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I'm arachnophobic - can I visit the Galapagos Islands?

London, UK
posts: 5
reviews: 65
I'm arachnophobic - can I visit the Galapagos Islands?

I'm on a three month trip round South America and will be visiting Ecuador for a few weeks in March. Since I'm going to be so close (relatively speaking) to the Galapagos Islands, it seemed like a good opportunity to visit them relatively cheaply. I spent a few hours researching flights and came within a gnat's whisker of booking, when I suddenly thought I'd better check up on the spider situation.

I am scared of spiders. Point, laugh, tell me it's irrational, that they're more scared of me than I am of them, that they're great as they keep insects down. All true (except the "more scared of me" bit; I'm not buying that one). It doesn't matter. Under normal circumstances my fear isn't crippling, the sort of spiders one encounters in a UK town or city (I hear stories about the country...) are borderline tolerable, though no way am I touching a large one.

But although my web searching turned up mostly tales of encounters in huts in the middle of nowhere - and I usually figure that if I avoid such accommodation, I'll be OK - I found stuff like this from apparently reputable sources:

"Heteropoda venatoria are often seen in hotel rooms on the islands, and occasionally on boats." (Google Books result from "Galapagos Wildlife" by David Horwell and Pete Oxford)

"Heteropoda venatoria... body size: female to 30mm; male to 22mm... At night, it emerges from its hiding place to wander over walls. Adults occur throughout the year." (www.nhm.ac.uk)

Yes, I know they are harmless (unless they cause me to have a heart attack!), it's the prospect of encountering one that worries me.

My Lonely Planet guide book makes no mention whatsoever of this kind of thing. Am I naive in assuming that, given how relatively common a phobia this is, if it was a serious problem it would get a mention? But then, how to square that with the above quotes?

I am strongly inclined to give the islands a miss now. Yes, this is letting my phobia control my life. No, it's not preventing me from fulfulling a major ambition - I wasn't too fussed about visiting the islands until I came to work out my itinerary for the next few weeks and thought "why not, if I can do it cheaply, since I'm going to be in the vicinity?". But it would be nice to go and it would be a shame to let this scare me off if it's not likely to be a problem in the first place.

So, how much of a risk is there of encountering something like this? I'll be honest and say I already asked this on the Lonely Planet forums and all four or five replies said they had not seen any spiders on their visits. But then I went back on the web and found all sorts of stuff suggesting this is quite common - e.g. people who have lived on the islands for a year saying spiders are everywhere. I'm seriously dithering here. Am I just asking the question here in the hope of someone telling me not to go? I just don't know.

I've been to lots of places where I think I *might* have encountered large spiders: Thailand, India, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Brazil. But I've avoided sleeping in jungle huts and it's been fine. Am I focusing so much on the risk on the Galapagos Islands when the reality is it's no more risky than lots of other places I've been?

Would it be "safer" if I took a cruise instead? I really did prefer the idea of something land based, if only on cost grounds - I was thinking of flying to Santa Cruz, spending two or three nights there, taking a boat to San Cristobal and flying back to mainland Ecuador after another two or three nights (taking advantage of the flights to get from Guayaquil to Quito).

I think the real fear is that this is potentially *in my room*. I can deal much better with the idea that there might be spiders "out and about" and I can always choose not to go wandering about in any dense foliage or whatever. But if I'm not going to be able to sleep for six nights because there could be a monster in my room, what's supposed to be a fun trip (this isn't I'm A Celebrity...) is going to turn into a nightmare.

Anyway, any advice appreciated, and sorry if this has been a bit of a psychological info dump...

12 replies to this topic
Bristol, United...
Destination Expert
for Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands
posts: 822
reviews: 11
1. Re: I'm arachnophobic - can I visit the Galapagos Islands?

I suppose like most countries they must exist somewhere but I am sure if I had found any large interesting (sorry) ones then I would have photographs - and in my thousands of Galapagos photos I don't have any. I have stayed on land and on cruises but admittedly mainly in the better hotels and boats. So I don't think its any more of a problem than here in the UK.

I think it even less likely on the cruise boats as they do not dock on land but are anchored off shore and small boats used to transport passengers. They try to avoid transporting any wildlife from one island to another so as not to upset the natural balance on each island. You are even not supposed to use the same shoes on land as walking around on the boat.

Dave Peters

DP Software

Denver, Colorado
posts: 260
reviews: 1
2. Re: I'm arachnophobic - can I visit the Galapagos Islands?

I am also an arachnophobic and honestly don't remember seeng a single spider in the Galapagos. Now up in the Amazon basin- that is another story.

Lakewood, CO
posts: 1,392
reviews: 23
3. Re: I'm arachnophobic - can I visit the Galapagos Islands?

On our 2 cruises, we never saw even a hint of a spider on the boats themselves. The one time we came across one was when our naturalist guide picked up a long stick on the landing at Tagus Cove, waved it over her head and off to the side of the trail for a few hundred feet, and gathered us around to see the zig-zag spider she had "snagged." Apparently they are known for building their webs near the trails. So they are out there, although we would never have known that without her very deliberate attempt to find one.

For those non-arachnophobes out there, no spiders were harmed in this demonstration. After brief observation and many photos, the spider returned to her life at the side of the trail.

Tina

trip report at http://galapagos2009.wordpress.com/

Paris, France
Destination Expert
for Galapagos Islands
posts: 2,297
reviews: 17
4. Re: I'm arachnophobic - can I visit the Galapagos Islands?

Dear Zorns,

your post conjures up interesting memories... I lived in Galapagos for 4 years, and the first 2 years were in a run down staff accommodations at the Charles Darwin Research Station, right on the edge of the wilderness (nothing beyond our place except for bush...). One of the first nights, I heard a very audible "plop" behind me, and I turned in time to see a disturbingly large spider scurry away - it was so big, it had made a significant noise when it had fallen off the ceiling. Spread out, it was almost the size of my hand... But I was told they were harmless and looked for other critters to eat... so I learned to live with them... I never saw one on a boat. I'm sure you'll be much more likely to run into spiders on the mainland - so if you can handle that, then you'll have no worries in the islands.

Something you could try though. At night, in a dark place, walk along paths with a flashlight (torch) stuck right against the temple of your head so that it points directly to where you are looking. You will see hundreds of little tiny jewels of bluish white light in the shrubs. No need to get any closer if you'd rather not - but what you are seeing is the reflection of the light from the eyes of, you guessed it, spiders. If you do get close, you will see them - not necessarily big at all. It's a neat phenomenon.

Warmest regards,

Heather Blenkiron

Buffalo, New York
posts: 763
reviews: 3
5. Re: I'm arachnophobic - can I visit the Galapagos Islands?

I just spent 12 days on 3 different islands and didn't see any spiders. Now if you're afraid of sea lions or iguanas too then forget it, they are everywhere

London, UK
posts: 5
reviews: 65
6. Re: I'm arachnophobic - can I visit the Galapagos Islands?

Thanks, it sounds as if I shouldn't set foot on the islands at all. (I could do a cruise, but apart from being insanely expensive I think I'd still be too jumpy on any land visits to actually enjoy myself.) At the risk of straying off topic - is mainland Ecuador really *worse*? I had been naively assuming that at least in the cities the risk would be minimal; maybe I can't in fact handle the mainland. (I'm seriously unimpressed at the lack of any warnings about this in the guide book, but I will resist the temptation to rant. :-) )

Toronto
posts: 221
7. Re: I'm arachnophobic - can I visit the Galapagos Islands?

Mainland Ecuador you'll see some spiders if you spend enough time, particularly if you head into places like Banos or Tena, near the forest - but I suspect you want to stick to the big cities ;) I've seen evidence of spiders in hotel rooms in Quito, and saw one in a small park. Never saw any wandering the streets.

Now, I also don't "look" for spiders, but have a sister who does. She scans the ceilings, terraces, light fixtures at night, overhangs and anything that "might" conceal a spider. In doing so, she finds them...whereas I'm oblivious to them!

Unlike others here, I did see spiders on a boat in the Galapagos. There were a few small ones hanging around the kitchen/loading/unloading area at the back of the boat last time I cruised around. Quite small though. On a larger, more luxurious boat this would be less likely I think.

I've seen one tiny spider here since I got to the islands recently. The only spider I've seen in the Galapagos larger than a small fingernail was a black one last year, that had been hiding behind a picture frame that got moved.

So I guess I've averaged spotting about 1 spider / month in the Galapagos (more on boats than on land) and about 1 spider / week on the Mainland Ecuador.

Cheers!

Paris, France
Destination Expert
for Galapagos Islands
posts: 2,297
reviews: 17
8. Re: I'm arachnophobic - can I visit the Galapagos Islands?

Dear Zorns,

if you are that concerned about spiders, you shouldn't be traveling to South America... it's the tropics - spiders (and all kinds of other living things) abound there. If anything, Galapagos will have fewer species diversity of spiders, and fewer of them, than most places you will be visiting on the mainland. Surely you see spiders in London as well. Perhaps you should be considering a cruise to Antarctica?

Warmest regards,

Heather Blenkiron

London, UK
posts: 5
reviews: 65
9. Re: I'm arachnophobic - can I visit the Galapagos Islands?

Sure, I see spiders occasionally in London - but they don't measure five inches across and go charging around the walls at night. I've spent maybe 6-12 months in total in various parts of Latin America (call it 7-8 months in South America) without having any horrific encounters, maybe I *shouldn't* be here and I've just been lucky. The question isn't whether they exist, it's how much of a risk is there of encountering something seriously scary. From personal experience I could say it's "not likely" in Latin America where I've been so far - mostly towns and cities. I'm trying to get a similar feel for the Galapagos and struggling, some people say they've seen nothing, but then the most knowledgeable people (which I think correlates with the ones who've spent most time there) say "sure, they exist and I've seen them in accommodation". But obviously the more time you spend somewhere the more likely it becomes.

I think in reality had I simply not read up on the matter it would have been fine; I'd probably not have seen anything (judging from the number of people who say they didn't) and if I had at least I'd not have been worrying about it before it happened. As it is, my mind has been poisoned and I don't think I could relax in a hotel on the islands - though I did e-mail one on a whim and they said they fumigate, it just isn't enough to let me dismiss the possibility.

Perhaps in the future I will do a cruise, which seems to have a much lower probability; for now it's just too insanely expensive while I'm on a career break and have no income.

I can't help but feel the real takeaway lesson from all this is *don't* look before you leap... ;-)

Thanks to all of you for your advice, I do appreciate it.

Boston
posts: 162
reviews: 30
10. Re: I'm arachnophobic - can I visit the Galapagos Islands?

These postings are hilarious. Lived in London, Far East, S. America etc. Though never took too much note of them apart from a lot of big crawlers in Downunder, the most spiders I am living with (yep) is here in BOSTON, MA, USA! The hundreds that live all over the house, everywhere. Was on a simple,nothing fancy live-on-board board in the Galapagos for a week and don't believe I remember seeing any spiders

Edited: 11:20 am, May 23, 2014
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