thought it wise to share some tips that would help you stay alive and heighten your chances of being found;
1. Inform family or friends of your intended trek or hike It is highly advisable to leave a map of where you intend to quench your adventure thirst, as well as the itinerary clearly showing the intended departure and return dates. Most trek/ hike areas in Africa do not have phone coverage. The coordinates on the map would therefore come in handy in establishing the estimated area you should be in, in the event you get lost or injured.
2. Travel in even numbered groups. Large groups on a trek may be a handful for the guides. They should be divided into smaller numbers easily manageable by the guides. Groups of four are better than three. If someone gets hurt two members of the group can go look for assistance, while the remaining member can stay with the injured person to help with first aid and emotional support.
3. Stay where you are when lost, panic can make one wander even further into the wild. Wandering especially in the dark could result in injury as visibility is low and the terrain may be foreign to you. What you should note is that staying at one spot increases the chances of you being found. You can consciously scout the surrounding area for resources like water, but be keen to return to ‘point zero’ every so often. Help is likely to find you here, more than anywhere else.
4. Signal distress as soon as you are injured or realize you are lost, the first thing you should do is to signal your distress to anyone that may be in the vicinity. Shout, blow your whistle, or do anything that would attract attention as long as it doesn’t result to further injury or waste of much needed energy. Note: the international distress call is three bursts of a whistle in quick succession.
You can also You can also seek high ground where you can light a fire using wet twigs to produce smoke thick enough to be noticed by a search party miles away from you, or a search plane hovering overhead. It is also recommended to carry or wear bright colored clothes as these can used to wave for help.
5. Save your drinking water. Water is high priority in survival situations. Always remember this when planning for your treks, hiking or camping adventures. One can survive weeks without food, but only a maximum of three days without water! So, save it the best way you can. It is advisable to avoid exposure to the hot sun as this may result to high levels of dehydration. In desperate times, you can also collect dew off plants in the morning to quench your thirst.
6. Light a fire. As the darkness creeps in, the temperatures are bound to drop. It is therefore important to build a fire before if gets too dark. The fire will come in handy in keeping you warm, warding off any wild animals that may be in the area, and it can also act as a signal to a search party that maybe looking for you. Make sure that you start by clearing a circular spot, protect it with rocks (if possible) to make sure that the fire does not spread unnecessarily.
7. Think positive. Do not panic is the paramount rule in the event that you are lost in the wild. No matter how grave the situation may seem, keep your mind clear and stay positive! Sing, or scream (if you must) to stay calm. Keeping the right frame of mind ensures that you are alert, and can positively respond to stress. There’s always something you can do to help yourself.
If things go wrong as they sometimes can, always remember you can take back control of the situation if you can take control of your mind!