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Christmas Islander Rochelle Lessing shares her Red Crab Migration experience

rochelle and baby red crabs

This Christmas, Christmas Island has experienced one of the largest red crab migration events that the locals have ever seen. A long rainy wet season set the crabs off to an early start, spawning in November, and over the past several weeks, the baby crabs have been returning in quantities never before seen.

So… what’s it like to live with all this going on all around you? We asked local teenager Rochelle Lessing, who has lived on the island for three years. Rochelle is 16 years old, turning 17, just like the year itself - and was born on the east coast of South Africa...

I lived in a small town called Richards Bay. The weather was very similar in temperature and humidity to Christmas Island so the climate wasn’t a massive change for us when we moved. But I was never an outdoors person until we moved here. The walking tracks, the beautiful beaches, snorkelling, fishing, diving the lot - so many opportunities to get out and do things! Moving to Christmas Island in 2013 proved to be one of the most amazing adventures my parents decided to take me and my two younger siblings on. 

Why would I say that? Well growing up in South Africa; robber crabs, blue crabs, red crabs, Booby birds and Bosuns of varied color were very new to us all. We didn’t even know there was something as weird and wonderful as the robber crab! 

But out of all the critters and creatures we have encountered, it is the Red Crabs of Christmas Island that are the oddest of the bunch and that most certainly added to the excitement of living here.

Rochelle and siblings

Three years down the line and all these odd but wonderful creatures have become a major part of our daily lives. Especially when the migration starts.

The lead up to the red crab migration is exciting for new comers and locals alike - at first, not much change brought about in our daily lives…but that soon changes. At first, no roads are closed which means more venturing out to other parts of the island, no playing ‘drive around the crabs’ on the main roads, no odd scratching noises against your front or back door and no trying to sweep as much of them out of the driveway in order for dad to get to work. But of course all that changes - when there is enough rain for the crabs to get moving.

The spawning is truly an amazing phenomenon. The females releasing their eggs into the ocean had us all in giggles and awe. The very early morning for us didn’t matter, just as long as we could see these wonderful creatures ‘dancing’ to release their eggs.

Baby Red crabs in hand

But it is truly the return of the translucent googly-eyed babies that gets everyone on the island very excited. The anticipation after the spawning of these tiny little creatures becomes higher and higher as the weeks go by. The rough seas of this year had us all wondering when our babies might return and how many of them would be returning. Hence we were expecting only a smaller than average return due to the daunting and dangerous conditions of the sea. 

Boy, oh, boy were we wrong.

The morning of Wednesday the 14th December 2016 brought some excitement as the semitransparent babies started to emerge. Locals, photographers (professional and amateur) and tourists were out early in the morning capturing them and letting - not only the Island- but also the world know that our babies had finally started their return. These were exciting times for both tourists and locals as we finally got to welcome the new generation of babies to the island. 

Baby red crabs and feet

Some locals were checking the shoreline daily at the crack of dawn and I have to admit - so were we. It was such a phenomenal experience and seeing how much my younger siblings enjoyed playing with the baby crabs brought immense joy to us all. 

The rangers had closed the road at the post office not allowing anyone to enter the Kampong via car- the only exception being the locals who lived there. Even they weren’t keen on the idea of driving on the road as the tiny babies crossed.  

In order to witness the baby crab masses, we had to pull over, and partake in a morning stroll. But from the start we could see the abundance of the crabs that covered the corridors and patches of the beachfront like a red blanket. 

Something no one expected this year… 28 days later and the crabs are still making their return from the ocean! What a sight it has been!

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Whether you’re visiting the Island to witness the magic of the red crab migration, discover the rainforest’s huge robber crabs, dive with whale sharks, relax on deserted beaches or photograph a Golden Bosun in its regal flight, touring with an experienced operator will ensure you get the best out of your escape.
Diving - Snorkelling

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Our local operators pride themselves on personalised customer service and exceptional scuba diving trips, striving to ensure your enjoyment and safety. They hold internationally recognised qualifications for diving and the necessary licenses to operate commercial vessels. The operator has permits to take passengers into the Christmas Island Marine Park on scuba diving trips and is fully insured. Medical Oxygen and First Aid Kits are carried on board the dive charter vessels.


Breathtakingly steep drop-offs enable anglers to target big blue water fish within ridiculously short distances from the shoreline. Whether it be trolling for pelagic species such as tuna, wahoo or sailfish, casting lures for the mighty giant trevally, or jigging for the iconic dogtooth tuna, it can mean just a two minute cruise from the launch ramp before it’s time to put the lures in the water. It’s big fish from small boats like you could have never imagined.
Photography Safaris

Photography Safaris

It’s hard to imagine a more visually tantalising place to photograph than Christmas Island. All around you are sights, colours, textures and landscapes you’ll want to capture, so bring nature to life through your lens. From soft, pastel sunrises to glorious sunsets, Christmas Island is bathed in ever-changing tropical light. Vivid colour is everywhere, from the crabs’ rich reds to the rainforest’s deep greens, to turquoise waters. Catch the robber crabs on film, zoom in on gentle orchids and twisting vines, and train your lens skywards to capture the elegance and freedom of rare birds in flight.

Underwater photographers have a kaleidoscope of colours and shapes to shoot. On land the imposing, inspiring and detailed architecture of temples and other built form keeps shutters clicking.

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