The Cocos and Keeling Islands are an Australian territory, located in the Indian Ocean about halfway between Sri Lanka and Australia. The island group consists of 2 atolls and 27 coral islands.
Cocos Islands are not for holidaymakers seeking fancy resorts, plentiful shopping opportunities, an active restaurant or nightlife, or a plethora of water sports and activities.
Instead, the Cocos Islands are for folks who want to get away…from it all. If you imagine yourself walking along on a deserted beach or swinging in a quiet hammock, not hounded by beach boys or too many rowdy families, this is the place for you.
Much of the atoll is protected as part of the Pulu Keeling National Park.
The island has a rich cultural history, with residents of Malay, Chinese, Papuan, Indian, and Caucasian descent.
The Islands have two major atolls, North Keeling Island and South Keeling Islands. These are flat and low-lying palm-covered islands with area of 14 square kilometers, with 26 kilometers of coastline.
North Keeling Island is a C-shaped (almost closed ring) island with a 50 meter lagoon in the middle. It is uninhabited, and the island and surrounded sea make up the Pulu Keeling National Park. The Cocos Buff-banded Rail is an endangered species of bird found only on this island.
South Keeling Islands consists of 24 islets shaped like a horseshoe and totaling just over 13 kilometers. In addition, West Island and Home Island are populated (with mostly ethnic Malays, and ethnic Europeans respectively), but the remaining islets are uninhabited.
The coral atoll is almost perfectly intact, offering amazing opportunities for wildlife sightings: more than 500 fish species, 100 hard coral species, 600 mollusc species, 200 crustacean species, and almost 100 echinoderm species have been recorded here.
Activities (Nature and Wildlife Interest)
The majority of activities in Cocos Islands are nature activities or water-based activities:
- Cultural experiences: Visit Home Island by ferry and enjoy the friendliness of the Cocos Malay
- Walking or biking: Explore West Island by bike (rent a bike from Home Island Bike Hire) or wander along the beach; go on a reef walk at low tide from Scout Park to Pulu Maraya (an uninhabited island located at the southern end of the atoll)
- Wind surfing, Kite-boarding, surfing: If you visit during the windier months – July through October, you can enjoy these water sports
- Fishing: Let locals guide you so that you can catch the dogtooth tuna or Wahoo
- Swimming: Swim at Trannies Beach, one of the two most popular swimming beaches on West Island, or join a tour to travel out to swim with dolphins
- Boating, snorkeling, and diving: Great snorkeling opportunities exist. Take a day trip to Direction Island, which offers white sandy beaches and the world-famous “Rip,” a snorkeling gem known for its beautiful fish, coral, reef sharks, and huge wrasse and parrotfish. Or, go scuba diving to see sharks, mantas, turtles, and dolphins. If you’d rather stay out of the water, consider a glass-bottomed boat for a lazy afternoon spent on the water.
- Guided tours: Boat charters transport clients to the isolated southern islands when the tides are high.
Cocos (Keeling) Islands offer about a dozen options for accommodations, including:
- Cocos Beach Motel (28 room motel in the middle of town, on the beach, with private ensuite air-conditioned rooms)
- Cocos Seaview (self-contained suites walking distance from town and 50m from the ocean, with air-conditioning and large verandahs with views of the ocean)
- Oceania House (luxurious colonials house decorated with Victorian and Edwardian antiques, and views over the lagoon)
- My Island Home (secluded fully furnished timber home, surrounded by parklands and a short walk to the ocean)
West Island has the island chain’s only airport – the Cocos (Keeling) Island Intenational Airport. Virgin Blue operates flights from Perth, Australia – some direct, and some with stopovers to Christmas Island.