Why You Should Visit Christmas Island

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Don’t be surprised if the locals cheer when the plane breaks through the clouds and lands on the short mountain runway on Christmas Island. This small Australian Territory in the Indian Ocean is roughly 220 miles south of Java, Indonesia. 

a view of the coast of Christmas island with sunrise skies, blue waters, and a tree covered mountain coast

With its mix of Chinese, Malay, and European Australians, meaningfully embracing other cultures is a cornerstone of daily life for the 1800 residents who call Christmas Island home.

You’ll encounter many colorful Islamic, Buddhist, and Christian ceremonies that make up the island’s cultural heritage during your visit. Participating in these local events gives you an authentic feel for the thriving, contemporary Christmas Island vibe. You’ll be welcomed and encouraged to join in.

COVID 19 Travel To Christmas Island

Before you travel to Christmas Island, Australia, make sure your Covid 19 vaccine(s) are up to date. Carry a mask and hand sanitizer with you for indoor public spaces. It is suggested that 3 days before your departure to Christmas Island, test yourself for Covid 19.

Invest in travel insurance that covers cancellation due to Covid 19. This travel insurance should also cover all the travelers in your party. You also want the policy to include procedures and coverage if you contract Covid 19 while on Christmas Island and are not able to fly back home.

Global Culture

an aerial view of the Christmas island coastline with a town, docks, houses, and blue water

In Malay culture, clothes and textiles are loved. They are symbols of power, status, and beauty. You’ll encounter the beautiful local island dress as you explore the island. 

Bright and colorful temples are found everywhere on the island, in town, along the roadside, and in the rainforest. The temples, cultural treasures, and people give Christmas Island a global feel.

Wildlife

The rich wildlife adds an exotic element to your island visit. Known as “The Galapagos of the Indian Ocean,” the island, with its beautiful cultures, is also an extraordinary eco-destination with significant biodiversity not seen anywhere else.

The Red Crab

a close-up of a Christmas Island red crab

The red crab population on Christmas Island is estimated to be 40 – 50 million! Their preferred habitat is shady sites, which are found all over the island.

After witnessing the red crab migration, Sir David Attenborough described it as “like a great scarlet curtain.” 

Each year, with the first rain of the wet season (usually October/November), the adult red crabs begin their migration from the forest to the coast to mate and then for the females to release their eggs into the sea. This is a spectacular event that draws visitors to the island.

Millions of red crabs climb out of their burrows in the tropical rainforest where they live and feed off rotting leaves and fruit from the trees. The crabs trek from the thick, lush jungle to the ocean, avoiding the robber crabs’ vicious pinchers and the boobie birds’ sharp beaks.

many small red crabs running across the sand during the red crab migration

While not all the red crabs survive, they march en masse to the ocean, crossing anything in their path. They fill the roads and will even walk through people’s open doors and windows. Road closures are set up as the march progresses, and volunteer sweepers take brooms to brush the crabs aside for cars to pass. It is truly an unbelievable sight to see millions of crabs on the move together.

To save the lives and allow for as many crabs to spawn as possible, 

Crab bridges have been built over the roads to help save the crab. It is impressive to see a moving mass of red filing into the onramps to continue their crucial voyage to the sea.

Once the crabs reach the beaches on Christmas Island, it is mating time. The beaches are covered with female crabs sporting a brown mound covering their bellies. This brown mass comprises 100,000 eggs that the female must release into the ocean. 

So at dawn, on a receding tide during the last quarter of the moon, 1,000 million eggs are released as the females do a quick dance in the water to release their babies. 

Coconut Crab

a close-up of a coconut crab in the sand

Coconut Crabs are found in many island locales, including Christmas Island. These massive land crabs can weigh upwards of 8 pounds (4+ kg) or more and are three feet in width! Christmas Island is home to the world’s largest and best-protected population of coconut crabs. These giant land crustaceans have a life span of more than 50 years. 

The crabs are not seen as much during the day but can be spotted at night. Be careful – coconut crabs love to “steal” things, giving them the nickname “robber crab.” If you lose something, it could be a coconut crab that has claimed it as theirs.

These gentle crustaceans come in beautiful rainbow colors, such as hues of blue and orange. Their walking legs are curved so that they can climb palm trees. This spectacle is extraordinary – so have your camera ready! 

Once it has climbed the coconut tree, the crab will search out green coconuts. It will crack open the green coconuts, feasting on the white flesh inside. The crab uses the fiber from the husk for bedding.

Keep your distance; if the crab feels threatened, it can lunge and, with its powerful claws, could easily break your finger. Look, don’t touch it!

Flying Foxes

a flying fox hanging upside down in a tree on Christmas Island

Christmas Island is also a bird watcher’s –and flying fox watcher’s- paradise. If you take the hike to the top of Margaret Knoll Lookout or the steeper hike to the Golf Course Lookout, you will find yourself on the very edge of plunging cliffs. 

The updraft coming up the cliffside brings out the brown and black flying foxes who glide right past you in the late afternoon. They are so close you can almost look in their eyes and see their souls. 

Birds

a red footed booby flying high in the air with a blue sky

These lookouts are also two of the best spots to see the golden bosun with its glorious golden feathers. You might also see the Christmas Island frigatebird with its impressive 8-foot wingspan. 

And, of course, the absolutely adorable boobie birds can be seen in trees in this area and around the island. The red-footed boobie, though has to be a favorite for bird watchers with its plastic-looking red feet somewhat resembling a child’s wellington boots.

Beaches

The coral and rocks with water splashing over them at Ethel Beach on Christmas Island

While much of Christmas Island is quite rocky with cliffs that have sheer drops to the ocean, it also boasts some of Australia’s most unique beaches, each memorable and remarkable in its own way. 

Ethel Beach can be a great place to swim and snorkel if the water isn’t too rough. Snorkeling on the reefs off Ethel Beach may provide views of large pelagic fish like wahoo, but it is known for having some of the most pristine coral in the entire world.

About thirty minutes from town, Dolly Beach is popular with nature lovers. It’s a favorite spot for nesting sea turtles. So keep on the lookout for their nests in the sand. The hatchlings are quite a sight to see as they make their way to the sea. 

Coconut crabs love the palm trees that line the beach, so keep on the lookout, and you might catch one or two as they climb up the palm trees.

Snorkeling and Diving

Lily Beach with large cliffs and rocks at Christmas Island

You’ll find some of the world’s top snorkeling and diving experiences on Christmas Island. A bonus to visiting the island during the red crab migration is that the crab larvae draw the whale shark to the waters of Christmas Island. The whale sharks gorge on the crab larvae, which is the draw for divers – the chance to see the true circle of life in person.

The waters of Christmas Island are one of the best places across the globe to view pelagic fish. Massive marine life, including tuna, wahoo, sharks, spinner dolphins, and manta rays, can all be spotted close to shore. Christmas Island is actually the peak of an extinct volcano on the deep ocean floor.

The capital of Christmas Island, Flying Fish Cove, is the best spot to snorkel! When the seas are calm, it’s excellent for children and novice snorkelers. Divers across the globe recommend Flying Fish Cove as the “best shore dive in the whole world.”

Nature’s “Spa”

a limestone cliff on Christmas Island covered in green moss with blue cloudy skies

To really experience the local culture of Christmas Island, be sure to plan a stop at one of the gems of Christmas Island. This is where the locals go and relax, let all their cares go, as they soak in nature’s spa.

This hidden cave is spectacular and it’s just a 5-minute drive from town. Like a private hideaway, the grotto is a sanctuary where you can soak in the warm waters in the darkened cave, bobbing meditatively up and down on the gentle waves. 

The soft talc sand in the cave can be rubbed on your skin for the best exfoliation treatment in the most exotic setting you have ever experienced. The healing powers of nature and the ocean water will have you leaving Christmas Island restored, rejuvenated, and grateful to have seen the remarkable combination of culture and Mother Nature.

Christmas Island is a rustic and authentic glimpse of mixed cultures on a tiny remote island surrounded by some of the world’s best reefs and incredible wildlife that can only be seen on this island. There is no other place on earth quite like Christmas Island. And if you love nature, love adventure, and love culture, you are going to love Christmas Island!


LINDA SHEPPARD

Linda, a true adventurer, started traveling the world at age 18 and has since traveled to 29 countries. She’s climbed volcanoes and ruins swam with barracuda, sailed and sunk a catamaran, and slept in too many hammocks to count. She currently lives in Victoria, B.C. with her Aussie husband, her incredibly spoiled spaniel Bodhi, two rescue budgies Buki and Billie, and her 1330 cc motorcycle “The Wanderer.”


2 Comments

  1. Michael Taylor

    I’ve always been fascinated by Christmas Island. What kind if accommodation is offered?

    Reply
    • Betsi Hill

      Hi Michael,
      We suggest before you travel to Christmas Island make sure you visit the Christmas Island Visitor Centre online.
      Not only can you be connected with snorkeling and diving operators, or be directed to photography and bird-watching adventures, or even find out the possible red crab spawning dates for 2022 and 2023, you can also see the full list of accommodations on Christmas Island and book them through this site.
      The Sunset on Gaze Road and Mango Tree Lodge are both close to Flying Fish Cove and are within walking distance of snorkeling, fishing, shopping and dining. These two small family- owned properties are well maintained and have internet, air conditioning, and barbeques. They are both well worth considering.
      The Sunset has a swimming pool and drop-dead gorgeous sunsets. Mango Tree Lodge has beautiful serene gardens and a small jaccuzzi ( Australians call them “spas”) allowing you total relaxation and peace after a day of hiking or diving. To book accommodation and learn more about the island go to http://www.christmas.net.au

      Reply

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