Travelling to Christmas Island
The seasonal sounding Christmas Island is an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean, lying south of Indonesia and was in fact named after being found on Christmas day in 1643. It’s famed for its extraordinary caves and coral reefs, along with hosting the annual Red Crab migration where they travel down to the sea to spawn. Astonishingly, over two-thirds of this tiny dog shaped island is designated to Christmas Island National Park, which offers rainforest hikes to wetlands and native wildlife. In 2016 the population of the island was approximately 1850, which is surprisingly a small amount. The majority of residents live in settlements on the Northern tip of the island including the capital, Flying Fish Cove.
The island has a rich mix of cultures as originally, Asian Australians of Chinese, Malay and Indian descent collectively formed the majority of the population. English is the official language of the island, but you might here the locals talking in a variety of other languages such as Mandarin and Malay. When visiting you will be encouraged to join in and experience the thriving culture of Christmas Island in the many amazing foods, festivals and places. There are a range of ethnic festivals held throughout the year to honour and respect the different religions – you should definitely visit when a festival is taking place as it will make your experience here even more superb!
Christmas Island National Park
Established in 1980, this National Park occupies most of Christmas Island and encompasses a unique variety of flora and fauna. It is the resting place for critically endangered Frigatebirds, the interestingly named Abbotts Booby and a wide range of other endemic species. There are many breath-taking attractions to visit in the park, one of the most popular ones being The Dales. Located at the Western end of the park, The Dales is a pristine area of deciduous forests, waterfalls, gorges and freshwater streams. The site is recognised as being of international importance by designation under the Ramsar convention of wetlands. The trail to get to The Dales is an easy boardwalk through the forest, which then splits off into two tracks where you can either go to Hugh’s Dale Waterfall or Anderson Dale. Once you arrive at the waterfall you can cool off under the cascading water or just sit back and soak up the tranquillity of this magical place. The waterfall is an important cultural site for local Chinese Buddhists, who regularly conduct ceremonies here. At the Anderson Dale there is a freshwater stream that has carved a small gorge through the limestone cliffs on its way to the ocean.
Another great activity to do is to climb a series of steps to the Margaret Knoll Lookout, which is situated at the edge of a plunging inland cliff. The lookout offers panoramic views of Christmas Islands National Park and sensational coastline landscapes. It is also a popular place to watch birds, you will be able to spot birds such as Golden Bosuns, Seabirds and Brown Footed Boobies. If you’re lucky you might even see Flying Foxes gliding around in the afternoon. Additionally, the West White Beach Trailhead resides in the park. It takes you on a journey through the exotic rainforest and ends up on the West White Beach after using a rope to descend down a steep cliff to the beach. The effort of the trek is well worth it when you see the splendid destination, so make sure you bring a packed lunch and chill out on the beach for a while before you start your trip back.
Best Beaches on the Island
If you love lounging about on the beach, getting a tan and drinking cocktails, Christmas Island is the perfect place for you as it has a long list of beaches. The Red Crab migration is one of the islands biggest tourist attractions, drawing in nature lovers from all over the world. The best places to watch the migration is at Greta Beach, Flying Fish Cove or Ethel Beach, where you will see huge Crab bridges built over the roads to protect them from cars. The migration starts with the first rainfall of the wet season usually in October or November and is an unmissable event! Greta Beach is a small cove where endangered Hawksbill and Green Turtles nest all year round. When visiting Greta Beach, you will be able to watch as the turtles crawl to the sea, lay eggs and watch new hatchlings – a natural phenomenon you will never forget. Unfortunately, this beach has a problem with plastic pollution, so make sure to pick up some rubbish to protect the wildlife.
Dolly Beach is a secluded beach fringed by palm trees and has a number of rock pools among a freshwater stream. Marine Turtles nest on Dolly Beach as well as giant Coconut Crabs, which are also known as Robber Crabs as they shuffle about the island taking things, so don’t leave your mobile phone lying about! Other than that, this beach has a peaceful atmosphere, freshwater and flat ground, making it an attractive place for camping. The islands most popular beach is Flying Fish Cove. While the phosphate port dominates the Northern part of the cove, the Southern end is idyllic, with vibrant greenery stretching down the sands to striking rock formations. This spot is great for families thanks to its BBQ facilities and protected swimming area. You can also go snorkelling and diving with a diversity of marine life here, including Whale Sharks and Spinner Dolphins. Flying Fish Cove is a west facing beach which offers one of the best sunsets on the island, so grab a cold drink and watch as nature puts on a show.
The Grotto & The Blowholes
Some activities to do outside of Christmas Island National Park include Ma Chor Nui Nui Temple, Territory Day Park, Gun Emplacement and The Golf Course Lookout Trailhead. However, the two most popular attractions are The Grotto and The Blowholes. Christmas Island is honeycombed with caves, some are accessible from the mainland such as The Grotto and the rest only by sea. The Grotto is a small, almost secret cave with a crystal-clear rock pool tucked away in the tropical rainforest. It is a spectacular cave to visit as it has half fresh and half salt crystalline water, providing a refreshing spot for swimmers or anyone who wants to take a quick dip.
The islands Blowholes are located in cave ceilings and when the tide is up, the power of the waves crashing against the cliffs force huge volumes of water through the rocks into the air. This creates tremendous noise in the atmosphere. To get to The Blowholes you will have to travel along an elevated walkway where you will get a front row seat to this dramatic meeting of sea and land. Being underneath the spray is a great way to cool off on a hot day. The Blowholes are even more outstanding during the Red Crab migration, as the Crabs scramble over the jagged rocks transforming them into a deep red colour.
Quirky Christmas Island Cuisine
The Christmas Island cuisine can best be described as an eclectic combination of traditional Australian and Asian dishes, particularly from Malaysia and Indonesia. One of the most loved national dishes of the island is the Red Crab; its sweet, meaty taste has been compared favourably to that of the Lobster. Traditionally, chickens were kept on the island for locals to produce their own pickles eggs and Chinese century eggs. The island also used to eat Robber Crabs which apparently taste like a cross between a Mud Crab and Lobster. But while they are considered a delicacy across the pacific, they have now been labelled as a protected species in Australia and cannot be consumed anymore. But don’t worry there is no shortage of delicious dishes to try during your stay. Christmas Island has an array of mouth-watering restaurants, pubs and cafes, showcasing the islands cultures – from freshly caught seafood to Hawker-style Malaysian eateries. Cooking for yourself is also an excellent option when holidaying here, as most of the lodges and holiday homes have a private or shared kitchen. There are additionally several picnic and BBQ areas around the island where you can cook or take a hamper.
Whilst in lockdown you could always attempt making the ‘Christmas Island Cocktail’, consisting of coconut milk, pineapple juice, rum and crushed ice, to give you that holiday feeling! You can also play GG Treasure Hunt’s Christmas Island Online Wanderlust Treasure Hunt to give you a better insight on the island’s history, culture and dreamy landscapes.