Christmas Island is the top of a volcanic mountain coming up from the ocean floor. Most of the island is a national park and is fringed all over with reefs. The diving options here are astoundingly varied, with shallow dive sites in Flying Fish Cove, an amazing wall dive that starts 20 metres off the shore and goes down hundreds of metres, wreck diving in Eidsvold Wreck and cave diving in Thundercliffe Cave where you can explore the cave with your feet.
Location of Christmas Island
Christmas Island is 135 sq km in size and is situated in the Indian Ocean with Java on its northern side at a distance of 380 km and Northwest Cape (Australia) to its southeast at a distance of 1565 km. The cities of Perth and Darwin in Australia are on its southeast side at a distance of 2608 km and 2747 km respectively. Though the island is a part of Australia, location-wise it is closer to Indonesia.
What You Can Do in Christmas Island
Christmas Island is a small volcanic island that rises from the deep in the Indian Ocean, located 2,600 kilometres northwest of Perth, Western Australia and 360 kilometres from Jakarta. The island is an Australian Territory, and is particularly well known for its annual red crab migration and spawning during October to December. An estimated 100 million or more of the red crabs call the island home.
63% of the island has been set aside as a national park. Christmas Island provides shelter for many endemic species, and given its location, acts as an oasis in the sea for marine line. Marine organisms, large and small, congregate around the island, with whalesharks, mantas, dolphins and hammerheads regularly sighted. With a population of approximately 1,500 people, the island is pristine both above and below the waves.
Hard and soft corals, myriads of tropical fish and unspoiled marine vistas await visiting divers.
The diving options in Christmas Island are remarkably wide-ranging. This is the main reason for the island attracting divers throughout the year. However, other educational and entertainment options are also aplenty in Christmas Island.
- Christmas Island has plenty of rainforests. If you are interested in 4WD offroad excursions through mud and rocks and gravel, this is the right place for it. Four-wheel driving is known in the island as ‘bush bashing’.
- The island has lots of large red crabs and their seaward mass migration in the months of December to February for laying eggs is a major tourist attraction. The migration is connected to the moon’s phases, and the female crabs discharge their eggs into the sea when the high tide turns during the moon’s last quarter.
- Christmas Island is home to endangered species of turtles, namely hawksbill sea turtle and green sea turtle, and their egg-laying rituals at night are also interesting to watch.
- Lily Beach has BBQ facilities, and a swimming pool that is separated from the sea by a rocky outcrop. The beach is accessible by 2WD vehicles when the road is dry but requires 4WD when the road becomes wet or slushy.
- Dolly Beach is a sandy beach ringed with basalt outcrops, and a freshwater stream coming down from the cliffs and flowing through the beach. It is a popular campsite of tourists and nesting place of sea turtles. The beach can be accessed at the end of an hour’s 4WD drive and a 45 minutes downhill trek.
- A major tourist attraction is Blowholes, which are a unique geological manifestation along the limestone cliffs on the southern coast of Christmas Island. These are holes in the ground through which air and water gushes out as high plumes making an unusual sound.
- The place is good for boating, snorkelling, game fishing, hiking, and mountain biking.
- There are caves to explore but it should ideally be done only under the guidance of a local person who knows the place inside out.
- There is a 9-hole golf course for golf lovers, and there is a golf tournament on May 20, 21 & 22 in 2016.
- Fresh seafood, varieties of Asian food, and cheap drinks at bars (because the place is duty-free) are some other attractions of Christmas Island.
Best Time to Visit Christmas Island
The best time to visit Christmas Island will depend on what exactly you want to see. If you would like to witness the fantastic red crab migration, November to January are the best months. Whale sharks frequent the waters around the island from December to February though they have been spotted in March and April also. For snorkelling, the dry season from April to October is the best. And if you want to watch migratory birds, the best time is from September to February.
Best Dive Season
In Christmas Island you can dive all year round. But it is during the dry season that visibility is high and the sea is calm. During the wet season from November to March the sea may become rough occasionally and visibility is comparatively less. However, it is the sea fringing the northern edge of the island that becomes rough during the rainy season. The eastern side remains safe enough for diving.
It is possible to dive the entire year. Many people choose to visit during the red crab spawning season, when there is a higher likelihood of encountering whalesharks and manta rays, coming in to feed on red crab larvae.
However, the island’s dry season is from April to October, characterised by southeast tradewinds, which bring a cool, comfortable temperature and low levels of precipitation. Average temperature ranges from 22º Celsius in August to 28º Celsius in April.
Where to Stay in Christmas Island
Christmas Island is steadily increasing the number of its hotels and resorts to accommodate the rising number of tourists who flock to its shores every year. However, the island already has luxury and budget accommodations to serve all types of tourists.
Christmas Island Resort
This is a luxury resort with amenities like swimming pool, restaurant, bar, nightclub, found-the-clock front desk, laundry service, and many more. Their Deluxe rooms and different types of Executive Suite rooms are designed to accommodate single persons, couples, groups, and families. The resort organizes many recreational activities like scuba diving, snorkelling, bird watching, deep-water fishing, and guided rainforest walks. It also provides space and amenities for hosting corporate events, training sessions, seminars etc.
Captain’s Last Resort
Captain’s Last Resort, situated in Flying Fish Cove, huddles among palm trees and gazes out at the Indian Ocean. Its location shields the occupants from crowds and noise but it is still quite close to shops and other activities of the island. There is a garden, terrace, en-suite bathroom, kitchenette, safety box, refrigerator, and tea/coffee making facilities. You can view sunset comfortably from within the resort. Guests are given bread and milk on arrival, and if they are a honeymooning couple, they are welcomed with champagne and chocolate. You have to stay here for a minimum of three days or pay the charges of 3 days even if you can stay only for two days. It is designed for the stay of a single individual or two people.
The Sunset has Superior Ocean View Rooms and Ocean View Rooms, both of which offer dazzling views of the ocean, and Standard Rooms where ocean becomes visible only from the poolside. Rooms are air-conditioned and have Wi-Fi, TV, telephone, small fridge, microwave, toaster, iron, and coffee/tea making facilities. There is an outdoor swimming pool, car park, BBQ facility, and workstations for businessmen. Across the road there is a hotel named VQ3 Lodge and those staying at The Sunset are free to make use of its coin laundry and communal kitchen.
Sea Spray Villa
Sea Spray Villa is in The Settlement, which is an old and protected part of Christmas Island where Flying Fish Cove, which is a port and important city of the island, is also located. The resort is perched near a cliff so that the occupants can get a good view of the Indian Ocean where Java is only 300 km away. It has only one bedroom with a queen-size bed but you can get an extra bed on request. It has a well-equipped kitchen, laundry service, BBQ facility, TV, Wi-Fi, DVD player, and push bikes for those who need it to get around. The villa is meant for a maximum of 3 people.
How to Reach Christmas Island
There is a once-weekly, 2-hour flight between Singapore and Christmas Island operated jointly by AustAsia Airlines and SilkAir. It’s also possible to travel from Perth.
Virgin Australia has flights from Perth to Christmas Island Airport (XCH). The flying time is three hours and fifty minutes. The charter flight from Kulala Lumpur to Christmas Island on every Saturday, with a flying time of one hour and thirty-five minutes, is now suspended. There is a charter flight once in a fortnight from Jakarta to Christmas Island.
There are no regular ferry services to Christmas Island but cruise ships and yachts stop at Flying Fish Cove.
Getting Around in Christmas Island
Taxis or other forms of public transport are not there in Christmas Island. So it is safe to book a car in advance. SUVs, 4WDs, and ordinary cars are available for hire and you can comfortably explore the island in any one of these, depending upon which part of the island you want to visit. You can also ride a bike or walk across the island towards many of its natural wonders. When you are passing through the more inhabited parts, it is easy to get a lift from local people.
Things to Know While Travelling in Christmas Island
Christmas Island is an interesting melting pot of races and cultures. People of Chinese origin dominate in number, being about 60% of the population. Malays are about 20%, Europeans 10%, and the remaining population is Eurasian and Indian. Buddhists are about 75%, with 12% Christians and 10% Muslims. Other smaller faiths like Taoism, Confucianism, and Baha’i are also prevalent in the island.
For many residents, Malay or a Chinese dialect is their native tongue. However, English is widely spoken and understood.
No vaccinations are required to enter Christmas Island but it will be good to get the general vaccinations against tetanus, polio, diphtheria, hepatitis B etc. If you have been to a country where yellow fever is prevailing, a week or less before coming to Christmas Island, you require vaccination for yellow fever.
Remember to carry a first aid kit and medicines for headache, fever, diarrhoea, sea sickness etc.
Shopping and Eateries
Shops are not too many, but you can get things cheap in Christmas Island. Local clothes, handicraft items, fishing gear, souvenirs, and snorkelling equipment are the main merchandise. There are restaurants offering western and Chinese food, and there are also barbecue and picnic spots where you can cook yourself. Cooking ingredients or readymade foods are available at many local stores.
An Australian Driving Licence is valid in Christmas Island. But if a person stays there for more than a year, he must get a Christmas Island Driving Licence. An International Driving Licence will allow you to drive in Christmas Island but you should show your National Driving Licence too along with it.
Passport and Visa Requirements
Christmas Island is an Australian Territory. Visas are required for non-Australian passports. Many countries are now able to provide ETA’s (Electronic Travel Authorities) issued via travel agents. See www.immi.gov.au for details.
Everyone entering Christmas Island must have a valid passport. About visa, the rules are the same as mainland Australia since the island is a part of it.
Australia offers a visitor visa and a tourist visa. The former is for temporary entry into the country as a tourist and the latter is for a longer stay of three, six, or twelve months. There is also an ETA (Electronic Travel Authority) visa issued by the Australian government for people of 42 nationalities. People who have any of these can visit Christmas Island also.
Scuba Diving in Christmas Island?
Check out our Christmas Island dive guide and start planning your next dive trip!