Rainforests cover less than 1/50th of the Earth’s surface, yet they are the environment in which two-thirds of all species flourish. They are the most complex ecosystems on the planet, with an impossibly rich and diverse variety of life on display, sustained by high temperatures, rich, oppressive humidity and extreme rainfall. The rainforest is a tempestuous beast prone to violent swings in conditions that belay comfort and invite danger. Surviving in such an environment is entirely dependent on your ability to learn, and learn fast.
In any survival situation, obey the triangle of survival: signal, water, shelter. Food is vital, but not imperative to begin with. The first thing to do is calm yourself down. If you have become separated from a party of travellers or you are the victim of an air crash, your first response will be panic. It is a natural reaction to a stressful situation, so do not beat yourself up about it. Instead, take as much time as you need to talk yourself out of this state. Be pragmatic: yes, you are lost, yes, you are in an environment you are unfamiliar with, but you do have everything around you that you need to survive for as long as it may take until you are found. Simply telling yourself to snap out of a panic will only make you panic more should anything further go wrong, and something else is guaranteed to go wrong in a survival situation. Panic also exhausts you and exponentially increases your body’s need for food and water.
Once you are fully in charge of your faculties, assess your current status. What tools do you have with you? If you have been in some kind of air crash, what tools can you salvage from the wreckage of the plane? The crash was survivable, which means it is very likely that there is at least some fresh food and a first aid kit available. Try and find a knife or blade - this is the most invaluable tool you can possess in a situation such as this. Regardless of the predicament you are in, look around for any recognizable landmarks. Gather up as much reflective material you can and begin to make a trail in whatever direction you choose to go in. Make sure the material you use to mark your trail is not edible, otherwise passing wildlife will soon consume it.
Once you have chosen the direction you are going in, stick with it, but do not necessarily go in a straight line. Instead, let the forest dictate your direction as long as you do not deviate too far from your original heading. Movement through the rainforest can often be difficult. Try not to focus on the first thing in front of you. Instead, be constantly looking ahead for gaps in the forest which will make it easier to move through. Make slow and steady progress to conserve as much energy as possible. Moving slowly will also minimise scrapes and scratches which can quickly become infected in the humid environment. If you need to part any dense foliage, use a large stick.
This will prevent you from being scratched or bitten by any animals or insects that call that particular piece of the forest their home (and there will always be animals or insects ready to call somewhere home). Do not grab bushes or vines when you are trying to climb slopes as some of them can be thorny or contain skin irritants. Stop often to lay markers down. If you run out of materials try and use the forest around you to lay down clearly recognisable signs. Conspicuous arrows are by far the best form of signal as they allow any rescue party to proceed quickly and without doubt.
Everything in the rainforest is designed to thrive. This is the natural state of life in such a place. Food and water sources will be gorged upon rapidly, as, unfortunately, will you.
Germs, disease, parasites and insects are rife, including mosquitoes which carry the deadly Malaria. Keep as much of your body covered as possible. Roll your sleeves down. This will protect you from scratches and will leave as little of your skin exposed as possible. If you are able to cover your face without affecting your ability to breathe, do so. If you are wounded in any way, treat it immediately and properly. Any infection sustained through an open wound will be incredibly hard to tend and recover from in such harsh conditions.
Finding water should not be too difficult. Dense concentrations of insects are a good indicator of water. Bees almost always have their hive located within a couple of miles of an open water source. Most flies stay within 100 metres of a water source, and a row of marching ants is a good sign that water is nearby. If you do need to drink from an open water source, boil it wherever possible by making a fire (this will also keep insects away). If this is not possible, try and get water from a vine instead. Not all vines have drinkable water, and some even contain poisonous sap, but in a survival situation it may be your only choice. The most reliable indicator is to cut the vine. If the sap is milky and sticky, it is likely to be poisonous. Clear sap is more likely to be safe to drink. Let the water drop into your mouth rather than sucking it from the vine as some can be irritating to the skin.
Constructing a shelter will not be difficult with the abundance of materials around you. Construct one on high ground and as near to water as possible so that you do not have to expend too much energy getting water and you are protected from sudden flooding. The lean-to is the easiest form of shelter, with woven material such as native saplings leaning against a diagonal tree branch. It may look simplistic but it is the best form of protection for the least amount of effort, and lighting a fire near to the open side provides surprisingly warm surroundings in the night.
Finally, when it comes time to forage for food, try and find some that you are familiar with. The rainforest is replete with food but some can be poisonous. Providing a comprehensive list here would be impossible, but if you do find a reliable source of nutritious food, set up camp near it if possible and do not pick more than you need. Hoarding food will attract wildlife and it will spoil rapidly. Leave it growing fresh and harvest it as and when you need it.
If you follow these guidelines, it is then simply a case of waiting for assistance. The forest should provide all you need to sustain yourself for as long as is required. It might not be comfortable, but it is survival.