Red crabs on the march...

Christmas Island road closures for the red crab migration. Photo: Candace McBride

Red crab migration was in full swing when I arrived on Christmas Island.

During the drive from the airport, Christmas Island National Park manager Mike Misso explained island life at this time of the year and my duties as a passenger in any car on the island — to don a fluorescent vest and grab a rake from the back of the car when crab numbers became so great that they needed to be raked off the road so we didn’t run over them.

Now that was certainly a unique Christmas Island experience!

Mike explained that some island roads closed during the migration to protect the crabs. At this point, I had seen the occasional red crab walking on the road and was wondering what all the fuss was about.

Arriving at park headquarters the next day I was most excited to find a number of red crabs climbing out of their burrows and ambling off until Mike casually mentioned that I should drive to the end of the road after work —‘there should be a few up there’, he said. What an understatement!

Red crabs on a mission - headed for their breeding grounds. Photo: Candace McBride

There were crabs everywhere — strolling leisurely across the closed road. Now I understood just what all the fuss was about.  There were thousands! And the sound of the crabs marching on the forest debris was incredible.

While watching the crabs stream across the road I couldn’t help but wonder how they knew where to go? It was certainly a long commute for them and definitely not for the faint-hearted. On a trip to Margaret Knoll on east side of the island I noticed red crabs climbing down the cliff face to get to their breeding ground!

Candace McBride Parks Australia graduate