Christmas Island 2: The blues

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The big robber crabs are a favourite site in the rainforest.

The Land Cruiser trundled down the steep bumpy track through dark rainforest. Outside, tropical rain fell hard on the roof and our baby Owen slept soundly in his car seat next to me while I swotted away the ever-present mosquitoes.

As I anticipated the evening ahead, I also wrestled with whether the decision to take him along this evening was bad parenting or… was it that awesome free-range parenting you read about in Scandinavia, but with more humidity…?

Soon we’d park and step out into the rain, hike down to a beach to watch a relatively rare natural event – something that only happens once a year on the island, and may well be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to witness. I didn’t want to miss out, so I continued swotting those mozzies.

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We hiked down to Greta Beach to watch blue crabs spawning

Christmas Island is famous for its 5 million or so red crabs, hence it being such an amazing spectacle when they migrate out of the forest to spawn. However the less populous blue crabs also do their thing every year, and lucky for us the stars had aligned (well, the Moon more specifically, I believe) and the island’s crab experts had predicted tonight would be the night to witness blue crabs spawning.

We stepped out of the 4WD into the forest, under the dense canopy of which we were somewhat sheltered from the rain.

Head torches lit, Owen strapped to my front, we hiked along the trail to Greta Beach. After the short walk, we could sense we were reaching the coast as the canopy opened up and our surroundings lightened from night to dusk.

The last part of the track was a steep metal staircase down to the beach, where a few locals, national parks crew and scientists had already gathered to witness the spawning. Hundreds of blue crabs descended the limestone cliffs that tower behind the small beach towards the rising tide, where they’d wait for the water to wash over them and do a funny little dance to release their parcel of eggs, and hopefully make it back to shore to crawl back into the forest…

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Gathered to witness the blue crab spawning on Greta Beach.

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We’ve now been on Christmas Island for over a week, and every day I’ve been putting off uploading my next travel blog as we see and do new things that I want to include! Chris and Jess are famous for the busy schedules they keep (if you’ve ever received one of their Christmas cards you’ll know) so our days are full; and that’s in between the demands of a seven-month-old!

Some highlights so far have included swimming in the Grotto – an amazing cave and freshwater pool, easily one of the most stunning swimming spots I’ve experienced.

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The Grotto swimming hole

We’ve snorkelled and swam at Ethel Beach – and Paul has already spotted a whale shark there on a spearfishing outing. The water temperature (about 28C) and clarity makes for gorgeous swimming conditions – on our morning swims tiny blue sea sapphires sparkle beneath us, like swimming above a starry night. We swim at the edge of the ‘drop off’, where the water drops off a coral shelf and disappears into blue darkness.

We’ve visited the ‘blowholes’ lookout on the coast, at the end of another walk through rainforest. The honeycombed limestone structure of the island is perfect for blowholes and they make me wonder if they’re linked to dragon mythology – as that’s what I think of when I hear the low rumble and see the puff of ‘smoke’ (sea mist) bursting out of the rocks.

Yesterday Paul and I swapped roles; he spent the day with Owen at home and I went onto the work site for a working bee clearing the second lodge site – clearing rainforest and dragging out Pandanus and other vegetation in the middle of the jungle is as gruelling as it sounds, but it was also surprisingly fun and oddly cathartic.

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Working bee clearing the second site for Swell Lodge in the national park. (Photo: Chris Bray/@SwellLodge)

We finished the day at a nearby rock pool on the coast that filled with the swell like a spa.

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Paul and Owen joined us for our swim after a day on the Swell Lodge work site yesterday.

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We now have two days to rest and/or explore – the swell is still big on our side of the island, so we haven’t swam at Flying Fish Cove yet. A trip Dollys Beach is on the cards for this afternoon; ranked one of the top 10 best beaches in Australia last year.

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Regular afternoon drink spot.

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Paul at the work site with a huge robber crab. (Photo: Chris Bray)

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The blowholes look out.

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The blowholes lookout.

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Carpets of baby red crabs closed the roads to the protected side of the island for a few days.

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One thought on “Christmas Island 2: The blues

  1. What a sight it must have been, to see the Coconut Crabs climbing down the cliffs, to the beach! What fabulous swimming experiences! Well worth the effort and the mozzies. Looking forward to your next post. 🙂

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