The Lost Coast consists of a broad cove protected by a long seawall to the south and two straight miles of strand marred by a fat arm of sand near its northern end. Above the foreshore is a scrubland of casuarinas, acacias and lalang, which probably support enough rodents, reptiles and seed-eating birds to sustain the appetites of visiting harriers, kites and falcons. Boggier portions attract oriental pratincoles and red-wattled lapwings, while plovers, both resident and recurrent, have discovered a larder of small bodies in the flats that have formed beyond this artificial coastline.
With few human visitors save birders (who keep their feet dry) and boaters (who have little reason to set foot on the flats), a number of resident ghost crabs were confident enough to emerge long before dusk. A few sat on the sand and budged only with reluctance, as if the approach of beach apes in black booties and even a lens in their personal space triggered no alarm in these phantom menaces, which scour tropical shores for carcasses, other crabs and even the hatchlings of sea turtles. Hawksbills have been known to nest in the vicinity and this deserted cove could well harbour the nests of visiting chelonians before it undergoes a second reclamation for more thrilling spectacles. Sand dollars, button snails and other benthic detritivores, however, probably form the bread and butter of these nocturnal predators, which share their hunting grounds with carnivorous gastropods, quick stars and flattened fishes.
As the sky faded to deeper shades of blue and threatened to dispel the magic of a rare landing, more ghost crabs appeared at the water's edge, their box-like carapaces sidling just a little faster than the war helmets of bonnet snails. Now furtive, the crabs no longer braved the risks of close proximity, backing off when cornered with eight-legged trots, which then switched to a six-footed sprint into the surf where they shifted gears once more and buried themselves in the loose sand. Other observers have observed a full gallop on four limbs and clocked the crabs at up to 4 metres a second. Lanky proportions, power-packed muscles and a thrusting gait help drive the animals to pole position in systema brachyura. But speed alone is not enough when the crabs encounter predators with greater persistence and sharpness. For life in a zone of dangerous creatures is a perpetual race to catch the new strandings of every tide and run out of reach of smarter threats.