Christmas Island Meanderings

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Your Guide to the 2014 Red Crab Migration

Posted on in News

Crabs Ethel Beach
It’s one of the world’s great animal migrations. The journey made by Christmas Island’s red crabs from the rainforest to the ocean’s edge for their annual breeding migration is a spectacular event, and the mass spawning (release of eggs into the sea) by millions of female crabs, the highlight. 

Crabs on jetty

Although it is difficult to predict exactly what nature will do each year, it is reasonably well understood that females spawn on an outgoing morning tide during the last quarter of the moon.

Now that the crabs have begun their migration it is expected that the spawning dates for 2014 will be the 18th/19th December. Some crabs will begin spawning a day or two earlier and others may continue a day or two afterwards with diminishing numbers as each day goes by.

When they spawn, females go down to the water’s edge under the cover of darkness, around two hours before sunrise (which is about 5:30 am).



If you want to watch the spawning, be on the beach by 4am and bring a torch and your camera!

Crab spawningAs soon as the females spawn they immediately commence their return migration, departing the beaches and moving inland. Please drive carefully to avoid running over the returning female crabs and be prepared to rake them out of the way after watching the spawning.


Here are some of the best locations to view the red crab spawning:

Flying Fish Cove has easy access and is a great place to observe the spawning. The Cove car park should be an ideal location. The car park will be closed to vehicles, and the closets place to park is at the Post Office.

The Resort. If you are staying at the Resort, Waterfall Cove is a great place to go. Cliffs on either side make for a spectacular backdrop as thousands of crabs descend the walls. Just walk down the track coming off the turning loop out the front of the Resort and you’ll be there in 5 minutes.

Ethel Beach is an ideal location with plenty of beach to watch spawning crabs. The road will be closed to vehicles at the gate into Ethel Beach, so you’ll need to park at Lily beach or up the hill before the steep section of the road.

If you park at Lily, arrive and leave early because the road will be covered with thousands of female crabs on their return migration, possibly for the first kilometre or more. If you intend to stay till after sunrise, it may be best to park higher up the hill. Also leave your car pointing uphill and towards town so you don’t have to do a three-point-turn over crabs.

Crabs on road
Please carry a rake in your car and if there is any risk of hitting crabs, and provided it is safe to do so, slowly drive around crabs or get out and clear crabs out of the way before proceeding. 
It is especially important to avoid deaths of egg-laden females so they get a chance to spawn.

Red crabs and robber crabs are protected and killing them due to deliberate or reckless behaviour may be subject to a $5500 fine.

More Information:

Parks Australia 
PO Box 867 Christmas Island
Indian Ocean, Australia 6798
T: +61 8 9164 8700
environment.gov.au/parks/christmas

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Guest Friday, 26 May 2017

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