26 Mar 2016 9 Comments
I go early, just as the sun crests the eastern mountains and the first rays of light touch upon the early-morning emerald-green tide.
This is when the locals of Koh Lanta, Thailand, come, before the temperature rises along with the tropical sun. The beach is sparsely dotted. Children with baskets in hand collect seashells; adults, wrapped in sarongs, t-shirts wet after their morning swim, squat on the sand, chatting quietly, unaware of the happy little hermit crab ambling by.
Tracks of unknown origins leave wild scallops and wave shapes that pepper the soft, pure white sand, a last testament to the first predawn visitors to the beach.
Snowy white beach umbrellas line the edges of the seaside resorts, wrapped up tightly from the night. They stand sentinel-straight, like a line of New Year’s Eve firecrackers, next to the bleached-white lounge chairs invitingly perched under the shade of tall pine trees leaning toward the sea.
An impossible variety of seashells litters the beach just feet from the water’s edge, the remnants of last night’s high tide, the organic remains of lives lived forever in the sea—seashells, the lifelong homes and the finals caskets of life forms unknown to those walking the sand and picking up the detritus of their lives.
Golden seashell halves, like diminutive upturned cups, float in the foamy rim, as inviting as a fairy’s serving dish of nectar.
Brand new crabs, born already knowing how to get through their crabby, important lives, madly scamper about. Minute, so small as to be nearly invisible, they skitter sideways across the shore, making mad dashes for their tiny holes so diligently dug into the powder-fine, creamy white sand.
Miniscule cannonballs pile around their holy fortresses, the sandy remains of the crabs’ diligent digging of their tunnel homes. The petite crustaceans appear to be ready for battle with an unsuspecting big toe.
The little crabs build their homes anew each morning, only for the incoming tide to wash away all traces of their hard work hours later. Day after day, this newborn life knows exactly how to build its own home, creating a safe haven from the predators of sea and sky until the next wash of the tide.
The miniature crabs get more confident and brave a run for their morning meal. In that funny sideways way they have, they skate to minuscule pieces of sea detritus, their impossibly small claws hefting tiny logs filled with microscopic morsels from the sea. They rapidly feast on whatever it is tiny crabs feast on for breakfast; time is of the essence. Their little claws, mouths, and eyes work furiously, eating as much and as fast as they can before scurrying back to the safety of their temporary homes in the sand.
A bigger crab, maybe two and a half inches long, is trapped by the nearness of my feet—suddenly, unexpectedly, he is unable to scamper to the safely of his hole behind me. I watch in amazement as Mother Nature’s evolutionary specialty kicks into gear. He instantly flattens himself into the sand, camouflaging himself as best he can with the surrounding beach. Thinking he might have somehow died, I gently touch the back of his shell. He is up again in a flash and throws himself into the foam of the water’s edge, letting the tide gently roll over him. But instead of washing him out to sea, Mother Nature again shows off her survival skills as he splays out, clamps himself down into the wet sand, and lets the loose particles wash over him, once again disguising himself from a potential predator. Leaving him in peace at last, I continue my stroll along the seashore.
Great, porous chunks of coral, nearly as hard as the occasional sea stone, are reminders of how long the ocean has harvested life from the seabed. The coral and rocks washed up on the beach were once home to many forms of ocean life. Now they are cemeteries for the hard, cold remains of the beings that once filled the myriad holes covering their surfaces, skulls of lives lived fully under the water, never having felt the air’s sea breezes.
Small bits of coral, like so many cartoon noses, make me giggle, sometimes burst out laughing, as I imagine their little googly eyes looking back at me from the sand.
It is 8:00 in the morning. It is getting hot. It is time to leave. With each swell of the tide, the footfalls of early morning strollers disappear without a trace. And as I depart the pristine white shore and head back to the hostel, my footprints, too, as temporary as all life, are washed away by the never-ending sea.
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What is your favorite beach to stroll on? Have you been to Koh Lanta?