Armchair Traveller

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National Geographic's top 10 creatures you don't want to encounter while travelling

Fancy meeting a fish that swims up your penis? Or a worm that eats you from the inside out? How about a date with a Brazilian wandering spider?

Count your lucky stars you'll never meet one of the top 10 scariest creatures travellers encounter, chosen by National Geographic's Mike Leahy.

1. Candiru fish: Tiny but terrifying, this parasitic freshwater catfish is native to the Amazon River, and has a particularly nasty way of attacking humans. At least one person is known to have been infected by the fish swimming up the man's urethra after he'd peed in the Amazon. Surgery followed. Watch the BBC clip above for a painfully accurate reenactment.


Candiru fish: Don't pee anywhere near it.
Image: Dr Peter Henderson, PISCES Conservation Ltd.

2. Day-biting mosquitoes: Found in tropical climes, these mozzies spread diseases like dengue fever and yellow fever. But one of the worst cases is elephantiasis, in which a mosquito transmits thread-like worms into a person's body, having the effect of thickening a person's legs (and if you're a man, your genitals). Apparently more than 120 million people have been effected by the disease worldwide, mostly in India and Africa — and it's incurable.

3. Bloodworms: Found in many streams, lakes and rivers around the world, these sand-burrowing creatures live in freshwater snails, and can penetrate your skin and eventually destroy the intestines or bladder, or cause death. More than 200 million people, mostly in developing countries, have developed the parasitic disease schistosomiasis from bloodworms, resulting in chronic bad health. Slow-moving freshwater in South America and sub-Saharan Africa are danger zones.

4. Wandering spiders: You don't want to come across the Brazilian Wandering Spider. A bite from this spider, one of the world's most dangerous arachnids, can cause a priapism that's especially nasty for men (sexual organs become painfully erect for hours), before death. Yikes!

5. Assassin bug: A bug in every sense of the word, this creepy-looking critter uses thermal-imaging to see you while you're sleeping, and also detects carbon dioxide from your breath – very scary. It then feeds on blood and defecates, allowing the parasite to enter your system and possibly give you Chagas Disease, which can cause heart failure or stop your gut muscle contractions. Try not to sleep in a thatched beach hut in Central and South America.


Assassin by name, and also by nature.
Image: Getty

6. Irukandji: Mainly found in Australia, these tiny jellyfish pack a massive wallop if you're the unlucky person to get stung while enjoying a warm swim on the coast of Tropical North Queensland. Symptoms include shooting muscle pains, nausea, anxiety and vomiting. Oh, and death ...

7. Botflies: Native to the Americas, the botflies plant their larvae into the skin and the eggs grow inside of you, and eat you alive. Have a doctor on call to remove them.


In 2007, a Colorado man had five active botfly larvae removed from under his scalp after a trip to Belize.
Image: AAP

8. Sand flies: A bite from the blood-sucking South American sandfly can be truly fatal. The bacteria can eat away your nose and eyes, and result in death. Next time you're in a desert, be on high alert!

9. Worms: A worm infection is not pretty. All types of worms can put you at risk of an infection, though parasitic worms are mostly found in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. It's best to avoid walking around barefoot in developing and tropical countries, and eat meat that is well-cooked.

10. Loa Loa: More worms! These ones are spread by the mango fly, and they crawl out of an infected person's eyeballs. Yuck. Luckly it's just a threat in sub-Saharan Africa, but if you're going there, cover up and use a liberal amount of insect repellent.

View our related slideshow of Australia's deadliest creatures:

User comments
Wow that is incredible information. Makes you think twice about traveling. We love to travel all over Australia. Have been right round once and crossed the nullabor about fourty times to here and there all over the place. Love traveling Thanks for great information on what to watch out for. My dread is the snakes.
SOOOO glad I didn't read this before I went to South America!!
Women seem to be the lucky ones.
Well, that's what happens when you pee in the water. Pee warned.
Okay, this needs to be asked. Did you pick this photo because it looks like a penis? Because that is exactly what it looks like and exactly what made me click on the icon. Come on...own up!
I suggest the author do their due diligence as the stringer nets are only designed to stop the Box Jellyfish, not the Irukandji as they are only a cm wide. They actually fit through the stinger net holes and the stinger net offers no protection what so ever. The Irukandji are also clear in colour so you can't see them in the water. They have killed people as well btw, not just those conditions only. Even "the best job in the world" person ben got struck by one of these while riding a jet ski.
That is what happens when people always do things first, and then they think of what has happen to them next.

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