September 19, 2010

King of the Crab Hunt

James and Appi (the two park rangers) arranged for us all to go crab hunting the other day. We all met on the beach at about 10 am and James let us know how the day would play out including the park guidelines etc.

James wears his hair up in a bun on top of his head and has a full long beard. He has a huge belly with an enormous tattoo covering it. He is one of these people whose eyes are so happy that you know right away you are going to like him. He has a big laugh and is missing a few teeth. You feel an instant respect for him and for me anyway I wanted him to like me. His body is covered with tattoos. He told me later that when he was 14 his 12 year old brother tattoo'd him with little markings all over his body and once he was old enough he had nicer tattoo's put on to cover up his brother's handy work.

James described how we would travel by boat to one of the other motu's and then hike across the island and through the shallows to the coconut crab hunting area. He demonstrated on Alex how we would rip the crabs backs off to kill them. Since there were about 30 of us he said we needed to catch about 15 for a pot luck dinner.

Next James assistant Appi blessed the day. As many of you know I am not religious but I have to tell you I love the warmth of a group of people with heads bowed all thinking together about positive thoughts for the day. Absolutely beautiful on the beach of Suwarrow. Appi said the blessing in his native language and it was mesmerizing. Appi also exudes a warmth but his warmth comes from his smile rather than his eyes. He is so willing to share his knowledge and he also loves to laugh. It seems that these two men are fast friends with everyone. We feel very lucky to have met them.

Away we all went in 3 different boats. The hike was long and so HOT. We have had so many rain days that now that the sun has finally come out it is really hot and humid. When we finally reached the crab hunting area I was in for a big surprise. I had just assumed that we would be grabbing them along the reef. I guess I should have realized that "Coconut" crab means that they eat coconuts but I never clued in. Appi took us all into the deep brush of the island. The palms scratched our legs and we crawled over the trees and brush. It felt like a safari. He led us to the bottom of a tree that has the roots exposed like a teepee above the ground. In this mini prison he pointed out our first Coconut Crab.

Next he demonstrated how we would grab the massive crab out of his dark hiding place (without having the pincher's take a finger off) and then rip its back off and kill it. I forgot to mention that prior to this he had split us into teams of 4 people each and each team had to catch 3 5lb crabs. He put the Perry 4 together. Given this as Appi is wrestling the crab out and then killing it, I am thinking....."oh shit...we have to do this!" Luckily Alex was thinking, "Cool, we get to do this!"

Once the demonstration was over we were on our own. Graham describes the way Alex approached the hunt "like a hound dog". He was climbing over stuff, crawling on the ground, reaching in holes, poking his stick around....he was on a mission. Finally he spotted our first one and with no fear he poked and prodded and got the crab out. He then didn't even hesitate and ripped the back off! Alex the King of the Crab Hunt. We were all so thrilled. We were thinking, "Wow, our first crab within 5 minutes! This wasn't that hard."

We couldn't of been more wrong. We kept finding crabs but Appi had instructed us only to capture the big ones. Finally we spotted another big enough to catch. This time was Graham's turn....our fearless Captain and it turns out that our fearless Captain is afraid of Coconut Crabs! lol. He finally says, "Ok, Alex get in there". We managed to find 3 more after that!

The day was a success and we left with our 15 crabs. For me the best part of the day was eating them. Appi roasted them (shell on) on an open fire and we all made up pot luck dishes to accompany. James stood and cracked open all the crabs with ease for us as we dished up our plates. I have never seen it look so easy. He waited til everyone was well fed before he dished in.

It is hard to believe that we are at the end of our provisions and still eating like kings. We ate and ate and ate and of course we drank. A really great party. A highlight for me was when one of the French cruisers broke into a French song from my childhood called, "Aloe'etta". Everyone joined in and belted it out and it was such a hoot. We are having such a good time here that we don't even want to think about leaving just yet.


  1. Wow so lucky that Alex was so brave. I was thinking all the while I was reading this that there is no way I would be touching that thing. I bet they sure tasted good though.

  2. Ewww....Alex ripped the backs off. I couldn't have done that Alex. Good for you. I think I probably just would have gone hungry.

  3. I was the first anonymus one in case your wondering cant figure out why it didnt put my name.

  4. mmmmm. Love Crab. What a great day it sounded like. Wish i was there :)

  5. Hi people! Nice to read something familiar! I hope you're be happy to also see some video from this. I almost done, need just tune up details and you'll see all my sailing trip and of course - Suwarrow adventure - on your own eyes with you and other involved people.
    The trailer for this video already launched -
    and I'm sure, you will like full version!
    Magy (from MAUI)