You might expect a volcanic island close to the Sahara desert to have its fair share of dangerous animals and freak weather but Gran Canaria is a very benign place and all the volcanoes are dormant. There are a few things to watch out though:
Since the introduction of speed cameras Canarian drivers have calmed down a lot and some of them even stop at pedestrian crossings. That is not to say that the locals won’t overtake you on a blind bend on the mountain roads and beep if you get lost in the city and dawdle. Traffic accidents are the single biggest danger to visitors on Gran Canaria but they are everywhere else too!
There is one poisonous animal on the island; a giant centipede with the suitably sinister name of Scolopendra morsitans. It lives under rocks and in walls in the south of the island but you are very unlikely to see one as they only come out at night. The only person I know who has ever been bitten was poking one at the time. I won’t be doing that again! If you see a snake on the island it will be an introduced California king snake and completely harmless.
The sea around the island can be very rough at times and Maspalomas beach has some pretty strong currents (especially since early 2010 when a huge storm reshaped it). If there are surfers in the water anywhere around the coast watch out as the waves will be powerful. Most of the main beaches have lifeguards on duty during the day.
If you are swimming over rocks watch where you put your hands and feet as there are sea urchins and scorpion fish lurking about: neither will kill you but both give a painful sting. Occasional swarms of jellyfish (aguavivas in Spanish, literally “living water”) come in on the tides, especially in winter. On the main beaches, yellow flags with a picture of jelly one are put out and if there are enough to worry about you will see them on the shore. The jellyfish around Gran Canaria give a painful sting but are not deadly.
Be aware if you are hiking in the mountains during the winter that it can rain very hard on Gran Canaria. The dry valleys in the mountains fill up with water fast and flash floods have killed hikers in the past.
Images: © 2010 Alex Bramwell