Marooned: Ed Stafford’s top 10 survival tips

Ahead of his new Discovery show the adventurer offers up his advice on staying alive, wherever in the world we may find ourselves

Action man Ed Stafford (the chap who walked the length of the Amazon River) is back with a new five-part series. Marooned (starting at 9pm May 4 on Discovery Channel) sees Stafford dumped in the wilds of Venezuela, the Okavango Delta in Botswana, the chilly Carpathian Mountains in Romania, the sweaty jungles of Borneo and the tempestuous Western Australian coast – where he has to survive on his own.


Unlike other survival shows, there’s no camera crew, no hotel stays during takes, no free pouring water in the background and no tools to help him during the 10 days he spends in each country. Ahead of the show he offers up 10 valuable tips that have helped him stay alive…

1. Treat any survival situation like a game

“Feel the adrenaline and enjoy it,” says Stafford. “This sounds simple and yet it will change everything for the better. Positively channel your heightened awareness into constructive action and it will allow everything else to happen so much easier. Allow stress to overcome you and you will freeze, shut down and make mistakes.”

2. Relax

“Take your pack off and sit down,” says Stafford. “If you smoke, have a fag. The panic that comes with the immediate realisation that you are lost or separated could easily make you run around like a headless chicken, get yourself even more lost and make mistakes. You are now in a survival situation and the key is to compose yourself and start slowly taking back control.”

3. Make a plan

“Assess your situation, think what you have with you and make a logical plan,” explains Stafford.  “If you have only been separated a short time it may be that the best course of action is to make a huge amount of noise to attract the attention of a group that may not realise you are lost. Shout, whistle or scream. Bang metal items together. Anything to end your predicament as early as possible.”

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4. Get more info

“Assuming that you’re still here – and help may not immediately be on its way – start to build up more information about the surrounding area. Destroy all the foliage around you so that you have clearly marked where you are and start to make short excursions from your ‘base’,” says Stafford. “Go 30 metres north, and if you’ve not found anything come back to your starting position. Then go 30 metres south. On this leg, you may find a water source or an edible fruit tree. Log your findings and again return to your base. Work around the compass points building up more information all the time. Assuming that your immediate controlled search didn’t locate a road or an obvious route to safety, start to think about what you will need to keep yourself alive over the next 24 hours. That doesn’t mean building multi-speared wild boar traps – you can go without food for a long time – but it does mean focusing on water and shelter. You will have an idea by now of the best place in your vicinity to camp, perhaps by water, perhaps where there is a fallen tree or a small cave. Relocate, hydrate yourself, and start to make a crude shelter for the night using anything that will redirect rain from falling on you. Leaves, branches, anything – it doesn’t need to be pretty.”

5. If you have a lighter, make a fire

“The warmth and light from this inherently civilised commodity will comfort you through the night and the morale gained by simply lighting a fire and gazing into the flames is inexplicably energising. Fire is always a loyal companion,” claims Stafford. “That said – if you are without a lighter (and chances are that you are not proficient at lighting a fire with two sticks) – remember that no other animal in the world has the ability to make a fire and you will most likely be fine without it. Focus on what you do have rather than what you don’t, always.”

6. Explore your surroundings

“So you’ve made it through your first night, rested up and hopefully drank a little. Use the energy you still have to further explore your surroundings,” says Stafford. “Always make your routes simple to return along so as to not get lost. There will invariably be so much that you can utilise: moss for bedding, fruits or nuts for snacks, or even signs of animals that you may want to begin to think about trapping. The important thing at this stage is to keep your eyes open and keep seeing everything as an incredible opportunity. This is a time when panic could return so be kind to yourself.” 

7. Make a knife

“Depending on what you have on you, you may find that you are limited because of not having a knife. There are many things that can be used as a blade,” advises Stafford. “A smashed rock, a shell, an old bit of metal. But if you think laterally, you will also see that there are alternatives to cutting and chopping. Without a cutting tool you need to think more along the lines of abrading, bending and adapting. Working with your materials rather than against them.”

8. Go fishing

“Seasonal fruits and roots can see you through a few days, but after a while there is a need to ingest protein,” warns Stafford. “The simplest fishing method is to take an old plastic bottle, chop off the funnel end (bite and tear as necessary!) and reinsert it so that the small end is now innermost. When baited with snails or grubs and weighted down in a slow moving river this is a sure way to catch sprats that find it easy to find their way in but very difficult to find the small opening to get out again.” 

9. Eat coconuts

“I know that this one is very location specific but if you are in a survival situation where there are coconuts then you are laughing,” reckons Stafford. “The green coconuts have liquid full of electrolytes and so in balance with your body’s fluids that they have been used as intravenous drips. The mature brown coconuts have edible and filling flesh. The husks are great tinder for fire lighting and the palms are excellent to thatch yourself a roof above your head. It is no wonder it is often called ‘the tree of life’.”

10. Self-rescue

“Let’s face it, after a while the novelty will have worn off and its time to think about how you might be able to get out. In areas where there are rivers they are a great thing to follow in order to get to the coast,” says Stafford. “You always know that you’ll have fresh water to drink along the way too! With a bit of luck there will be people inhabiting the water course too and they’ll be able to help. Good luck!”

Watch Marooned at 9pm May 4 on Discovery Channel

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