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A Guide to Terrifying Creatures to Avoid on Your Gap Year

Written by Jenny McWhirter on 05 / 04 / 2016

Gap Year Advice

A gap year offers a fantastic opportunity to explore warmer climes, rainforests, beaches and much more...

But as you take the path less travelled and head to exotic warmer climes, this brings fears of creepy crawlies and other terrifying creatures we all wish we hadn’t ever seen.

I’ve braved the array of quite petrifying species to provide you with a guide of the different creatures that should be avoided, from their danger to you, to their appearance as things from nightmares, be sure to keep out of the way of these monsters whilst abroad.

Are you ready? I’m not. Here goes…

The Yellow Sac Spider

Found: North and South America, Australia

Size: 5-15cm

Not only do these spiders just look horrible, you also don’t particularly want to get bitten by this guy. Their bites have been known to cause necrosis, a condition that slowly erodes away your flesh.

Whilst they are known for a nasty bite, they are also responsible for more bites than any other spider, I’m certainly hoping I’ll never be a victim on its long list.

Fringed Ornamental Tarantula

Found: India

Size: 20-25cm

Keeping on the spider theme, they have to be up there as one of the scariest species alive, meet our fringed ornamental tarantula.

Firstly, just the sheer size of these beasts is enough to make my heart skip a beat. You couple this size with a creature that can move quickly and is aggressive and in my book you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

If that hasn’t made your stomach turn, if this chap manages to catch a bite of you he’ll release a venom that will cause even the hardiest of men intense pain and extreme muscle cramps.

Fancy seeing this part of the world but aren’t too keen on coming face to face with this tarantula? Why not head to Nepal? where you can spend 4 weeks exploring, teaching and trekking to the Everest base camp.

Bullet Ant

Bullet Ant (Paraponera clavata) from Frida Lona on Vimeo.

Found: Central and South America

Size: 2-3cm

An ant? I hear you ask. Yes, for many of us the ant is not a particularly threatening insect. However, this fella has the most painful sting of any insect of its kind. For those who are unfortunate enough to have both been stung by the ant and been shot, they have described the pain as almost identical.

It is estimated to take a full twenty-four hours to recover from it’s sting. But if you’re feeling hardy, why not test your manliness.

In certain Amazonian tribes they insist the men wear gloves filled with these ants for a full five minutes in order to become a man. Think you could cope with that? I know I certainly wouldn’t pass the test.


Wolverine: Chasing the Phantom from Lightpress on Vimeo.

Found: Canada, Northern parts of North America, Nordic countries of Europe, Russia and Serbia

Size: Similar to a medium dog

Before you get the wrong idea I am not trying to suggest that Hugh Jackman somehow managed to make it on to my top list of creatures to avoid. No, instead the wolverine I refer to is best described as a mix between a dog and a bear.

For a relatively moderately sized beast, this animal has no fear. It will quite happily take on a bear ten times it size. The scary part? It will then win the fight.

There are very few records of these beasts losing a fight and if you think your safe because you’re not a bear, they have been known to pick a fight with humans. Needless to say they always came out on top.

Horned Lizard

Untamed Americas: Regal Horned Lizard from Skip Hobbie on Vimeo.

Found: Deserts of North and Central America

Size: 5-12cm

Whilst this friendly lizard spends most of his time relaxing in the sun and hanging around the sand, he has made my list because of his somewhat bizarre and rather disgusting response to fear.

Many of us when we get scared jump, scream, some of us may even cry. This dude when he is frightened or feels threatened will squirt blood out of it’s eye at you. I would not like to be in the firing line of that!

Luckily these weird creatures don’t reside in Costa Rica so you’re safe to explore the turtles blood free.

Africanized Honey Bee

Found: Across the Americas

Size: 9-18mm Similar to a normal European honey bee

These bees are the direct result of an experiment. Back in the 1950s a Brazilian bee keeper decided he wanted to interbreed the European and African honey bees. The result: Africanized honey bee.

Whilst their sting is no more dangerous than that of the European honey bee they are feared for their tendency to swarm relentlessly and aggressively chase their victims for miles.

Poison Dart Frog

Found: in the tropical rainforests of Central and South America

Size: 2 inches

You’ve seen these fellas at the zoo, haven’t you? They’re sweet, tiny, colourful, maybe even cute. When there is glass between you and this frog then yes, I’d agree. Face-to-face it is a very different story.

This frog sweats deadly poison. This poison then is potent enough that one frog is capable of killing around 20,000 mice. Think your safe? You’re not a mouse. Well no, but 20,000 mice means it could have a good go at just one human.

Need proof? Local Amazonian tribes rub their spearheads on these frogs’ backs to make their weapons as deadly as possible.

Let’s break for just a minute from the terrifying animals and remember that in order to be protected from some of these creatures it’s a good idea to make sure you’re vaccinated before heading abroad.

Black Mamba

Found: Southern and Eastern Africa

Size: 2.5-4.5 metres

A more traditional terrifying creature, the Black Mamba’s single bite has enough venom in it to kill ten grown men. You’d do anything to avoid that bite but this snake can reach land speeds of over 12 miles per hour.

They’re known for their aggression and will attack without provocation. I’d suggest if you are headed to Southern or Eastern Africa perhaps take up running and hit that treadmill hard before heading out. Alternatively ensure to keep your eyes peeled and fingers crossed that you won’t stumble upon this snake.

Deathstalker Scorpion

Found: North Africa and the Middle East

Size: 9-11.5cm

This scorpion claims the title of most dangerous scorpion out there. Its venom is a cocktail of neurotoxins designed to wreak havoc with your nerve tissue. Whilst it is only capable of killing young children and the elderly it will certainly make you wish you were dead.

The good news, there is an anti-venom. The bad news, you need an exceptionally large dosage of it and it is excruciatingly slow to take effect.

Why not hit Africa avoiding these guys and ensuing pain by heading further south to Namibia?

Boomslang Snake

Found: Sub-Saharan Africa

Size: 100-160cm can reach up to 180cm

This snake doesn’t just go straight for the kill, oh no it wants to see you suffer. Its venom is slow-release. You are lulled into a false sense of security; you start to think the bite was no big deal. Then suddenly it hits, anticlotting along with haemorrhaging will see it’s victim bleed out from everywhere.

The good news is though that it is not very aggressive and rarely attacks. It will only inflict this slow painful process on you if you’ve truly deserved it. My advice, stay well clear if he should cross your path.

Box Jellyfish

BOX JELLYFISH from OceanReality on Vimeo.

Found: Indo-Pacific region and northern Australia

Size: 20cm in length, 30cm in diameter

The box jellyfish takes the title of the most venomous animal in the world. It kills more people a year than sharks, crocodiles and stonefish combined. Not only will it make you feel like you’ve been burnt by a 200°C hot rod that has then stayed on the area permanently. It is also nearly invisible when in the water.

This combination ensures that you could swim straight through it without realising until the pain kicks in. Whilst this is extremely unpleasant there are very few links to human deaths.

Avoid this creature by wearing a wet suit, or be super careful and don’t hit the water and instead enjoy all Australia has to offer on land up the East Coast.

As we started this guide with two spiders, I feel it is only fitting to end with two of the worst spiders.

Goliath Birdeater

Found: South America

Size: 25-30cm

Need I say more? This spider got its name from its love of eating birds for dinner. Now if this hasn’t freaked you out enough. This lovely monster can grow up to 30cm across – that’s a full ruler width!

In terms of deathly you’re not in danger. They have a feeble bite and are generally pretty harmless apart from slight issue of giving you terrible night terrors. I don’t know about you but I certainly wouldn’t want to stumble across Goliath during the night, or at any time for that matter.

Brazilian Wandering Spider

Found: South and Central America

Size: 10-12cm

This lovely spider won its spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the most venomous spider in the world. You combine a creepy crawly, with a reasonable growth, then add in aggression and highly poisonous venom and it’s a recipe to scare off even the hardiest of people.

If you’re unlucky enough to come victim to this spider’s bite, you’ll experience loss of muscle control which often results in asphyxiation and intense pain. To make it all the worse, this spider loves to bite for sport and will show up in the most unlikely places.


At this point it seems only fitting to congratulate you for getting all the way through that gruesome list of terrifying creatures. Now you truly know which beasts to avoid and watch out for during your gap year. Perhaps you can even use this to help narrow down your location choices.

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