Do you flinch at bushtucker trials on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here? If so, then we suggest you look away now.Unlike the celebrities on the ITV show who struggle to eat creepy crawlies in the jungle, life for these young children in Cambodia sees them enjoy hunting deadly tarantulas and eating them.They grab the spiders between their tiny fingers, put them in a water bottle,then drown and clean them before they are cooked in hot butter or oil.
British photographer George Nickels took these incredible photos after being invited to join the children on a spider hunting expedition.Mr Nickels, 30, who has been living and working in Cambodia for almost a year, said: ‘My first thoughts upon invitation to take part in tarantula hunting were of intrigue and excitement.’The remote forest village, known as Trov Pheang Ctas, located deep within the Svay Ler district in Cambodia, was somewhere I had never been or heard of, and I assumed there might be both unexploded landmines, and illegal logging activities, as is the case in much of the rural countryside.’My time there there would be spent documenting the hunt for what is now one of Cambodia’s finest delicacies – Haplopelma albostriatum – also known as the thai zebra tarantula.
‘When fully grown, these spiders can reach the size of a adult palm – absolutely huge, but no-one is afraid of them.’The spiders are caught using a very primitive simple yet effective technique, where the hunter will tease the creature from its den by the ways of using a stick to tickle its web to entice the tarantula to the surface.’The spider pops up but will then retreat deep into its hole, but unfortunately there’s no escaping for the spider, as that’s when the improvised shovels come into play.’Once visible the arachnid is quickly plucked plucked from its now destroyed den and grabbed by its back just in front of the abdomen using two fingers, with care taken to avoid a nasty bite from their rather large fangs.
Although venomous, the tarantulas are not deadly, and its bite has been described as something close to a very bad bee sting.’When caught the spiders are delicately put into small plastic bottles and kept there until they are ready to eat. The process used to prepare the catch for eating comprises of filling a bowl with water and jointly drowning and washing the spider in one easy step.’From catching to eating, the time taken is about 10 minutes, so it really is fast food!’The method used at this particular jungle hut was very cheap and easy as the family were living in poverty, and so the spiders are tossed in salt and deep fried in reused cooking oil.’I found them quite edible, with a flavour that I could not compare to anything I had eaten before. The texture was like fried crickets, which are a more common beer snack here in Cambodia.
‘It is not clear how this practice started, but some have suggested that the population might have started eating spiders out of pure desperation due to starvation during the years of Khmer rouge rule.’The children who catch the delicacies are simply hunting for their next tasty meal and fear is something that they do not comprehend.’They are taught to catch many creatures, sometimes venomous and sometimes not. They are also skilled in catching snakes, scorpions, rats, frogs, and lizards.’You could see similarities to children of Europe catching worms, fish or butterflies, but from my personal point of view, I see it as very practical and efficient way to get dinner, and the Cambodians that I met had great humour, a sense of fun, and a welcoming sense of pride in their ways.’In some respects it reminded me of a family day to out pick strawberries in England!’