How to catch your own crabs with an Indigenous guide

I'm walking through black slimy mud, each footstep sinking deeper than the next, carrying a spear, my heavy camera bag and a spirit of adventure on a Kuku Yalanji Cultural Food Tour, near Cairns in North Queensland.

We could be paying a lot of money at a spa for this mud foot treatment, I joke with my fellow walkers, as I climb over, under and around the twisted mangrove roots.

With Kubirri Warra brothersLinc and Brandon Walker, as our guides we are walking the beach, mudflat and mangroves of Cooya Beach near Mossman, north of Cairns in Far North Queensland.

Cooya Beach (Kuyu Kuyu) is the traditional fishing ground of the Kuku Yalanji Bama. This unique coastal place has three diverse ecosystems -beach, mangroves and coastal reef - that are connected to each other by the ever changing mudflats and tidal lagoons. 

First we practice how to throw a spear, some with more success than others. The coconut target is very safe from destruction. The goal is to find some tucker for dinner, hopefully mud crabs but there are plenty of options on the menu. We are going to learn to hunt while stalking and observing wildlife and country, and discover how to track coastal resources, while Linc and Brandon share some of their extensive knowledge of this special area and how they care for their country.

Beach mussels from the mangroves.

Brandon talks to us as we stroll along the beach pointing out trees known as beach lettuce and another with flowers that release drops to sooth tired eyes when squeezed.

We walk bravely into the mangroves along a clean, sandy path and it all seems easy peasy. Then the mangroves get thicker and more tangled and moving through them becomes an art form.  My attempts seem even more clumsy compared to the nimble children who accompany us.  This is their play ground they tell us.

Sometimes the going is tough but I'm full of wonder at the experience of being in the middle of the mangroves.  I've seen mangroves many times, from boardwalks, beaches and even kayaks, but never been so close to the environment.  It's amazingly peaceful and full of bright contrasts against the drab mud.

Occasionally we stop and dig mussels up from the mud, adding to a growing pile in the bucket.
Breaking through the mangroves we reach the beach and wander out over the shallow sandbanks into the water.

Freshly caught crab for dinner.

There we catch a handsome crab which later, bathed in a chilli sauce, provides a feast for the family.

Back on the verandah of his family home, Brandon shares his family history of the area, passing around objects collected over the years.
Beach mussels

The two hour  KukuYalanji Coastal Beach Walks depart daily at 9.30am and 1.30pm.

Walking through the mangroves was an amazing experience, expertly enhanced by the brother's knowledge of their stamping ground.  Something to be treasured.

Disclaimer:  Ed+bK was a guest of Tourism Queensland