On Location Christmas Island: The Australápagos


Welcome to two-thirds of the island
The Cliffs Of Moher in the Indian Ocean—not quite, but Christmas Island is as green as Ireland
The Blowholes emit haunting sounds, as they have for millions of years
Christmas Island's robber crab is known also as the coconut crab. It's a big one

Jurassic Park In Real Life

Uninhabited until 1888, Christmas Island is Nature's laboratory.  Like its Pacific counterpart, The Galápagos Islands, Christmas Island is an Indian Ocean showcase of plants and animals found nowhere else in the world.  See them while you can.

While not as big as tyrannosaurus rex, the robber crabs (known as coconut crabs in the rest of the world) are certainly prehistoric in appearance.  These are the world's largest land invertebrates, and their dominance of the island's forests is as impressive as it is surreal.  Forests ruled by crabs?!  Sounds like a Hollywood script, but on Christmas Island, it's just another day. 

In the sea, there is plenty to see.  Local divers love their waters—not surprising given the diversity of marine life found just off the coast, where underwater caves provide excitement for more intrepid submariners.  Dive outfits Christmas Island Divers and Wet 'n Dry Adventures are the places for visitors for gear as well as for inside information on where to go and what to see.  Whalesharks are big draws here; the deep ocean waters are only metres from the shore, so big fish normally seen far out to sea are very close.

Concern for the ecosystem is bringing increasingly aware visitors to places like Christmas Island.  Some people want to see ancient plants and unusual animals before they disappear, others come to assist in their conservation by participating in events such as Bird Week.  One experience with a dedicated naturalist will deepen appreciation of the fragility of the planet. You don't need to be an Olympic athlete to access the most interesting places; nature walks are among the most popular excursions on the island.  Christmas Island is the perfect ecotourism destination; its plants and wildlife, which in general are unafraid of humans, can be observed at close range. 

In a place such as Christmas Island, where the delicate balance of Nature has only recently experienced the interference of humans, the results are exponential when compared to other land masses.  Some of the problems originate far away, further demonstrating the interdependency of humans and other species all over the world.  For example, why would overfishing deep-sea creatures cause the feral cat population to increase?  Cats are a big problem in a habitat where they run riot over the local birdlife.  Usually, the big game fish we enjoy grilled such as tuna and wahoo push smaller fish to the surface, thus facilitating the work for seabirds who eat the smaller fish.  When tuna and other fish populations are decimated, the birds do not find the small fish at the surface; for them, it's like starving while staring into a full refrigerator.  The adult birds are then obliged to fly further and longer to find food, leaving their babies unattended for longer periods—and we know what happens to baby birds when cats are in the neighbourhood.

Prehistoric skies are also part of the package on Christmas Island, where even the heavens above are like few other places in the world.  The end of August saw Astronomy Week attendees peering through their telescopes with added enthusiasm.  We citydwellers often forget that observation of the unpolluted night sky is one of the most uplifting of experiences.  These days, it is only in very isolated spots on the Earth where neither meteorological nor human interference is absent in the pursuit of a clear, dark night.  In true darkness, it's amazing what you see:  the stars, of course—millions of them—but also planets, shooting stars, satellites, and the Milky Way, that long forgotten answer to a grammar-school test question is still out there in all its celestial beauty.

For more information, visit the website of the Christmas Island Tourism Association.  CITA is a helpful resource in planning a visit and is accustomed to assisting travellers and agents who find it difficult to book trips themselves.  Island Explorer Holidays is Christmas Island's wholesaler and is able to put together the flights, accommodation, and activities desired and present them as an all-in-one holiday.  Right now, Australians and New Zealanders can fly most easily through Perth, flying Virgin Blue from any of the mainland state capitals (as well as Darwin) to connect with flights to Christmas Island, which currently depart Perth three days a week (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays).  From Asia, access via KL or Singapore on Malaysia Airlines' Saturday charter flights is easiest.  Isolated as it is, Christmas Island is only one stop away from most of the major population centres of the world; whether coming from London, Paris, Frankfurt, Shanghai, Tokyo, Mumbai, or Johannesburg, visitors are able to connect through Asia with little fuss before they arrive in one of the planet's unique getaway destinations.

banding a bird
Scientists work hard to keep Christmas
Island's unique ecosystem in balance
Red crabs are excellent housekeepers;
their forest floors are immaculate
sunset over a primeval island


Source = e-Travel Blackboard: R.L.B

Comments are closed.