James Borrell is a biodiversity scientist and science communicator researching how people and nature can adapt to environmental change.

9 Do’s and Don’ts for living in the Amazon

I’ve barely scratched the surface of rainforest living, with two expeditions adding up to only a couple of months. Nevertheless the learning curve was huge, and as is often the case with any new experience, job or country. You learn more in the first few minutes, hours and days, than you will in the following weeks and months, and you normally learn these the hard way (which makes sure you don’t forget them). Here’s a few Do’s and Don’ts for living in the Amazon.

Do check your boots before slipping your foot in. Definitely Don’t reach inquisitively in with your hand, as my friend Simon discovered to mutual surprise as a pink-toed tarantula simultaneously made a rapid exit.

Don’t rig up your hammock right next to the fire, it might make a nice photo, the trees might be the perfect distance apart, but you do stand a good chance of being smothered by smoke in the night.

Do accept the hospitality of the locals. Despite nagging fears of unsterilized water and unfamiliar ingredients, it might just be the best meal your nutrient starved body has ever tasted.

Don’t stand still in the water for too long. Welcoming and refreshing it might be, but the fish become progressively bolder and more inquisitive, starting with playful nips, culminating something less playful.

Don’t lean against a Tangarana tree. The ants that live symbiotically inside it definitely don’t like it.

Do spend your spare time pitting Tangarana ants against ten times their number in termites. For the record, the Tangaranas win and some students respond better to active learning.

Don’t walk through the forest staring at your feet, you’ll trip over a few more times, but be rewarded by seeing dozens more wierd and wonderful creatures that call the forest home.

Don’t run out of batteries for your headtorch whilst in the forest at night, dark isn’t the word for it.

Do take wetwipes, arguable one of mankinds best inventions.

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