Majestic ocean views, sultry rainforests, and glorious natural beaches. Let Christmas Island’s salty sea air, intriguing natural lifeforms, and pristine coral reefs seduce you with a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The land that time forgot, this Utopia bubbles with a sense of magic and wonder, offering soul-deep tranquility. A breathtaking tropical island destination north-west of Perth, Christmas Island is an Australian territory of immense beauty, boasting a richly diverse culture and a fascinating history. With 63% of its terrain dedicated as National Park and the island encircled by a narrow coral reef, this remote setting boasts incredible bird and marine life, as well as a captivating crab population. With so many reasons to visit this extraordinary destination, we thought we would highlight the top ones…
1. A moving carpet of crabs – The annual crab migration
Millions of these bright red little chaps scuttling across the ground, from all corners of the island, listening to their biological call from nature. In fact, David Attenborough claimed that watching the natural phenomenon of the annual crab migration was one of his highlights.
Usually, the red crabs – which are a species of land crab that is endemic to Christmas Island – hang out in shady spots, and can be seen all over the island, at all times of the year. Between the months of October to January, at the start of the rainy season, our heroes do a trek (en masse) down to the ocean to breed.
This swarm of crabs looks so impressive due to the scarlet color of the red land crab, but that is only 1 of the 14 species of crab found on the island. Keep an eye out for the Christmas Island Blue Crab, and the coconut crab (aka the robber crab – thanks to its ‘light-fingered’ ways). These little mischiefs have been known to run off with some amazing items and grow to a massive 1 meter in length. Possibly why the early naturalist and sailors who were stranded/shipwrecked/marooned on the island, back in the day, were so well fed.
As far as residents go, these creepy little dudes are well treated. It’s a local island tradition to look after the crabs, and they do have right of way when crossing the road. (Don’t expect to go anywhere in a hurry.) At migration time the island goes to great lengths to see to the safety of the crabs, with kilometers of plastic guard laid out across gutters to funnel the crabs safely on their way to the ocean.
2. The beautiful tropical beaches
Extensive coastline frontage with a backdrop of tropical jungle and magnificent blue seas give these sand and coral beaches an other-worldly feel. Swaying coconut palms, crystal clear waters, rugged volcanic and limestone rock formations, caves, and infinity pools – you could be forgiven for thinking you had arrived in paradise.
Flying Fish Cove is the main settlement, and the beach is a great spot to swim, snorkel and dive from, but when the waters are too rough, you can head over to the sheltered water at Ethel Beach, with its splendid variety of fish and coral. Dolly Beach is a good location to view the large robber crabs, and Greta beach is known for its year-round nesting turtles.
Temperatures on Christmas island stay between about 28 – 22 Celsius. Perfect beach weather, any day of the year.
3. Christmas Island National Park – vast swathes of untainted, protected rainforest
The landscape invites visitors to get out there and experience all it has to offer, in any way you see fit. Stroll, hike, 4wd, and bike. The trails through the Christmas Island National Park offer incredible outlook spots, sweeping ocean vistas, and wonderful photo opportunities.
4. You can dive with whale sharks
Between November and April, you can swim with the world’s largest fish – the whale shark – when scuba diving at Christmas Island. This once-in-a-lifetime experience is one of the island’s best-kept secrets and something truly unforgettable to add to your bucket list.
The sheer size of these creatures when they are alongside you is mind-blowing, humbling, and breathtaking.
5. It’s remote and tranquil
Far-flung and pristine, the sheer majesty of the setting and vast tracts of land given over to nature will provide you with a new lease on life. Isolated beaches afford an appreciation of exclusivity and peace. Explore cool forests and jungles, waterfalls, and rockpools.
Swim and snorkel in the sea and dive the deep waters of the ocean. So many untainted spots to find that overwhelming sense of tranquility.
6. Get up close and personal with dolphins, manta rays and sea turtles
Dolphins are often found around your boat on a diving expedition and a trip out provides a chance to see swimming turtles and manta rays. Greta beach is also a good spot to view year-round nesting turtles.
7. Explore primeval jungle landscape and marvel at the unique wildlife
Dense rainforest, ferns, orchids, and vines cover the island’s high central plateau, and the slopes and terraces down to the sea.
Due to its isolation from the mainland, the island is home to unique fauna and flora, a myriad of creatures including crabs, and rare and endangered bird species endemic to Christmas Island.
8. Nature’s freshwater shower: stand under the Hughs Dale waterfall
Follow the forest stream through the Dales, and it ends in an iconic, scenic waterfall. Visitors may stand under the misty shower for a wonderfully refreshing experience.
9. Superb dive location with over 64 sites: deep waters, coastal caves, coral reefs and marine life
With its long drop-offs, deep waters, and vertical walls, 575 species of tropical fish and whale sharks, the waters around Christmas Island offer incredible scuba diving opportunities. Coastal limestone chambers and caves with stalagmite and stalactites can be explored.
Crystal clear, warm waters and pristine coral reefs provide a chance to view species such as surgeon, butterflyfish, gobies, anemones, eels, sea cucumbers, and clams. You can also see pelagics like trevally, wahoo, tuna, and rainbow runner as well as the occasional shark. Snorkelers may explore the reef straight from the beach at Flying Fish Cove.
10. The rugged coastline and sea-fed blowholes
This unforgettable tropical paradise features a rugged coastline and one of its most fascinating sights is the water surging up through blowholes in the jagged rock when the sea comes in. An elevated boardwalk provides a superb lookout spot. During the annual crab migration, this is even more spectacular, as the red crabs clamber over the rocks while the water crashes around them.
11. The Dales Hiking Trail – beautiful forest, stream, gorge and caves
A variety of trails cut through the glorious landscape of Christmas Island. These trails make the use of boardwalks in some places and open up at photographic hotspots and majestic outlooks. The Dales follows a freshwater stream, passing gorge, Hugh’s Dale Waterfall, and caves carved out over millennia on this 7.2km circuit.
12. The rich cultural diversity – a melting pot of characters and traditions
A history of migrant mining labor meant the influx of Malay, Chinese, Sikh, and Coco people to this once British colony. Now this group of Australians – an intimate population of 2000 – has a well-rounded sense of belonging, and the diverse religions and cultures can be seen throughout the island.
Some examples are the Buddhist and Taoist temples and shrines, the traditional Malay neighborhoods, the Kampong mosque with its call to prayer, and the carefully detailed buildings and gardens. You can visit the Chinese Museum and the historical exhibition at Tai Jin House, the former District Officer’s Residence.
13. The tropical temperatures
As Christmas Island is located in the Southern Indian Ocean it enjoys a wonderful tropical climate with fairly stable temperatures all year round.
From June to November where temperatures reach around 26/27 °C (79/81 °F) and then from December to May the temperatures are even higher at 28/29 °C (82/84 °F). Although watch out for the rainy/wet season which is from November to June.
14. Flying Fish Cove
Flying Fish Cove is the capital city of Australia’s Christmas Island and deserves a special mention of its own. Originally named after the British survey-ship Flying-Fish, it was where the Brits first settled way back in 1888.
Today it’s the location of one best shore dives in the Indian Ocean and one of the most popular beaches on the island and home to hundreds of different species of fish.
15. The unique birdlife
Known as the ‘Galapagos of the Indian Ocean’ Christmas Island is home to a magnificent array of endemic and rare sea and land birds, thanks to the large area of land given over to the national park, and its unique rainforest biosphere. This birder’s paradise has a renowned research and conservation station, the Pink House, a drawcard to visitors and scientists alike.
Some of the stars of the show are the musical Christmas Island Thrush, frigate birds such as the Christmas Island frigate bird, and rare boobies. The endangered Abbotts Booby can be found nesting in towering trees and widespread Brown Booby nests on the ground near the seacliff edge. If you are lucky you might catch a glimpse of the Christmas Island Hawk Owl, and of course, there are noddies and bosuns, Christmas Island Pigeons, and Emerald doves.
Nesting birds, beautiful plumage, some bold behavior, and, of course, fantastic photo opportunities. If you are not already a ‘Twitcher’ then this is your chance to join the movement!
16. The beautiful and unique grotto
A mix of salt and fresh water surrounded by limestone rock, this little coastal pool is the ideal cool-off spot after a day wandering through the scenic surrounds. The coastline also boasts infinity pools along the shore.