YOSSI GHINSBERG – LOST IN THE JUNGLE
A harrowing tale in the depths of the Amazon jungle gave this survivor the vision to make the world a better place.
The rainforest was deafeningly loud. All the creatures sang their song or called out under the dense canopy as leaves danced in the humid air streams. There’s so much beauty. Yossi Ghinsberg couldn’t help but admire the wonders of this ecosystem. It almost distracted him from his hunger pains. It’s been weeks and he hasn’t seen any sign of civilization. The woman beside him didn’t seem as weak as he was.
The ants didn’t seem to bite her, and her foot wasn’t being devoured by fungi like his was. It wouldn’t be until the end of his last bit of strength that the ants actually saved him. Ant bites can cause the release of hormones and steroids in the human body giving an extra push to survive. He covered himself with them, and that bit of energy saved him.
“I actually went and shook a tree and showered myself with them because my feet couldn’t carry me anymore and I needed to stand,” he says. “I showered myself with the fire ants and, on the waves of pain, I managed to get up and keep on going.” With the last shred of hope he heard the sound of an engine. When he turned around to call on the woman, it became clear she never existed. He survived the Amazon alone.
The Making of a Survivor
Ghinsberg’s parents survived the Holocaust and relocated to Ramat Gan, Israel, where he was born and raised. At 19, he enlisted with the Israeli Navy and was stationed in the Red Sea. After completing his service in 1981, he found inspiration in the book, Papillon, by Henri Charrière. In the novel, the author details his experience as a convict on the run. Somehow, this really moved Ghinsberg and he became enthralled with the idea of reaching the author and asking to follow in his footsteps.
Invigorated, Ghinsberg felt a calling for adventure in the jungle. He wanted the real deal experience and subsequently toiled under the tutelage of many bosses and many jobs to save up enough funds for the trip to South America. His destination was the most glorious rainforest in the world, the Amazon.
Unfortunately, once he acquired the money to go on his journey, the book’s author, Charrière, had passed away. Additionally, the tribes he wanted to explore had been integrated into local society and no longer held the novelty of being untouched by modern civilization. Undaunted, he continued on.
He proceeded on his journey and hitched rides from Venezuela to Colombia. He met a Swiss teacher and the two decided to travel together to Bolivia. An Austrian, who happened to be planning a similar expedition in search of gold, joined them. Ghinsberg was thrilled to finally have the chance to see what most others have not, the Amazon in its raw beauty. An American photographer then joined them, and the four men began their quest into the Bolivian jungle.
A mishap occurred when a venture by raft proved almost deadly as Ghinsberg was swept over a waterfall. He was separated from the group and spent days traveling upriver looking for his comrades. Eventually, the truth set in, he was stranded and in danger. The adventure quickly turned dire.
The trip had started with adequate food supplies. He had a rifle but was only able to hunt a monkey. Eating it was not an easy feat, but at least it was food. He recounts his hunger, “I would have eaten human flesh. With hunger at that level, it’s just energy. It’s beyond disgust.”
The next three weeks, he roamed without supplies or equipment. Completely lost, he had to survive as best he could. Creatures and beasts tried to devour him at every turn. Ants slowly ate away the skin of his deteriorating body as hope seemed to fade away.
At last there was a sound different from the din of the jungle — the sound of an engine. He made his way towards a river and reunited with his partner and a crew of natives that had launched rescue operations for him. They found him after three days of search and after three weeks of being stranded. He claimed a woman had kept him company. They were almost at their last bit of hope when they came upon him. He spent the next few months in recovery at a local hospital. The other two adventurers continued their journey into the jungle but were never seen or heard from again.
Save Yourself, Then Save the World
Upon his return to civilization, Ghinsberg pursued education and graduated with degrees in Jewish Philosophy and Business Administration from Tel Aviv University in Israel. Additionally, he studied Kabbalah and continues his studies of past and present religions including the Ancients, the Classics, Eastern, and Shamanic traditions.
Drawn back to the rainforest, he lived and worked in the Amazon region from 1992 to 1995. He dwelled among indigenous people in the same wilderness that had almost taken his life, but this time he wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. He facilitated the building of an ecolodge for visitors and taught the local natives how to manage it. In 1999, Ghinsberg moved to Australia and established The Alma Libre Foundation, addressing opiate addiction and providing services for re-entry into society.
In his early 50s, the unbreakable survivor embarked on another passion as a tech-entrepreneur. He successfully launched Headbox and Blinq, social media integration apps in 2013 and 2015, respectively. Only someone with his uber-adventurous look on life could take on a massive industry that’s driven by a workforce half his age.
“That was my biggest challenge because I was the founder and the CEO, and I had young people following me. I needed to show them that I can learn fast, I can assimilate, I can let go,” he said.
After two decades, a movie was finally made, The Jungle, a feature film retelling his adventure in the Amazon starring Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potterfame.
In 1993, he wrote his first book, Back from Tuichi, which sold millions of copies, gained extreme popularity in Israel, has been translated into 15 languages, and was published under a variety of names worldwide. Then in 2008, he wrote his second book, Laws of the Jungle: Jaguars Don’t Need Self-Help Books.
“The story,” he says simply, “has been a blessing in every way I can see”. This true-life adventurer and his contributions to making a better world continues to this day.
Learn more by visiting his website at ghinsberg.com.