Jungle Survival Training With JSA – Intense, Challenging and Thrilling!

jungle survival training

As I boarded the train headed for Katni junction in MP, I started mentally prepping myself for the arduous 48-hour jungle survival training lined up for me by JSA. I was both nervous and excited about the adventure ahead and little did I know what was in store for me.

JSA aka Jungle survival academy conducts 24 to 72-hour adrenaline-packed survival courses in the pristine and dangerous Tiger territory – Bandhavgarh.

How did JSA happen – The Backstory..

One fine day while mindlessly going through Insta stories I came across an ad for JSA which piqued my interest. So, I contacted them for more information and got an instant call back clearing all my doubts. It literally took me ten mins from seeing the ad to making up my mind – I wanted to take up the challenge and I was mentally and physically ready for it!

Without overthinking, I promptly booked a slot for the course and started nervously waiting for D day. When it arrived, I found out I was the only person going for the course (as a participant). This seemed a little daunting at first but I quickly got over this slight mental roadblock and was all set for my jungle adventure.

Having spent over a decade traveling to national parks of India and Africa, I decided it was time to hop off the jeeps and get on foot to experience the real wilds. And off I went…

What to Expect whilst taking the 48-hour Survival Course with JSA?

As soon as I reached Katni (nearest station), I was escorted to base camp where I was given time to freshen up, my last urban meal, and a few mins to bid adieu to all my belongings (for the next 48 hours).

Yes, you heard it right – ALL your belongings – which included our ever-loving phones (Quite honestly, I was happy about the digital detox). 

Next, I met the ever famous (and feared) – Ustaad ji (Ex Special Forces), who would be my mentor throughout the next 2 days. He briefed me of the dangers that lurked in the jungles and how to react if I happen to come face to face with any of the wild animals of Bandhavgarh – Mainly – Elephant, Tiger, Bear, and Wild Boar.

At one point my brain was all muddled up with fear and instructions – Wait, do I play dead when I see a Tiger and scream and run 90 degrees right when I see a Boar, or was it the other way around or was that instruction for facing another animal? huh! My mind was a mumble jumble as fear started to creep in.

I honestly asked myself – What WOULD I do if I came face to face with the majestic Tiger (on foot)? Would I be able to follow Ustaad Ji’s instructions to not look him in the eye, not show fear, and stay still? Or will panic strike me and I will start screaming and running? Flight or fight right? Wrong? How will my brain and body react, I had NO idea and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to find out either.

All I was given was some basic jungle survival gear like a small army knife, a torch, a compass, and one bottle of water with me – Thats’ it ! With these essentials, we set off into the wild…

jungle survival training

Please note – All images and videos shown in this post were taken by inhouse team of JSA. 

What will you Learn in this Challenging Jungle Survival Training?

Soon Ustaad Ji started sharing his invaluable knowledge of the jungles, terrain, animal behavior and more. I was engrossed in the sheer value I was receiving right off the bat and then we started the – tasks!

Setting Traps

Since we were walking inside a national park, we were not allowed to actually set traps to bait animals. However, as it is an essential part of survival, I was shown all the basic traps one can set in the jungle and what they are used to catch and how they work.

Sourcing a Spear

Next, in order to navigate the dense underbrush and especially the oblivious wood spiders, I needed a spear. I was told how to use my army knife to cut through a bamboo stick in order to make a spear. It sounded easier than it was and cutting through bamboo with a fist-size army knife is no piece of cake – unless you know the right angle and technique. Once I learnt that, I had my own spear to take on the jungles – head on!

Rope Making

My first main task in this 48-hour jungle survival course was rope making. Guess what we used to make these ropes? An indigenous plant named Muri. I was taught how to strip leaves in half and twist them with my fists and then join leaf after leaf to make a ten-meter-long rope. This rope was sturdy and I used it to carry wood back to my camp later that evening – so, it came in handy as well.

This task had me sweating and wondering what else was lined up in the next 48 hours – how long had it been already – one hour? Oh god!

Starting Fire

Our next and most important task of jungle survival was – starting fire. Yes this does not mean a bonfire but a Stone age style fire using just dry branches of trees – yes, that’s it.

We made a hole in one branch and used the other to create friction over the hole in a circular motion. I was huffing and puffing in just a minute and Ustaad ji was adamant we will make fire by hook or by crook.

jungle survival fire making

Since the wood wasn’t totally dry it was an uphill task and after 1.5 hours of sweating and trying we gave up.

Later that day at camp, we tried the Flintstone style of fire – by knocking two rocks against each other to create a spark. We then used that tiny spark on small shreds of wood to create a bonfire for cooking my food which was mere pulses.

Thanks to the JSA team who realized we didn’t get to forage that day since I was a solo participant and all tasks took longer when done alone (usually they are divided amongst group members), they offered me some pulses and rice for a days job well done. I cooked it with just salt and turmeric and enjoyed my only food for the day – a cup of simple khichdi, for which by the way, I was eternally grateful.

That night, I slept in an Alpine tent on a Machaan under a starry sky. It was breathtaking and surreal. I could see the jungle in the moonlight and was confident I would spot any animals if they got too close to camp. However, I was advised to keep the fire burning all night (For which I had to get down from the safety of my Machaan, and also to answer nature’s call -eeks). Luckily, I always had someone from JSA team around and a walkie talkie in case of any emergency situations – its the wild after all – anything can happen.

Basic Unarmed Combat Skills

Next morning, Ustaad ji summoned me and warned me to prepare myself mentally for the day ahead. He told me I will be given NO food and the tasks and jungle walk will be 10x harder than day one. I gulped thinking of how my body broke in the last 24 hours but I told myself giving up was NOT an option. So come what may, I will do whatever tasks are allocated, follow directions and complete my survival training without breaking down (though its perfectly normal to break down).

After hearing stories of how some participants quit without finishing the course, I was a bit hesitant of my abilities but once Ustaad Ji told me I could train my mind to overcome any obstacles , I simply told myself I wont feel hungry or tired and that’s it.

So the next day started with warm up, learning about different knots, rappeling and understanding basic unarmed combat skills. This was integral for self defence and even though I haven’t tried my skills on anyone yet, just knowing them make me more confident.

Shelter Making

shelter making in jungles

This was hands down the toughest task of the survival course for me. It took forever to forage the right sizes of branches, loads of leaves to provide ample coverage to the shelter and fighting spiders to get to the leaves. I was seriously exhausted after making this temporary shelter which took around 2 hours.

Navigation through Stars

This was perhaps the part I was looking forward to the most. Since my in-built GPS is long broken and I cant even manage to navigate through Google maps, I was certain this skill would come in handy. Basically, you need to first know where the North Star is (which can be located via other constellations nearby) and then that’s your north!

You need to recaliber every 100-200 mtrs when walking in one direction as everyone has a tendency to move a little towards one side (right or left). So even when you think you are walking straight, you aren’t.

This is not as easy as it sounds and Ustaad Ji actually did  6 months of navigation training as a para commando which makes him a genius. All I could gather in an hour were the very basics. So if you leave me without a GPS, I would still be just as lost in the urban or rural jungles.

Water Purification

Water purification is most important and utterly complicated process of jungle survival. You have to first make charcoal by burning wood, then gather big leaves and fill them with coal bits. After that you make 3 such layers of filtration and start pouring water at the top. It takes time and the process is exhaustive but if you want clean water in the jungles, thats’ the way to go!

Foraging for Food & Water

Since this forest lacked water holes and most food options were already consumed by monkeys, deer and other animals; I was allowed to carry a 500 ml bottle of water for the entire day in the bush. If there were water holes, we would use the above purification process to make it drinkable.

water in jungles

For food the second day, I was prepared to go to bed on an empty stomach as warned by Ustaad Ji and I managed to train my mind so well that I didn’t feel hungry at all. (This coming from someone who is “ALWAYS” hungry was truly unfathomable).

Still, I had to learn skills of a survivor and I did need some protein in my body to last next 24 hours. So we foraged roots of the Muri plant (The same one we used for rope making). We had to cut through and dig deep to find finger sized shreds of roots which were later to be boiled with water and had as a protein-packed soup. This was to be my breakfast, lunch and dinner for day two.

As I got back to camp that evening, tired to the bone and still several tasks ahead – like collecting wood for fire, sparking the fire, boiling water for the night, cooking my precious (and meagre) Muri roots- I thought to myself – I DID IT!

The next day was the end of my 48 hours in the jungles and as I was handed back my belongings and a hearty breakfast, I wasn’t sure what to do with those things. Honestly, I didnt even turn on my phone till very late that day as the digital detox suited me just fine. I couldn’t eat more than one piece of fruit when I imagined binging at the first sight of a good meal.

I realized how strong your mind is and how easily you can train it to your needs. With all our materialistic urban comforts, we seldom have the need to train it – but once in a while, we should – just to test our limits.

Here’s a complete video of my experience which I am sure you will all love and an open challenge to do this survival course –

This doesn’t mean it was all a bed of roses and I got away scar free. Last day of the course, I woke up to over 200 insect bites on my body (I am very prone to bites). They itched for over 6 weeks and the marks might last 6 months – or more (time will tell).

However, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger right? I am much more confident of taking on challenges and have surely learnt that your mind can be trained in any direction you want to! I was also often given solid life advice under the starry skies as the bonfire flicked timidly below the Machaan in hopes of warding off predators.

My 48-hour jungle survival training was over but it left memories (and scars) that would last a lifetime.

4 Comments

  1. Very well described. I am sure you will inspire others

  2. This sounds so interesting, I’d love to learn how to make fire with two “normal” stones. Normally there is a set of special stones that you can buy in a camping shop to make fire. The water purification and foraging is also something I’d like to learn. I never did foraging in India but in Germany we do pick up seasonal things from the forest, it is fun. 🙂

    • Exactly and you need to “scavenge” the right stones, branches, twigs etc as well right from jungles. You are right, In India we never really get to do the basic girl/ boy scout camps even – so this is for everyone to try once at least.

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