Christmas Island is probably best known to Australians for its processing centre for asylum seekers, but this island has a lot to offer as a travel destination. It is a quiet tropical island located in the Indian Ocean south of Jakarta, Indonesia. Though an Australian territory, it is rich in Malay and Chinese culture due to historical influences – it is just 360km away from Java but 2600km north-west of Perth, Australia.
Christmas Island is quite off the beaten (tourist) path, making it an ideal spot for travelers who want to get away from it all.
Because of the 135 square kilometer island’s remoteness (it is not located near any large landmass), a diverse set of ecological relationships has evolved over time, and there are species and sub-species that have uniquely evolved on the island.
Christmas Island National Park makes up the majority of the island’s landmass – about 60% – and is characterized by unspoiled landscape.
Christmas Island has a colourful history. The island was first inhabited to mine phosphate from the late 1800s until World War II, using mainly Chinese workers. European residents had to be evacuated due to fears of Japanese invasion during the second world war, which were realized when Japanese invaded and occupied the island from 1942 to 1945. In the late 1950s the island, which had heretofore been part of the Colony of Singapore, became a separate colony, and within the same year sovereignty was transferred to Australia.
Because of Christmas Island’s rich culture and history – Chinese, Malay, and Caucasians are residents of this territory – the island celebrates a variety of festivals throughout the year.
Christmas Island rises steeply from the water in terraces, which results in abundant and diverse flora and fauna – linked to the soil depth, moisture, and temperature, and distance from the sea. Christmas Island has a predominantly limestone coastline, home to an abundance of seabirds, and a marine park as well as a series of unique caves with subterranean plants. Much of the coast consists of sheer, steep rock rising 10-20m high.
But most of all, Christmas Island is internationally renowned for its annual red crab migration, attracting visitors from far and wide. About 100m vivid red crabs call Christmas Island home. During peak migration times, roads can be closed at times to accommodate the crab migration. Best places to witness the migration are at Drumsite, Flying Fish Cove, Ethel Beach and Greta Beach.
The island has 12 distinct habitats across three main types of vegetation (primary rainforest, marginal rainforest, and scrub forest): marine, shoreline rock platforms, beaches, sea cliffs, terraced forest, shallow soil rainforest on the higher terraces, limestone scree slopes and pinnacles, deeper plateau and terraced soil rainforest, mangrove forest, perennially wet areas, mining fields, and “Karst,” which comprises caves, overhangs, rock crevices, and sinkholes.
Activities (Nature and Wildlife Interest)
Christmas Island National Park affords visitors several main activities:
- Viewing the annual crab migration: witness the migration and reproduction of over 100 million Christmas Island red crabs, an extraordinary experience.
- Walking in the park: Over ten marked trails offer a variety of walks from easy and well-developed walks (to Hughs Dale) to more rugged and challenging hikes (o Winifred Beach, West White Beach and Dolly Beach).
- Fishing: Excellent fishing opportunities exist, with Sailfish, Tuna and Wahoo among the largest fish frequently caught.
- Boating, snorkeling, and diving: Christmas Island is surrounded by deep ocean and a precipitous drop-off, making for amazing opportunities to explore underwater life. Dolphins and whale sharks are common sightings. Great snorkeling locations include Flying Fish Cove, Ethel Beach, Dolly Beach, West White Beach, and Winifred Beach.
- Guided tours: Tour operators offer a variety of options, including fishing charters with seasoned local fishermen.
The island offers several restaurants, coffee shops, stores, a Supermarket, picnic and barbeque venues.
There are not many hotels and resorts on the island from which to choose. Accommodation options include:
- Christmas Island Resort: Quiet retreat on coast with access to a free row boat, the hotel offers quiet accommodation in a remote location
- The Sunset: A basic lodge that offers air-conditioned self-contained standard rooms as well as ocean-view rooms, and is located right at the waters’ edge. The lodge has simple amenities and a welcoming owner. There are no restaurants on-site, but the lodge is close to restaurants.
- Captain’s Last Resort: Located on a cliff, the resort is clean and comfortable and offers self-contained accommodation.
Visitors can camp on Christmas Island with a permit, at Dolly Beach and at the Pink House Research Station.
Christmas Island is north-east of Australia: 2800 km west of Darwin, 2600 km north-west of Perth, and 360 km south of the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.
National Jet Systems flies from Perth to Cocos and Christmas Islands several times a week, whereas Australian Indian Ocean Airlines links Kuala Lumpur and the island once a week.
August 14th, 2010