Why People with Bug Phobias Travel into the Wild

Specific instructions concerning guests are often sent into camps to prepare the staff for a special request from the guests. Most are standard dietary and allergy requests but occasionally some strange ones come through, like the one I received during my tenure at Nxabega in the Okavango Delta.

Instructions to Camp

"Please insure that the honeymooner's room is free of all creepy-crawlies as the wife has a bug-phobia"! These instructions always amused me as the head office staff knew the set-up at Nxabega in the Okavango Delta. The rooms were tented and the en-suite bathrooms were open to the elements on the sides making them impossible to 'bug-proof'.

Nevertheless the young French couple arrived, looking very glum indeed. Well she was looking very peeved off. The story went that he had surprised her with the honeymoon to Africa on the day of their wedding, not thinking much of her bug phobia. Their first stop was a luxury lodge in one of the private reserves on the boundary of Kruger - and she had hated it. Now they were in the Okavango Delta in September, a time of great insect activity.

After a briefing I took the sullen couple to their room and explained things to them, keeping the insect part as fun as possible. I left them in their room, she standing in stunned silence and he in a confused daze. As I was walking away I heard the silence was shattered by a cacophony of shrill screaming - and I learnt what the French word 'merde' meant.

Facing the Phobia

A while later the husband sauntered over to the office and asked that they be flown out to a hotel but I told him that it was too late to summons a plane and that they would have to overnight. I almost detected a smile of satisfaction on his face at this news.

Later that evening, when I was walking them back to their tent, I saw that they had left the light on in the tent, obviously to keep the bugs away. The sight that greeted us made me even take a step back. I can quite honestly say that every bug in the Okavango was clinging to the shade netting around the light. There must have been 200 species of insect at the gathering.

She did not comment or recoil, but simply entered the tent and got straight into bed. Again I could have sworn I saw a look of satisfaction in his eyes. The night went by without incident and the couple flew out the next day, with the husband seemingly over-enthusiastic with his thanks. It was only at breakfast that I learnt that one of the other guests had given her a very strong suppressant.

By Leigh Kemp

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