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If you are on a hotel based wildlife safari holiday which involves mainly boat travel or river cruises or 4x4 safaris in the reserves, then lightweight, long-sleeved clothing with good sun protection and insect protection will be necessary, along with light jumpers or jackets for the evenings and night safaris, plus light waterproofs for rain showers. Good walking shoes or lightweight trekking shoes are useful on jungle drives, otherwise sandals. Cotton gets damp quickly and is slower to dry, so consider quick-drying synthetic materials for T-shirts or shirts. Swimming gear and sarongs or light towels are also important, as well as sun hats and sun protection, plus toiletries and personal items.
Jungle trekking holidays can usually involve sleeping in hammocks, so you will want to have dry bags and a wet/dry system for clothes. The object is to always keep a set of dry clothing in a dry bag to change into at the end of the day when you have finished hiking, and wash your damp day clothes in the river for use again the next morning. So do bring materials that are quick drying and moisture-wicking.
A sarong is very useful for bathing and walking down to the shower/river or just for wearing in the evenings. Sarongs also make good, light blankets.
Take seamless socks – due to the wet environment you tend to get blisters around the seams. To avoid leeches, consider leech socks. If you do happen to get one, then the main advice is to keep the wound clean so it doesn't get infected. Leech socks are not necessarily used for the wildlife safaris, but useful for treks to the villages.
Wear your wet trek clothes from the day before and have a change of dedicated set of long sleeved dry clothing for camp which is kept in a dry bag. One set of day trousers is fine, but take several tops – they do get pretty wet and damp.
Shorts are fine for trekking clothes, and most locals wear shorts but trousers do give you more protection from spiky branches, insects, and leeches.
Running/sports tops are good for your day clothes – you need something that has the best chance of drying and doesn’t hold too much moisture. Avoid cotton. Instead, choose quick-drying synthetic materials.
Rubbish is best carried out if you are in the jungle so take a plastic bag for small items, and ask about where to put rubbish in the villages.
Water to Go bottles are recommended for trekking trips: there are enough streams along the way for you to fill up when you run out, so this really cuts down the amount of water you have to carry. When camping in the jungle you will always be staying by a river or stream, all the villages are very close to a river.
Once in the jungle, there are a whole host of things that you can do to keep yourself healthy and comfortable. Some of these may seem obvious but maybe overlooked.
Keep your hands clean. Toilets are often communal long drops without running water so bring a small bottle of hand sanitiser gel. If you are using toilet paper in the jungle then please do bring recycled paper and bury it.
Protect yourself from the sun. The UV near the equator is intense and you can get burned quickly. Take a high factor sunscreen with you and lightweight long sleeved and legged clothing and a hat that will shade your face, neck and ears.
Heat exhaustion - aside from the effects of the sun on your skin there is also the danger of heat exhaustion and its more serious development, heat stroke. These are both caused by the body's internal temperature being raised beyond its functional level and can lead to potentially serious complications. The ambient conditions in the jungle are hot and very humid. The way to minimise the risk is to stay out of the worst of the sun, particularly in the middle of the day, to keep cool and not to overexert yourself. You will also need to stay hydrated to help your body to cool its self through sweating.
A hat is invaluable for keeping the sun off your head and face. You will get used to the heat and humidity but it will take a week or more for the adjustment to be made by your body. In the jungle, the majority of the time you will be under a canopy of shade and often close to a river.
Trekking and walking in the oppressive jungle heat can quickly wear on you. Take time to acclimatise.
Watch what you eat and drink - street food is all part of the experience of being on holiday, but be careful of badly cooked food or anything that looks or smells wrong. Try to order dishes that will have been cooked to a high temperature and avoid cold dishes and ones that might have been cooked in untreated water, for example, salads. If you eat fruit, choose ones that have a skin or peel that you will not eat, such as bananas. Order bottled or boiled drinks like sodas or tea, always check bottles to see that the caps are still sealed.
Take time to acclimatise to the heat and humidity. When you first step off the plane you may find the heat and especially the humidity overwhelming. However, over the course of a week or so your body, mind and physical behaviour will adjust and it will be far more manageable. It is important therefore to take things easy at first and don't over exert yourself.
Make sure you have visited your GP to discuss any innoculations you may need. You will also need to bring a supply of malaria tablets, and your GP can recommend which brand is the most suitable for this area. If in doubt contact a specialised travel clinic. Further information is also available from the NHS or from the World Health Organisation.
Your trip leader will carry a first aid kit, but it is also important to have your own supplies of basics such as bandages, plasters and headache tablets. Also recommended are medications for heat rash, which is a common affliction during a trip into the jungle. It is important to wash regularly and keep clean, but inevitably much of the time is spent sweating and coping with continual dampness on the body. Keeping your feet in good condition is absolutely vital, especially if you get a blister. There are plenty of opportunities to swim in rivers and cool off, and in the evenings on the mountains, it will be cool enough to warrant a fleece, but a small towel or headband is a good idea to wipe yourself when walking.
Feeling rundown because of the heat and humidity is by far the most common condition faced by people trekking into the jungle, and it is best tackled by drinking lots of water and taking it easy. It is very much a case of working with the environment, rather than against it. Of more serious concern is dehydration. The humidity can at times be unbearable and a strict policy of rehydration should be implemented from the moment of arrival. Make sure you start each day with at least half a litre of water upon waking up – this really does make a difference especially if the first day is uphill. Make the most of re-hydration salts and use them generously.
Jungle forests are considered the most bio-diverse in the world and as such are home to an astonishing collection of flora and fauna. Most of this is benign but of course, some are some nasties to watch out for. These include snakes, millipedes that sting, bees, fire ants, scorpions, itchy caterpillars and of course mosquitoes and leeches. In addition, there are a number of plants that will give you an incredibly painful rash should you brush against their leaves or bark – a good reason to always try and look before grabbing hold of a tree!
Leeches in the Jungle
One of the issues of travelling in the rainforest is dealing with leeches. Leeches in the rainforest are blood-thirsty. As you make your way in the wet rainforest trail, you will realise how they are just about everywhere, quivering in all directions. They have heat-seeking sensors that are very sensitive to human body heat. If you are standing still for a rest, you are likely to find them dropping from the overhanging leaves or attaching themselves to your body. Leeches will crawl into places of maximum warmth before biting. The ankles are the most common places for bites since the leeches generally are quite low when you pick them up, so leech socks are a must. Leeches are inchworm-sized creatures that stay on low lying bushes and the forest floor waiting for unsuspecting warm-blooded creatures to pass by. They then latch on for a meal of blood, letting go when they are fully engorged.