Island Survival Guide

Islands are unique and diverse microcosms scattered through the vast oceans of our planet.

The wildlife, weather and plant life you find in these landscapes often vary wildly from island to island and some are more dangerous than others. While some islands harbor tigers, alligators and all manner of vicious predators others are relatively devoid of such creatures and have mainly snakes, spiders and reptiles. Whatever the ecosystem you find yourself having to survive it’s important to be wary of the dangers as well as what the island has to offer in terms of survival.

In this guide we’ll look at how you go about finding the necessities and what you can do to escape your island paradise turned nightmare scenario.


Dangers of Island Survival

Before we get into the ins and outs of how to survive on an island we must first take time to go over the very real dangers that survival in an island paradise pose.


Like most tropical climates the most pressing danger to island survival is likely to be the potential for illness. Islands are often plagued by mosquito borne and water borne disease. The warm, humid climate is a breeding ground for all manner of water borne parasites and large colonies of mosquitoes that breed in the still water of the island interior. When trekking through the island interior it’s important to have some form of insect repellant to keep the swarms of disease carrying mosquitos at bay.

To avoid contracting water borne illness, such as dysentery, it’s important to purify your water before drinking it. Even if the water appears to be fresh at a glance it’s impossible to tell if there are water borne pathogens just by looking or even by tasting the water. As a rule it’s better to be safe than sorry. Contracting water borne illness will greatly hinder your ability to survive.


In addition to illness there is the additional threat posed by local wildlife in the area. What species you will be dealing with, especially in terms of predators, and in what concentration you are likely to encounter them  can vary greatly from island to island. Island predators include tigers, lions, wolves, piranhas and crocodiles to name a few.

Knowing your region and its inhabitants is the best defense against predators in an island survival scenario. It’s easier to take precautions when you know what you’re up against. Some universal deterrents are fire and shrill air horns. Both are surprisingly effective even against larger predators at a distance.



Acquiring shelter in an island survival scenario is all about location.

You don’t want to be too far from your water source as long treks burn water and calories. You also don’t want to be too close to your water source as you are unlikely to be the only one using it. Predators often frequent areas close to water sources. You don’t want to be too far inland because of predators or too far away from the shore because you aren’t visible by passing planes or ships when you are in the thick of the forest.

Once you strike that balance there are a few different choices for your shelter’s construction. The most commonly used is a simple lean-to. It affords a measure of protection and all the materials necessary for its construction are within reach. Alternatively you can seek to convert a natural formation into a shelter. This will likely force you further inland as there are fewer natural formations close to shore so be wary of this option, but a rocky outcropping, crevice or cave can save you time and calories in you shelter construction. Whatever you choose you want to be wary of your surrounds and what creatures you are sharing a space with.



Much like being stranded at sea finding water in an island survival scenario poses a unique set of problems.

The surrounding ocean is undrinkable and depending o the level of rainfall and region you happen to be surviving in finding viable water sources in the interior forest may prove difficult. The biggest of these issues is water borne pathogens. One way to solve this issue is with desalination through a device or a solar still. The majority of commercial desalination devices work on a principle called reverse osmosis where the device uses pressure with a series of pumps to force alt water through a semi-permeable membrane separating the alt from the water.

Solar stills are a bit more primitive, but easier to construct in an emergency style situation. They work essentially through using evaporation and condensation collection to separate the salt from the fresh water. If you manage to locate an existing water source you want to be sure that you purify the water prior to drinking either by boiling or chemical purification with iodine or chlorine dioxide. Be advised that chemical purification methods should not be used as your primary method of purification for an extended period of time as that that can be hazardous.



Food in an island survival scenario is a bit simpler than in other survival scenarios.

The most obvious source is going to be the wild fruits that grow in the island climate. Which fruits you will encounter will vary depending on region and season, but you should be able to harvest fruit in short order. Be wary of the fruit that you choose to harvest as not all fruits are edible. It’s for this reason it’s important to research your region prior to travel to avoid consuming poisonous fruits. As a rule don’t consume any fruits that you do not recognize to be safe.

In addition to harvesting fruits there is the option of harvesting your bounty from the sea. Crustaceans, muscles, fish and other aquatic creatures provide much needed protein to keep you alive in long duration survival scenarios. Getting the hang of fishing and trapping from the sea may take some time, but it’s well worth it.


Signaling for escape

Once you’ve established food, shelter and water it’s now time to consider you escape.

You may be tempted to take to the sea, but even if you had the equipment and knowledge to construct a sea worthy vessel you’d simply be trading one survival scenario for another. Your best bet for escape is to signal passing ships and planes.

Use rocks to spell out a S.O.S on the beach large enough to be viewed from the air. Enhance this display with any reflective material you may have on hand or come across in your environment. Light a signal fire when you can during the day and be sure to use slightly damp wood to produce a lot of smoke. Be faithful in your signaling efforts and you are bound to catch the attention of a passing plane or ship. There are no shortages of vessels crisscrossing the seas so regardless of where you find yourself stranded it’s only a matter of time until you encounter another human being.


Survival pack

When it comes to island survival there are a few essentials that you want to keep in your emergency pack if you happen to be traveling near or on islands. While these are by no means the only things you should have in your survival pack they are important additions that should be in any pack regardless of the region you find yourself in.

  • Sturdy Knife – You want a stiff blade preferably. You can use a folding blade, but it needs to have a sturdy locking mechanism
  • Water Source – You want to use a sturdy water bladder or 2 quart canteen
  • Food rations – You want some small, easy to store nonperishables
  • Repellent – You will need plenty of this if you spend too much time inland
  • Flares – These can be used to signal a plane if you are in the bush or a ship if you don’t have time to light a signal fire
  • Flint/Waterproof matches/lighter – You can use the flint with your knife, or use matches or a lighter as your fire starter.
  • Machete – You will need this for constructing shelter and navigating the thick vegetation.
  • Set of dry cloths sealed in a waterproof bag – It’s easy to get soaked on an island and with the hot humid days and cool nights its easy take ill if you don’t have dry clothing. It also can double as a condensation collection bag for transpiration.


Island survival is a uniquely challenging circumstance with its own set of obstacles to survival. The diverse wildlife and climate makes it difficult to predict what you are likely to face without first researching the region you are heading for. However with a little for knowledge in some general areas you can manage just fine regardless of what region you find yourself surviving in.

Remember, the key to any survival situation is a combination of proper planning and prior knowledge. Following this guide and taking the necessary time to research your intended area will go a long way to ensuring your survival in an island survival scenario.

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