Tanzania and Kenya throwback – when I went exploring on the beach

It is almost four months since I returned from my expedition to Tanzania and Kenya… I definitely miss being there in the sun (and having to drink six – eight litres of water every day!)

Our first camp was near the city of Tanga and was situated right on the coast – we were pretty much camping on the beach. Every morning as I ate my breakfast I would sit in awe watching the sun rise over the Indian Ocean, and days working in the village often ended with a swim in the sea.

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One day we were given the afternoon off to relax, so while the tide was out I went for a walk with my camera. The beach was teeming with life and I had a fantastic time observing and photographing it.

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The beach was surrounded by mangroves which when the tide came in became submerged. Their roots are incredible structures – they grow like this to maximise oxygen absorption (the roots need oxygen but there is very little in the sand).

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There were also these huge structures that at first glance just looked like rocks – it turned out that they were ancient coral reefs that had died and formed little islands of their own.

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Below are a few photos of interesting creatures/shells that I found on the beach…

Giant clam shell

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Interesting seashells (despite much searching, I have been unable to identify these)

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Crabs (also very difficult to identify! The red-brown one may be a rock crab, but I’m not entirely sure)

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Brittle star

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When I first came across the creature pictured below on the beach, I was completely mystified. It seemed like a strange shell structure sunk into the sand, but it was unlike anything I had ever seen before. However, recently when I was learning about the evolution of eyes as part of my zoology course, I saw a picture of it in an article that I was reading.

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It is the West Indian fuzzy chiton… the thing that surprised me the most is that the shell actually contains many tiny mineral eyes! This bizarre creature has eyes made of aragonite – the same material used for the rest of its body. The images produced will not be of the greatest quality, but they are enough for the chiton to be able to detect predators and respond by clamping themselves into the sand.

I cannot believe I was lucky enough to see such an incredible creature on my travels.

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