VirtualXMag ArticleBase Stuff Africa News Advertise Videos Shop  SUBSCRIBE

How far will you go

 Adventurers of yesteryear  Adventure Sport  Africa: The Good News  Book Reviews
 Safari Health  Bush Cuisine  Conservation  Diving  Fishing  History  Hunting 
 Luxury Travel  Photography  News and Reviews  Overlanding  Other stuff  
  Rookie writers Survival and Bush Craft  True North 


What would you as an individual do to survive? It is quite scary to see what people will do to save their own skins.

Some will turn traitor and sell out on their own comrades or even family. Cannibalism is not unheard of. You might recall the account of a rugby team that crash landed high in the Andes mountains and resorted to this extreme to stay alive. Well there is extreme and there is extreme. Some extremes cross over the bounds of what might be called "civilized" but there are other extremes which may in the correct context be regarded as an acceptable way of staying alive.

People dying of hunger resort to eating animals, reptiles and insects that they would, under normal circumstances, not even consider. When hunger pangs are gnawing away at your stomach and you feel yourself growing weaker by the minute then the sight of a juicy puff adder or fat scorpion may become all the more appealing something which might have appeared repulsive in terms of a food item in times of plenty may suddenly take on a new attraction. Dying of hunger would by all accounts after the first few days of hunger pangs appear to be less traumatic than dying of thirst because it takes longer and the symptoms are more subtle to begin with.

Dying of thirst however is another matter. It can occur within the short space of 36 hours. The symptoms are intense. A raging thirst, swollen tongue, cracked lips, headache, hallucinations, and coma. To be lost in the wilds of Africa especially in dry areas or during the dry months of the year can be a terrifying experience compounded by a lack of or absence of water. There are many who have succumbed to thirst and are now part of the dust of Africa. When entering the African bush always make sure you are well hydrated to begin with and take enough water with you. But as we all know things can and often do go wrong.

If you are a hunter armed with a firearm or bow and you find yourself in a desperate situation of being lost, not being able to find water and are succumbing to the consequences of dehydration there is one recourse of action which may save your life as it has of hunters in the past.

There is one source of water which is often overlooked which may just make the difference between dying or surviving to tell the tale. This water source is found in one of the large stomachs of ruminants such as kudu, wildebeest, impala, eland, cows and so on. This large sac known as the rumen is one of four stomachs possessed by animals which "chew the cud" the other three being the reticulum, omasum and abomasum.

Armed with a rifle or bow you should be able to shoot a ruminant. The rumen is most easily accessible from the left side. When normally field dressing a carcass the rumen tends to balloon out when the abdominal cavity is opened  see Figure 1). If you are desperate for water, need it urgently and do not have the strength, time or inclination to field dress the carcass to remove the internal organs, lay the dead animal on its right side and make a cut through the skin behind the ribs. The rumen will lie immediately below the skin. Cutting through the wall of the rumen will reveal a mass of green, wet vegetable matter comprised of chewed grass, forbs and leaves (depending on the diet of the particular animal- see Figure 2).

Here is your life saving water source. Place this vegetable matter in some cloth material (shirt, towel, handkerchief) and squeeze it out over a container (see Figure 3 and 4) or directly into your mouth (Figure 5). Yes the liquid emerging will be olive green in colour and will smell rather offensive but it is water life sustaining water and we are talking here of extreme survival.

You can easily extract 5 litres of fluid from the stomach of an impala sized animal perhaps even more. In larger animals such as gemsbok, and kudu you should be able to get as much as 15 litres of life saving liquid from the rumen.

The hardest part is to get your mind around drinking the stuff (Figure 5) but if you are desperate enough and thirsty enough you will drink it and save your life in the process. If you do have the time you can further filter and / or boil the water to render it safer to drink or pass it through some filtering system (e.g. sand) to make it more palatable.

You can contrive some sort of condensing apparatus to get pure water from it but the wherewithal may not always be available. Obviously if you have water purification tablets (all good outdoorsmen should have some in a survival kit) you can add these to the "water" to purify it.

Cleve Cheney is a wilderness trail leader, rated field guide instructor and the author of many leading articles on the subjects of tracking, guiding, bowhunting and survival. Cleve has unrivalled experience in wildlife management, game capture and hunting, both with bow and rifle.
Click here to visit his site

Rumen water can save your life. When you emerge from the ordeal take a course of antibiotics and a course of de-worming medication. You may pick up some parasites from the rumen fluid but this can be sorted out and successfully treated at a later stage. The important thing is you will have survived and found a source of water when you needed it most.


• Survival Kits for Hunters •
• Leatherman MUT •
• The Fire Piston •
• The fire bow: primitive fire •
• Bush Food •
• How far will you go •
• Knots and hitches 1 •
• Knots and hitches 2 •
• Alternative uses for your flashlight •
• Pump a tubeless tyre •
• The handy Condom •
• Jump start a vehicle without cables •
• Out of brake fluid •
• Alternative cooking methods •
• Make a winch from a pole •
• The useful plastic bag •
• Your battery is flat ... •
• No Light? •
• The many uses of Condy's Crystals •
• The multifunctional Binoculars •
• Soldering or welding in emergencies •
• Making primitive fire •
• Lifting a vehicle without a jack •
• Pull, lift or move •
• Cold drinks in the bush •
• Make a small stove from aluminum cans •
• Toilet paper rope •
• Fire from a beer can and chocolate •
• LandShark in Gonarhezhou •
• Fire without matches •
• Sharpening your knife in the bush •
• Making an ash bag •
• Making fire with a tonteldoos •

•  •

Are you an expert on this subject?
Tell the world what you think.


Developed by

All content copyright The African Expedition Magazine.
No portion of this site or publication may be transmitted, stored or used without written permission.
All rights reserved.