On Location Christmas Island: Yule Be Glad You Went


Enjoy a glass—or a case—of wine in this duty-free port
Welcome to Christmas Island
A couple enjoys the scenery of Lily Beach
Lisa Preston, Manager, Island Explorer Holidays

Getting There Is Half The Funds

One of Christmas Island's biggest challenges in the development of its tourism industry has been air links to Australia and the rest of the world. With a monopoly on the main route from Perth, Cobham (formerly National Jet Systems) does residents and visitors no favours with regard to the cost of a ticket, which hurts the eyes when calculating the dollar to kilometre ratio.

Who, then, goes to Christmas Island for a holiday when it costs nearly the same as flying to Europe or the US? Well-travelled, wealthy seniors seem to constitute the majority of visitors; they have the time, the money, and the desire to visit someplace unusual. They are well informed before arrival and do not expect the luxuries available on other island destinations in the region; in fact, it seems many of them are trying to get away from luxury and enjoy a simpler lifestyle, even for a short period of a week or two. Nature buffs are the most avid visitors; birdwatchers, divers, and astronomers both amateur and professional could all be classified as ecotourists since that is Christmas Island's most obvious appeal. Residents who do not enjoy the subsidised flights offered government employees may grumble about the fares, but, importantly, the visitors who make it this far seem content enough to pay for the privilege of experiencing one of the world's most unusual islands.

Not everyone comes by plane, though. This year, for the first time in Christmas Island's history, a major cruise ship will come by for a visit. P&O Cruises is capitalising on the island's most valuable intangible asset—it's name—and plans to have Pacific Sun make port at Christmas Island on Christmas Eve. What better place to spend Christmas than Christmas Island? Intrepid navigators and their friends come with their own vessels; more exclusively, Christmas Island is accessible by private yacht.

With regard to places to stay, there are few options; they, though, thankfully do not follow the pricing practices of the airline and offer reasonable accommodation at reasonable prices. The Sunset, for example, is a homey place set above the ocean. As its name implies, it has beautiful views as dusk falls; seeing the sun disappear into the Indian Ocean from the pool is all the better. Tariffs are surprisingly reasonable given the lack of competition and the wonderful inclusion of free WiFi for laptopped guests. For those wanting their own place to stay, The Sanctuary is one of the island's toptions for accommodation. A historical cottage now used for guests, The Sanctuary is more a tastefully decorated private home than a hotel. It has its own pool.

As a duty-free and GST-free port, Christmas Island offers shoppers the lowest prices in Australia for wines and spirits—that's what the other half of the funds are for.

Christmas Island Tourism Association is a helpful resource in planning a visit and is accustomed to assisting travellers and agents who find it difficult to book trips themselves; visit the CITA website for more information. 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. Contact Lisa Preston, Island Explorer's acutely astute manager, for help in planning a visit. Lisa's friendliness is matched by her helpfulness; she is only too glad to be of assistance.

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.

With flights to Christmas Island departing Perth in the morning, it is sometimes necessary for travellers to stay in Perth the night before, giving the opportunity to enjoy the pleasures of Sheraton Perth, conveniently located in East Perth. The Sheraton's five-star accommodation, restaurants, and services make for a wonderful sendoff for upscale travellers before flying off to the island and a great place for reintegration into mainland life on the return.

Appropriately, the art at the airport is made from jetsam
Christmas island attracts visitors taking a break to stop and smell the frangipani


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

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