Hutan Payau or Mangrove Forest- Cilacap

Thanks, hotel driver, for taking our picture!
On another day Austin had off, we went over to the mangrove forest not very far from the center of Cilacap. Of course, with traffic and such it took about 30 minutes to get there, but it was worth it! The people at our hotel tried to tell us there was not much to see, but I thought it would be interesting to go anyway. This is the only mangrove forest on Java, and is shrinking because of deforestation/clearing for farmland and taking away sediment. The government has proposed ways to preserve it, but that doesn’t keep locals from trying to survive, is my guess. 
 I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a mangrove forest quite like this before. Wikipedia told me that these trees are most likely red mangroves- because of their roots. They live in water that is tidal and so they have to be able to withstand salt water as well as fresh water. Red mangroves keep upright in the marshy/boggy water by making stilt roots to support them. They also have to be able to withstand a large amount of heavy metals, nitrates, etc that build up in the sediment that washes through the forests with the tides. This forest seemed to be fairly far upriver from the ocean, but I guess the tide reaches there as well. 
Close up of the roots
Thank goodness for concrete paths!
The trees only took a few minutes to appreciate- it was the wildlife surrounding the trees that stole the show. When I read an article specifically about the mangroves in Cilacap, one of their main concerns was the preservation of intertidal crabs. There were tiny crabs all over the place here, and the best part was that they were all very bright colors. There were red, orange, blue, blue/orange, red/black, red/white crabs. They seriously looked like those hermit crabs at pet stores that have painted shells. Except they were wild. The other interesting thing about these crabs was that they only have one huge claw- not two like typical crabs. This claw is disproportionally large compared to the body of the crab, so they look like they are going to tip over. They fight with each other using this claw arm, usually over their little holes. Austin watched them for quite awhile and realized that although they fought aggressively over their holes, the minute that they sensed danger they dove into the closest hole they could find! As you can tell, Austin was very amused by these crabs.

Red and blue crabs

Red crab with giant claw

 We also saw some amphibious mud creature. It could swim well, but also survive just hanging out on top of the mud. It looked like they lived in small holes in the mud as well. I thought I had a picture ready for the blog, but alas, I do not. They look like fish but have very small legs as well. Also, we found all these bigger holes scattered around the swamp. Some of them were made into towers. We wondered what kind of creatures lived in these holes, but nothing emerged while we were there.
I am hoping it was not a snake.

New sunglasses that he keeps on longer than two seconds!
Landon’s favorite game at the mangrove forest was to throw leaves into the water. I was always afraid he would get a little off balance and fall into the mud, but fortunately he didn’t. Right near the end, after we called for the car to come pick us up, he ran down close to the water’s edge and said, “Mom! Dad! Dooming time!” That meant that it was swimming time and we did not want to swim in that icky water. We promised to go swimming that afternoon in the hotel pool, and he was satisfied with that answer. 

Landon is starting to learn smiling for pictures! Hooray!
Looking up at an airplane
Who can forget the lady we saw wading through the muck? She had cloth wrapped and her feet and was trying to net fish. She would put a little scooping net in the water/mud and if she caught anything, she put it in the yellow plastic bag at her hip. I’m thankful that I don’t have her job.  
In conclusion, I think that the mangrove forest should be added to the touristy things of Cilacap. Although very few people were there and it is not well taken care of, it is an interesting place to visit and see the trees and the crabs and the mud creatures. 

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