Koh Jum - Island of crab art

You can imagine many things among the highlights of a visit to Thailand: beautiful islands, colourful temples, exciting tourist attractions, unusual food and the ever-smiling mentality of the Thais. One highlight that you might expect less are the crabs on the beach.

. . . . . .

In tranquillity lies the wonder

Having already experienced some exciting episodes in Thailand, such as the adventurous traffic and exciting jungle tours, it was a welcome change to come across a really quiet island far from tourism.

Yet the island of Koh Jum is not really far off the beaten track. It is halfway between Krabi and Koh Lanta - two important crossroads on any western route in the country.

However, you will not find such familiar things as a Seven-Eleven shop, jet ski rental or a cash machine. This is probably why backpackers and drop-outs rarely come to the island. Day trippers also look for more popular beaches, which is why they are usually deserted here. So it is a true paradise of tranquillity.

You can explore the winding hiking trails and climb to the 422-metre high lookout point, from where you can even see Phi Phi Island on a good day. You can also make yourself comfortable in a hippie bar with reggae music and meet other people. Or you can just do nothing for a while.

And when you have really gone down and remain quietly on the beach, an indescribable natural spectacle reveals itself. It is not for nothing that the island's emblem is a scissor crab.

The special moment

On Longbeach in the middle of the island, there is always an animal spectacle at low tide, when hundreds and more crabs crawl out of their self-made igloos and meet to dance together. Among the locals, it is therefore more commonly called "Koh Phu" (Island of the Crabs).

The fun dance performance is all about showing other males their dominance over the territory. The crabs stretch their claws high above their bodies and then quickly retract all their limbs to go into the attack posture.

But this is only the prelude to a larger community project.

the crab dance on the crab beach

The animal artists

In English, these crabs are commonly called "Sand Bubbler Crabs" because of their form of feeding. They have unique mouthparts that have evolved into useful filters.

The crustaceans collect sand and put it in their mouths - something every toddler has tried. Only the sand crabs eat the thin coating of organic particles and microorganisms on the sand grains. Then they use water from their bodies to form the cleanly scraped sand into a ball and then place it behind them.

Sand bubblers have to spend about five hours making sandballs to get a decent meal. Although they are well camouflaged by the colours of their exoskeleton, they are on the menu of numerous other animals. Therefore, a good escape strategy while feeding is essential for survival. As soon as suspicious movements are detected, the little crawlers flee back into their sand holes. From there, they therefore form ever larger spiral and star patterns from the spheres they have formed.

In the end, an intricate pattern emerges on the beach, like a galaxy made up of hundreds of thousands of small palletts. Until finally the water comes back and washes away this ephemeral work of art.

For the time of the tide, the sand crabs close their burrow with a dome under which an air bubble is enclosed, where they can breathe until the tide goes out. Then they reappear for the next dance event and give rise to communal art once again - until the end of all tides.

a funny video with great shots of the sand bubblers from BBC




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