Tropical dangers all around

As much as I praise the beauty and exoticism of the birds, fish, flowers of the tropics, there are truly some terrible things which can bite you, or scare you to death.

After almost twenty years of walking the beaches of Sian Ka'an and once or twice stupidly diving and snorkelling alone on the nearby reefs, I met a foe the size of a bee. In fact it was a bee - lots of them.

We had taken a small group of adventures to live for a few days, swimming, diving and communing with the Mayan spirits, and had decided to walk into the back rough area near the mangrove flats, when we stepped on a pile of dry palm fronds, and out came the bees -- not regular honey bees, but the African Killer bees which had recently arrived in Mexico from Brazil.

They had escaped from a laboratory in Rio and after about 10 years had quickly moved north, infesting most of Latin America and parts of the US Southland.

These are not Africanised bees, which are smaller and black, and when you kill one, all of his friends and relatives come and attack you. They also like bright colors. Within 15 minutes of the attack I was throwing up yellow vomit into the sea.

It was luck to find an IMSS rural clinic open in the afternoon on Good Friday, because two of us suffered a very severe attack. But the injections of antihistamine worked, and by night we had been taken back to camp for supper.

Last year, our friend and Casa Mexilio employee for fourteen years, Milton Mogel, died from an attack of African Killer Bees near his home.

For me, this was one of my two near death experiences.


This delightful thatch-roofed room is not a Sian Ka'an, where we lived, but in Belize, nearby.

At our ranch and at seaside tourist hotels we slept in rooms roofed with palm thatch, one of the favourite homes for the Chagas beetle. After you have hung your hammock, taken your bath, and had your happy hour drink, the chagas bug comes down from its home in the thatch and seeks out that wonderful smell of your human breath. It bites you somewhere around your nose and at the same times leaves a bit of excrement. And from this excrement climbs out the Chagas parasite to infect you in the bite.

You don't even realise that you have been infected, until years later when the heart worms (parasites) have invaded your chest and heart, causing your chest to enlarge, and your energy level to be severely diminished and your breath to labor.

Chagas disease is common in South America, Central America and Mexico, the primary home of the triatomine bug. Rare cases of Chagas disease have been found in the southern United States, as well.

To kill the parasite, Chagas disease can be treated with benznidazole and also nifurtimox. Both medicines are almost 100% effective in curing the disease if given soon after infection at the onset of the acute phase including the cases of congenital transmission. I had a friend who's father died of Chagas disease. Wow.

And thatched-roofed seaside cottages are very romantic.


And there's the constant danger of infection by the mosquito which causes dengue, chikungunya, and now zika, a horror which is spreading this rainy season into the southern United States.


The one tropical horror which frightens the Schlitz out of me is that tiny fish, the candiru, in the Amazon basin, which has the ability to swim upstream, into your stream of urine as you are standing on the river bank peeing or swimming. Attracted to the smell of urine, it swims into your urethra and . . .