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Crab Migration in Cuba

After mating season, millions of female crabs head to the Bay of Pigs

Crab Migration
Crab Migration

Every year, after the first spring rains, a huge number of land crabs cover the territories close to Playa Girón on their way to Bahía de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs). Red, black and yellow crabs migrate from the nearby forests to the bay to spawn in the sea at the end of their mating season. They cause chaos on the roads, cover house walls and the beach road which curves around the bay. The smell of crushed crab is everywhere, and their shells damage car tires. Despite being smashed by cars and pedestrians, they still complete their long journey to ensure survival of their species.

Cubans don't take advantage of this mass migration because they believe this crab species is toxic. Gecarcinus ruricola and lateralis are not endemic to Cuba, and according to Cuban officials they survival is not threatened by the migration through heavily urbanized areas. After releasing eggs at the Bay of Pigs, crabs return to their forest burrows and in a few weeks are joined by baby crabs who repeat their parents' journey from the sea.

The mass crab migration usually starts in late March, peaking in April. You might still spot some crabs in May and June, but not as much.

Practical info

When can tourists observe the crab migration in Cuba, and how long does it last?

The crab migration in Cuba takes place from late March to June, with the peak during April. Millions of crabs are seen along roadsides and traveling short distances to the Bay of Pigs area. It lasts for several days, with postmating crabs taking approximately two days longer to complete the journey. Moreover, returning crabs come back to the forest after releasing their eggs at Bay of Pigs, accompanied by thousands of baby crabs. Show more

What is the location of the Cuban land crab migration, and where should tourists go to witness it?

The Cuban land crab migration occurs around Playa Girón close to Bahía de Cochinos or the Bay of Pigs. Tourists need to travel to the headquarters and walk down to the beachfront using the pathways in between rocks and mangroves to see the millions of crabs crossing roads, hiding in rocks, and climbing house walls. This unique phenomenon can be seen in Cuba, where the crabs are not endemic and considered a rare occurrence around the world. Show more

What makes the Cuban land crab migration unique compared to other land crab migrations worldwide?

The Cuban land crab migration is a standout phenomenon worldwide due to the number of crabs involved traveling short distances and covering land and sea. The Cuban land crabs' species, Gecarcinus ruricola and lateralis, are distributed throughout the Caribbean. However, the Cuban migration covers much shorter distances than others worldwide. The Christmas Island red crab migration is the only other known land migration to the sea of this magnitude that occurs in Australia. Show more

What are the safety measures tourists should take while visiting the crab migration sites?

When exploring the crab migration sites, tourists must wear shoes and avoid picking crabs to be safe. Tourists should also take caution when walking down the roadsides and pathway because of the crushed crab's smell. It's advisable to check with the park officials for the best locations for sightseeing. Moreover, carrying a spare tire while driving in the area is recommended because the crab's sharp shells can damage car tires. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin