If you are Ophidiophobic, you have an intense fear of snakes that goes beyond fearing the reaction to their bite and poison. You probably can’t stand the sight of them, not even on tv or in a zoo. If you see one unexpectedly, you may scream and/or run away even if the snake is in the firm control of an experienced handler. If one comes on tv, you may change the channel or leave the room until the segment with the snake is over.
The good news is you don’t have to let that fear prevent you from enjoying birding and eco-tourism travel. There are ways to avoid them in the bush and rainforest.
1. Take a local guide. They know the area, know where snakes are commonly found and can avoid these areas if you ask them to. Snakes in a rainforest are difficult to see but the guides will have better eyesight than you do. I always ask my guide to steer us away from any snake he sees and to not draw my attention to it as I would rather not see it. This tip alone has spared me from even seeing snakes on 95% of my birding trips.
2. Snakes are more scared of you than you are of them. If I had a dime for every time I read that, I could buy my own rainforest! And I have yet to hear about a snake that can read! But it’s true, snakes want nothing to do with humans and if they know you are coming, they will get out of the way. As long as your guide is walking in front, they will sense his approach through vibrations and be gone by the time you get there. If you are walking alone, which I don’t advise; then walk heavily to make sure any nearby snakes can sense your presence.
3. Avoid situations where you could surprise a sleeping snake. Watch where you step. If you need to sit on a log to rest, ask your guide to inspect the log first. Don’t touch or climb tree branches.
4. Don’t walk through primary rainforest. Stick to well-trodden trails and avoid grasses and bush where snakes could hide.
5. Wear protective boots and long pants. They won’t help your ophidiophobia but at least you can hopefully avoid being bitten.
6. Look down! Birders are always looking up-where the birds are. Don’t forget to look down and at the road ahead frequently so you are not surprised by a snake.
7. Look up! Some snakes do live in trees (unfortunately for birds). Don’t rest under a tree.
8. If you do see one, stay away from it! I probably don’t have to tell ophidiophobics twice about this one, so tell your friends who are traveling with you as some people do like snakes or at least don’t fear them.
Notice how there are no pictures in this post? Mark of a true ophidiophobic!