I have just one piece of advice for you if you come to the mangroves – get up early. Okay, not every day, and maybe wait a few days to settle in first. But do it. You can always have a nap later.
Drag yourself out of bed and wander into the forest. Listen to the whine of insects in the air and the rumble of the sea in the distance. Notice where the tide is and how it is changing, and how it makes the pneumatophores wave in the current of a channel like reeds in the wind. Go barefoot, and walk slow, and you may find yourself creeping up on the unsuspecting life of the forest.
Look up in the trees and see the birds – see the bright flash of a kingfisher, the heavy weight of a great egret resting at the top of a tree, the stalking walk of a plover and the hurried flight of another disturbed wading bird – was it a curlew, or a sandpiper, or something else entirely? A spider spinning its web catches your eye and you stand and watch the methodical way it builds the spiral, attaching the sticky silk to the lines radiating from the centre.
As you pad along the soft muddy trails look for the multitude of crabs dancing away and down their burrows, and goofy looking mudskippers flopping across the water. Occasionally you catch something off guard – a small, herbivorous crab wandering across the boardwalk leaf in hand, or two larger crabs facing off over a disagreement about whose burrow they are next to. Or better yet, you could bump into a crab as large as your hand that on the path through the reeds, sitting just an arm’s length away. The close encounter may startle both of you, and you stand frozen staring at each other until the crab slowly raises its claws and scuttles past your feet and into the reeds behind you.
And you can see all this before breakfast, before you have seen another person or spoken a word aloud – that is the magic of the mangroves.