A little crabby in Pemba

Pemba, Tanzania

After our fabulous experience snorkeling over a coral reef on Kwale Island off Unguja, we thought continuing on Pemba was a logical extension of the adventure.


Dario is lookin' mighty Italian here.  You can hardly tell he's seasick!


On the boat with me was Dario, our traveling companion Sean, two fellows who worked for the dive outfit (pilot and assistant), the dive instructor, and a woman who had dived all over the world for many, many years (seen over Dario's shoulder).  I don't know who she was, exactly, but the dive instructor, a sunny woman from the UK, was in awe of her.  I got the impression that it was akin to being a ski instructor and meeting an Olympic champion.  I should have asked for an autograph!

Unfortunately, the seas were a bit rough that day and the visibility under the water was not great.


Alas, this is about the best I could get.


The rolling motion really started to get to Dario, poor guy.  Rather than head back and upset the schedule for the other 2 people on the boat, the folks from Swahili Divers dropped us off on a little reef island where they often take breaks.  We got the cooler with snacks and drinks, as well as time on solid land, and I had the chance to walk around with my waterproof camera and take pics of the tide pools.


I hope this is not the beginning of a terrible survival movie.


I trust that I'm not giving anything away when I tell you that I'm not typing this from a computer made of coconut husks and Cowry shells.  That is to say, yes, they came back for us.  Although it would be pretty cool to have a computer made of coconuts and shells!

My mum's family were all scuba divers, so I spent a lot of time on the beach when I was growing up.  I love tide pools and all the fascinating creatures you find there.


Stay clɐm and kiss me!


This clam reminded me of Ivar's, a Seattle seafood institution.  Founded by Ivar Haglund in 1938, it has clam chowder as a speciality.  There is a restaurant in Mukilteo by the ferry dock that has a rotating sign.  One side of it invariably says, "KEEP CL∀M!"  Oh, Seattle humor, how I miss ya!




I came across a lovely mollusk of some sort, though I wasn't quite certain what to think of it.  I was pretty familiar with critters found along the Pacific coast of the US, but not as confident about the wiggly things of the Indian Ocean.  I knew, for example, that Cone snails have poisonous barbs, but I didn't know if they had any cowry-esque relatives.


Aww, isn't it cute?


When the boat returned, the dive instructor headed to the tide pools with us and demonstrated that the little guy was not bitey or stabby at all.


Electric blue!


Can you tell me what kind of fish this is?  I know I've seen it in aquariums, but I don't know what it's called.  It's not a betta or a guppy, since those are freshwater fish.  I fiddled with Fishbase, a fish identification site, but I am stuck!  In any case, it's cute.  :)


This little one looks a bit miffed.


I must say, the dive instructor was quick and agile.  She picked up the crab without breaking a sweat, losing her balance on the slippery rocks, or even coming close to getting pinched.  Your tide pool mojo is strong, dive instructor!


Art amongst the slime.


Did I mention that the rocks were slippery?  Not all of them looked like this, but many did.  In any case, it seems the perfect roadway for this snail.  Not sure of the destination, but the vehicle is lovely!


"Haha!  Seasick mzungu!"


Looking up from our crabby, fishy, and snaily island paradise, we spied a dhow gliding past under full sail.  How beautiful!  The color of the water, the green backdrop, the grace of the motion…  Ah, Pemba, who knew you could be so poetic?


Watching out for sea urchins.


One of the great things about sailing and diving around Zanzibar is the coral reefs.  And yet, one of the horrible things about getting to your boat or to land is the coral reefs.  Due to various government regulations that actually do as much harm as good, piers and docks are not allowed to be built in the area.  This means you have to walk across the reefs.

On our previous expedition off Unguja, we didn't know what we were getting ourselves into.  Walking across the sand and into the water to the boats?  Ok, no biggie — until you realize you're walking through sea urchin territory!  We managed not to get stabbed on the way out and had the tide in our favor on the way in.  (One fellow in our group was not so lucky and had to pull a spine out of his foot.  Eep!)  The opposite was true on Pemba.

We happily clambered into the boat directly from the beach of the resort, since the tide was high.  No warning about the walk back.  I have to say, the terror of walking for a good distance with the threat of getting stabbed through the foot at any moment greatly upset me.  I was also distraught over the fact that we were walking on a coral reef.  Critters live there — we saw them!  It all seemed so wrong.  Alas, the owners of Swahili Divers have been working with other dive outfits to convince the government to be sensible for years, but no progress.  Oh, well!

Fortunately, we did make it back unstabbed.  After a shower, a nap, and some dinner, we headed back to our room to sleep.  The toilet and the shower were both outside, in a little partially covered patio area.  We discovered that we had company!


Why, hello there, crab!  Are you hermit-ing in our shower?


Although it is difficult to get a sense of scale here, our visitor was about 6 inches (15 cm) long.  A very impressive hermit crab!  We tried to say hello, but only scared it into a corner.  I covered the drain, an open hole, to make sure s/he didn't get stuck, and we went to bed.

Whew!  What a crabby day!


What are some of your favorite wildlife encounters?


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  1. John absolutely loves little beach crabs…we were just at the Tayrona National Park on the Caribbean Coast of Colombia and spent heaps of time checking out the little clear crabs that are always in the sand and some larger blue ones that were just amazing

    1. Blue crabs? Wow! I hope you have pictures!

      …one of these days I need to edit a little video I made on Unguja. We found a tiny white/transparent crab on the sand. It was very quick. Dario suggested we title the video, “The Adventures of the Adventurous Crab”.

      “The Adventures of the Adventurous Crab”? I asked, thinking this was another language barrier issue.

      “Well, would he be having an adventure if he was not adventurous?”

      I cannot refute such logic. ;)

  2. Sounds like you had a good time enough though the water was kind of murky. I love ocean life and seeing them up close.

    1. Me, too! Growing up in southern California with a family like my mom’s (and a grandpa who was an amateur underwater photographer, back when they used *film*!), I spent a lot of time at aquariums and zoos, too. I was occasionally surprised by classmates who didn’t recognize the creatures I’d grown up around or who thought they were weird or gross. Ocean life is so beautiful!

  3. Bemused Boomer says:

    GREAT pix! Your little unidentified fish looks like a tetra, but I’m not sure they’re saltwater fish.

    My favorite wildlife encounter took place when I was diving in a California kelp bed and came across a baby harbor seal near the base of the kelp forest. It looked at me with big dark eyes, then rolled and played just like a little puppy.

    1. Thanks very much! I’m glad the pics came out as well as they did, since the waterproof camera is just a wee point-and-shoot number.

      I just looked up tetras, but they are freshwater fish. Still a mystery!

      I seem to recall a story about you playing with a seal in a kelp bed, but I didn’t realize it was a young one. Must have been delightful! :D

  4. So as I was slowly scrolling down, the dhow photo totally looked like a flying manta ray. Try looking at just the top 3/4 of the photo. See? Fun post :)

    1. Ha! I hadn’t seen that before. Reminds me of folding dollar bills to make George Washington look like a mushroom. ;)

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