Christmas Island is a treasure chest of the Mother Nature because of the biggest collection of marine and terrestrial inhabitants. The Island features one of the longest drop-offs of the world. While taking an underwater adventure in this paradise, you will have a chance to enjoy plenty creatures from the smallest ones like Red Crabs and Blue Ribbon Eel to the gigantic ones like Whale Shark and Manta Ray.
Being discovered on Christmas Day in the 17th century the Territory of Christmas Island is still an isolated Australian destination. It is surrounded by the Indian Ocean while the nearest point is Java which is located 360km (223mi) away. Cocos Islands are another neighboring destination 975km (605mi) away. The mainland of Australia is located within 4-hour flight. There are flights available from Australian Perth, Indonesian Jakarta, and Cocos Islands.
There are no regular buses or taxis on the Island. So if you wish to travel around, it might be a good idea to rent a car from one of the 2 car hire companies. As the number of cars on the island might be limited you’d better book it in advance.
Diving at Christmas Island is determined by its unique location at the peak of the dead volcano which rises from the depth of about 3km (1.8mi) of submarine depression known as Java Trench in the Indian Ocean.
The Island is surrounded by the narrow reef just 20m (65ft.) away from the shore which is followed by a drop-off into the abyss. Corals get enough sunlight and nutrition from the deep that is why Christmas Island has one of the most diversified underwater flora and fauna. Crustaceans, mollusks, reef fish, pelagic and the biggest pelagic can be seen in the waters surrounding the Island.
This destination also gives a chance to enjoy incredible seascapes. Caverns and caves decorated with stalactites and stalagmites; hard and soft corals – all of these can be found around Christmas Island.
There are about 40 different dive sites in this area. Currently, there is only 1 dive center, Wet’ n’ Dry Adventures, that provides daily diving services.
Some diving operators offer combined safaris to cover Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Such packages usually include diving at local sites of each destination, accommodation on the land, transfers on the Islands, and flights between Perth and Islands. There is no liveaboard option for Christmas Island.
Best Dive Sites Overview
Flying Fish Cove
This dive site is referred to as the best shore dive spot which can be found in the Indian Ocean. The coral gardens start right from the surface while the average depth of the dive ranges between 9-18m (29-59ft.). It is estimated that about 90% species of Christmas Island can be seen at this particular dive site including both fish and coral species. Among the brightest reef fish representatives, you can enjoy Raccoon Butterflyfish, Meyer’s Butterflyfish, Yellow Longnose Butterflyfish, Pyramid Butterflyfish, Whitetail Squirrelfish, Coral Rockcod, Freckled Hawkfish, and Bluelined Surgeonfish.
Million Dollar Bommie
Another great site for underwater photography, especially of reef fish, is Million Dollar Bommie. You can find here a pinnacle located between the depths of 6-26m (19-85ft.) not far from the drop-off. So you can combine wall and reef diving here. Among the colorful reef fish inhabitants, you have a chance to see various types of Red Fire Goby, Butterflyfish, Red Pigfish, Mimic Surgeonfish, Fusiliers, Goldspot Seabream, Damselfish, and Velvet Surgeonfish. If you are looking for bigger fish, it might be good to scan blue waters from time to time as Whitetip Reef Shark and Manta might be passing by.
This is one of the most spectacular dive sites which can be used for reef, cave, and photography diving. Though the depth ranges between 5-12m (16-39ft.), the spot is recommended for advanced divers. It is best to dive it with the tide as you will have a chance to go through the tunnel to the large cathedral cave stretching above and below the sea level. You can ascend to the surface into the air-filled dome and enjoy the cave made by the limestone rocks with stalagmite and stalactite structures. Fish is usually represented by schools of Leatherjacket Fish, Velvet Surgeonfish, and Ornate Butterflyfish.
West White Beach Cave
At this dive site, you can enjoy a fantastic coral garden between 12-18m (39-59ft.). It is mainly famous for its hard corals. You will have a chance to find huge Table Coral some of which reach 3m (9ft.) in diameter, Staghorn Corals, and Porites. There is a picturesque cavern with 2 entrances where you can make amazing silhouette photos. The cavern gives shelter to many reef fish and Lionfish.
This is one of the deepest and furthest dive spots at Christmas Island which is recommended only for advanced divers. It will take you about 45 minutes to get there by boat. The rock formation near a small island reminds the head of the pig and it goes down to 80m (262ft.). It is located in the deep water that is why you can face strong current. Pig Rock is the best place to see big pelagic and predators besides beautiful corals, reef fish, Tunas, and Barracudas. Usually, the visibility is excellent, about 50m (164ft.) so you can spot every creature passing by. Depending on the season this could be Manta, Whale Shark, Whitetip Reef Shark, Grey Reef Shark, Hammerhead Shark, Oceanic Whitetip Reef Shark. Even though Tiger Shark is a rare guest at Christmas Island, there is a chance to spot it as well.
If you fancy wrecks then there is one for you at Christmas Island. M/S Eidsvold used to be a 94m (308ft.) long Norwegian cargo vessel. In 1942, it was supposed to carry a cargo of 3700 tons phosphates as Christmas Island hosted one of the main phosphate mines in this region. Due to the bad weather the boat had to wait for better times near the Island when a Japanese submarine fired a torpedo. The vessel broke into 2 parts and sank while the crew managed to get out to the Island.
Now one part of the vessel makes a perfect wreck. It is suitable even for the beginners as it lies at the depth of 5-18m (16-59ft.). The dive site is full of corals and marine life.
Though almost all dives at Christmas Island can involve wall diving above the drop-off, the Perpendicular Wall is one of the most beautiful spots. The reef starts at 5m (16ft.) going down to 50m (164ft.). The wall is covered with different corals including huge Sea Fans, Feather Stars, and Fire Corals. You can enjoy all types of reef fish, pelagic, and sharks. Among the wonderful small creatures, you can try to spot Blue Ribbon Eels which are often seen at this dive site. Dolphins are regular guests of this spot, though they are usually seen from the surface.
Best Dive Season
Diving is possible all the year round at Christmas Island. If you wish to watch Whale Sharks then it is better to arrive during their annual migrations in December-February. It is also possible to see these magnificent creatures in March and April.
Manta Rays are usually seen during November-March.
The months between November and January are famous for endemic Christmas Island Red Crabs annual migrations. This is a spectacle not to be forgotten.
The dive conditions at Christmas Islands can be estimated as perfect: warm waters, great visibility, and rare strong currents. The average visibility is 20-40m (65-131ft.) with the possibility to encounter more than 50m (164ft.).
There are 2 main seasons at the Island: wet and dry. The wet season lasts between November and March. You can encounter monsoons and Tropical cyclones with rain, wind, and waves. In this period, it might be difficult to dive on the northern side of the Island. Thus, diving is usually made on the opposite side of Christmas Island. Visibility decreases to 20m (65ft.) and the water temperature stays at 28°C (82°F). However, this is the high time for Manta and Whale Shark.
The dry season lasts between April-October when the sea is calm; the visibility is the best, though the sea temperature slightly decreases to 26°C (78°F).
Currents are usually weak or medium, and they can be used for relaxed drifts. There are a few spots with strong currents which are recommended only for experienced divers.
The marine life of Christmas Island includes more than 100 species of hard and soft corals and more than 650 species of fish, some of which are endemic. The Island is famous for the largest amount of hybrids because fish of the Pacific and the Indian Ocean is mixed and interbreed here. Currently, 11 types of hybrids are registered at the Island, among them, there are unique Butterflyfish, Angelfish, Surgeonfish, Triggerfish, Toadfish, and Wrasse. All of them have a mixture of colors of their Pacific and Indian relatives.
Among the other species of reef fish, you can find Unicornfish, Pufferfish, Parrotfish,Goatfish, Damselfish (including the most popular Clownfish), and Moorish Idol. Coral reefs also give shelter to 34 species of Morays at the Island. Crustaceans include more than 20 species of crabs. However, the main one is Red Crab which has got the worldwide fame for a spectacular migration during the wet season. Crabs move from the forest to the sea in order to breed by releasing their eggs into the water. The rain helps to protect crabs and allow them to travel long distances. If you want to know the exact timing when to watch this spectacle, you need to check the period of the last quarter of the moon. Usually, it happens right at this stage. Tide is also important, it needs to be high to give shelter for the eggs.
Ocean fish of the region is represented by Barracuda, Trevally, Tuna, Wahoo, Mackerel, and Rainbow Runner. If you have a quick eye you might even spot bigger species like Swordfish and Marlin.
The largest creatures which can be enjoyed in the waters around Christmas Island are Manta, Whale Shark, Dolphin, and Green Turtle. The arrival of Whale Sharks between November and March corresponds to the arrival of plankton and Christmas Island Red Crab migration.
Among sharks, the most common species which can be seen in this area are Whitetip Reef Shark, Silvertip Reef Shark, Grey Reef Shark, and Oceanic Whitetip Reef Shark. They were cases when Tiger Shark was spotted in the area.
Both hard and soft corals can be found all over the area and their condition is very good. They have not been touched by the coral bleaching which has been evidenced at the Great Barrier Reef at the end of 2015 – beginning of 2016.
There are not many accommodations to choose from on the Island and none of them provide a 5-star or relevant type of luxury services. Some of the accommodations do not have a reception on site. However, you can still choose from rooms, suites, and stand-alone villas and houses. All of them are usually clean and comfortable; some of the places feature self-catering facilities. Usually, accommodations do not include breakfast, lunch, and dinner which can be ordered separately.
Christmas Island Resort
This is one of the best resorts located in the Waterfall Bay. It provides accommodation in Rooms and Suites. All of them feature A/C and twin, double or queen-size beds. The resort features a pool, a restaurant, a bar, a nightclub, and a reception on site. There are special packages offered for honeymooners. The Resort is ready to provide airport transfers and WiFi at an additional charge.
The Sanctuary Adult Retreat Christmas Island
The Sanctuary is a stand-alone villa with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms which can accommodate up to 4 adult guests. It is situated in the Settlement within a 5-minute walk to the beach. Each of the bedrooms is equipped with the queen-size bed, A/C, a fan, and a wardrobe. The villa with a mixture of French and Asian décor features a fully equipped kitchen, an outdoor pool, a sun terrace, and BBQ facilities.
The Cocos Padang Lodge
The Resort provides accommodation in 3-bedrooms Lodge with 2 rooms featuring queen-size beds and 1 room with 2 single beds; 2 bedroom Lodge with either 2 queen-size beds or 1 queen-size bed and 2 single beds; and 1 bedroom Lodge with the choice of either 1 queen-size bed or 2 single beds. All rooms have a bathroom, a kitchen, A/C, TV, and laundry facilities.
This Cottage for 2 persons is located near the Isabel Beach and not far from the National Park of Christmas Island. It combines Chinese and European design. There is a fully equipped kitchen, a living room, and a terrace surrounded by the tropical trees. Guests are provided with free WiFi.
The Sunset Hotel can be found in Flying Fish Cove. It offers the choice of 12 rooms in the two-floor building. You can book a Standard Room, Ocean View Room, and Superior Ocean View Room. The latter two feature a balcony. Each of the rooms has a private bathroom, a fan on the ceiling, A/C, TV, a microwave, ironing facilities, a small fridge, tea and coffee facilities. There are also common kitchen facilities which can be used by the guests. WiFi is provided free of charge. There are an outdoor pool and a BBQ zone.
Other Activities For Non-Divers
Snorkeling at Christmas Island is just amazing with all the marine life and coral gardens around. Reefs start very close to the coastline which makes it great for snorkeling. The best sites are Flying Five Cove and Ethel Beach. The latter is sheltered from the waves which allow snorkeling even when the sea is rough in other areas.
Christmas Island National Park
If you love nature and prefer to get acquainted not only with marine life at Christmas Island, then it is highly recommended to visit National Park which occupies the larger territory of the Island. It hosts many rare and endemic species like Christmas Island Red Crab, Christmas Island Frigatebird, Abbott’s Booby, Christmas Island Shrew, Christmas Island flying fox, Giant Gecko, Blue-tailed Skink, and many others. There are 5 species of reptiles, 3 species of mammals and 10 types of birds that can be found only here.
You can explore the Park by taking trekking tours or birds-watching tours. Some travel agencies offer photo safaris. You can also try “bush bashing” or four-wheel driving as an option to discover the Island.
Dolly and Greta beaches are famous places on Christmas Island to spot Green Sea Turtle and Hawksbill Turtle. The best time to see them nesting is between November and February. Usually, the small turtles appear in January and February.