Wednesday, 31 May 2017

CHRISTMAS ISLAND: Visit Christmas island

Christmas Island is one of the islands of the Indian Ocean, south of Indonesia and some distance northwest of Australia, of which it is a territory.

Christmas Island rises to a central plateau of stands of rainforest. Its 80km coastline is an almost continuous sea cliff up to 20 metres high, with a few shallow bays of small sand and coral shingle beaches.

The largest of these forms the island's only port, Flying Fish Cove.

Settled Areas on Christmas Island

- Settlement

- Kampong(or Flying Fish Cove)

- Silver City

- Poon Saan

- Drumsite

Named in 1643 for the day of its discovery, the island was annexed and settlement was begun by the UK in 1888. Phosphate mining began in the 1890s. The UK transferred sovereignty to Australia in 1958. Almost two-thirds of the island has been declared a national park.

The Australian Government in 2001 agreed to support the creation of a commercial space-launching site on the island, which now looks unlikely to proceed after funding was withdrawn.

Steep cliffs along coast rise abruptly to central plateau. Rain forest covers the majority of the island, with small areas of the island under rehabilitation from mining. Sandy to Rocky beaches scattered along the coastline of the island separated by steep limestone cliffs.

Phosphate mining was the the reason for first settlement in the 19th century and is still a major contributor to the local economy.

The island is also the place of entry for immigrants seeking asylum in Australia. Migrants from Southeast Asia make the journey by sea, often on rickety, over crowded boats that are weighed down with passengers and personal belongings. It is a dangerous trip and sometimes the boats capsize before they arrive. The Australian government operates a detention center on the island for these asylum seekers.

Visiting Christmas Island

There are four weekly flights from Perth, Australia with Virgin, who also offer three connecting flights to the Cocos Islands. Fares from about A$520 one way.

Australian Indian Ocean Territories Airlines used to offer the only international flight on a chartered Malaysia Airlines aircraft from Kuala Lumpur or Singapore every Saturday but these flights have been discontinued as of March 2013.

Possibly there will be a weekly or fortnightly flight from Jakarta on a chartered Garuda aircraft by late 2013.

There is no passenger chartered boat services to Christmas Island, however Flying Fish Cove is frequented by yachts and cruise ships as a stop off.

Christmas Island has 80 kilometres of shoreline but only small parts of the shoreline are easily accessible. The island's perimeter is embodied by sharp cliff faces, making many of the island's beaches difficult to get to.

Some of the easily accessible beaches include Flying Fish Cove (main beach), Lily Beach, Ethel Beach, and Isabel Beach, while the more difficult beaches to access include Greta Beach, Dolly Beach, Winifred Beach, Merrial Beach, and West White Beach, which all require a vehicle with four wheel drive and a difficult walk through dense rainforest.

The culture of Christmas Island is unique, for people of many different ethnicities inhabit the area. The majority of residents are Chinese, but Europeans and Malays reside there as well with small Indian and Eurasian communities too. The main languages of Christmas Island are English and Chinese.

Dress is usually modest, and tourists should keep a wrap, such as a sarong or pareo, on hand to cover shorts, bathing suits, and tank tops. It is common to remove shoes when entering a house and to also avoid touching anyone's head.

Religious beliefs are diverse, but people are very tolerant of each other's religions. The religions practised include Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Islam, and Christianity.

There is a Mosque in Flying Fish Cove. With all of these religions, there are many religious festivals, such as Spring Festival, Hari Raya, Christmas and Easter. Additionally, there is a Bahá'í centre on the island.

Christmas Island is well known for its biological diversity. There are many rare species of animals and plants on the island, making nature-walking a popular activity. Along with the diversity of species, many different types of caves exist, such as plateau caves, coastal caves, raised coastal caves and alcoves, sea caves, fissure caves, collapse caves and basalt caves; most of these are near the sea and have been formed by the action of water.

Altogether, there are 42 caves on the island,with Lost Lake Cave, Daniel Roux Cave and Full Frontal Cave being the most well-known. The many freshwater springs include Hosnies Spring Ramsar, which also has a mangrove stand. The Dales is a rainforest in the western part of the island and consists of seven deep valleys, all of which were formed by spring streams. Hugh's Dale waterfall is part of this area and is a popular attraction.

The annual breeding migration of the red crabs is a popular event. Fishing is another common activity. There are many distinctive species of fish in the oceans surrounding Christmas Island. Snorkeling and swimming in the ocean are two other activities that are extremely popular.

Walking trails are also very popular, for there are many beautiful trails surrounded by extravagant flora and fauna. 63% of the island is national park making it one of the main attractions to experience when visiting.

Dales - The Dales comprises of numerous freshwater streams running roughly parallel to each other. The streams originate from underground caves and eventually flows into the ocean. The streams over the length of time, have worn out gullies between the cliff walls of the coast, and have created unusually step-like formations (terraces).

There is a waterfall above the terrace formations, vistors are often fond of taking showers under the waterfall.

The Dales are located in lush tropical rainforest which is known for its unique fauna, such as the blue crab and blind snake and flora such as giant buttrest root trees.

The Dales area has signage and raised walkways/steps installed by the national parks departmant for visitors.

Located in the national park at the south west portion of the island. The Dales can only be reached via 4WD and trekking by foot.

Lily Beach - Tragically named after a girl who was swept off the rocks at the beach never to be found. The beach comprises a sandy area running down to a bathing pool, the pool is seperated from the open ocean by rocky basalt/limestone outcrops. The pool is constantly fed sea water from the gullies leading to the ocean and the whitewash generated from the waves hitting the cliffs and outcrop.

Caution is advised when venturing past the bathing pool on to the rocky outcrops, as large freak waves have known to swamp the rocky outcrops. Lest you meet the same fate as Lily!

Located in the 'snout of the dog' eastern part of the island, this beach can be accessed by normal 2 wheel drive vehicles when road conditions are dry and only with a 4WD when roads are wet.

Wooden pergola and BBQ facilities are avaliable.

Blowholes - A geological feature located along the steep limestones cliffs along the southern coastline of the island, the Blowholes comprise of holes in the ground where air and seawater are blown out due to waves crashing into caves formed along the bottom of the cliffs. Depending on wave conditions, the water and trapped air in the caves are forced out from the holes formed at the top of the cliff caves, leading to spectacular plumes of water thrown up into the air. Distinctive sound of gushing air can heard from the holes when the waves crash onto the cliffs.

Dolly Beach - An isolated beach, 1 hour drive by 4WD over rocky step tracks and then another 45 minutes trek on foot downhill. Well worth the trip.

A white sandy beach sheltered and ringed by black basalt outcrops 5 meters from the shoreline. The rear of the beach are lined with overhanging coconut trees, there is a clear stream flowing through the middle of the beach from the cliffs above.

A fairly scenic beach, this is a favorite camping site for locals and visitors alike, due to availability of drinkable freshwater from the stream and 'exotic secluded beach paradise' ambiance.

Dolly beach is also a favorite nesting locations for endangered sea turtles, is it very common on most nights to have one or more turtles make their way up onto the beach from the sea, and lay their eggs into holes dug by the turtles themselves. After laying the eggs, the turtle refills the hole with sand and make their way back to the sea.

Witnessing this event is magically and memorable. The turtles if startled prior to laying their eggs, will return back to the sea. It is recommended you do not shine any torch light in their eyes or make loud noise. Disturbing the turtles or poaching the eggs are illegal.

Other Places:

- Margaret Knoll

- Nursery Lookout

- Flying Fish Cove

- Administrators House known locally as "Buck House"

- Historical World War 2 Artillery Bunker past the Buck House

- South Point

- Greta Beach

- Freshwater Caves

- Grotto

- West White Beaches

- Ethel Beach

- Waterfall/Casino

Explore

- View the spectacular world famous Christmas Island Red Crab Migration normally during the October - December months.

- Diving or Snorkeling off the 'Drop Off' at Flying Fish Cove

- Whale Shark Watching

- Game Fishing on chartered boat

- Rock Fishing

- Caving (Warning - Seek local advice before setting out to any caves)

- 4- Wheel Driving, known locally as 'Bush bashing'

- Mountain Biking

- Relax by the beach or on the patio with a cold beer

- Duty Free cheap drinks at numerous bars and taverns on the island

- Historical Trail Self Tours

- Hiking

Touring

Walk, ride, or hire of cars/4WD/SUV. You can hike around the settled areas of island, as most locals are happy to give a ride to visitors.

Languages

As a territory of Australia, English is the most common language spoken on Christmas Island, but is not universal. Many senior residents speak dialects of Chinese and Malay as a first language. All signs are in English.

Shopping

The Island has "duty free" status, and shop prices for perfume and alcohol are very low compared to even duty-free shops on the Australian mainland. But when doing your groceries, double check for the expiry date mostly with the super cheap items. Expired items might gone for few months back.


Christmas Island Supermarket

Gaze Road, Settlement - Usual Supermarket lines / groceries, fresh bread, fruit and vegtables, wine, beer and spirts.

Christmas Island Visitor Information Centre - Gift Shop

Run by the Christmas Island Tourism Association located at the Visitor Information Centre, Gaze Road, Settlement. A range of souvenirs from Australia and Christmas Island, local craft, T-shirts, Christmas Island Books, posters, maps and videos, jewellery, pottery, postcards and much, much more.

Gaseng only place to buy gas and closes on public holiday's

Australian standard Diesel Automotive fuel and unleaded petrol: 2 stroke mix out board motors: 20L jerricans for loan to refuel yachts - free transport to and from the jetty and able to fuel larger yachts on application.

Gold N Things Duty Free

Cosmetics, perfumes, watches, jewellery, sunglasses, leather goods, top shelf liquor, giftware

Island Pharmacy And News

Dispersing of prescriptions and supply of vitamins, pharmaceuticals, toiletries, make-up, first aid items, suncare and sunglasses. Open :Mon to Fri 9:00am - 5:00pm and Saturday 9:00am - 12 noon.

Lintex Marketing

Whitegoods, stereo equipment and accessories. Music CDs, DVDs, PC and other console games. Open :Mon, Tue, Wed 10:00am - 3:00pm, Thu, Fri 10:00am - 6:00pm, Sat 9:00am - 12:30pm

Lucky Lukes

Range of clothing and unique giftware from around the world. Open :Mon - Fri 9am till 5 pm and Sat 9am - 1pm Contact Bridgette or Ron Lines.

The Red Crab Surf'n'sound

ShopSurf wear and accessories, sunglasses, shoes range of music CDs.

Shorefire Fishing Shop

Reels, rods, lures and expert advise for your fishing trip. Surf and sportswear, camping equipment, ice.

Westpac Bank

All your banking or money changing needs. Oh, provided that doesn't include using an ATM (there are private ATMs at the Poon Saan shops though). Open :9am - 3pm Monday to Friday, until 4.30pm Wednesdays

Wild Papaya

Gallery, Gifts and Homewares. Unique Gift Ideas, Handcrafted Australian Jewellery, Christmas Island Photography and Art. Located in the Temple Court. Open :Tuesday - Friday 11am - 5 pm; Saturday 9am - 12 pm

Listing referenced from Christmas Island Tourism Association website http://Christmas.net.au

Dine & Wine

There are several restaurants on Christmas Island serving Western and Asian cuisine.

Lucky Ho Restaurant, Lot 236 Poon Saan Rd.

Christmas Island Resort - Waterfall Restaurant

Western Food and Asian Food - Modern International - Steaks, Pasta, Pizza. Located at the Christmas Island Resort. Open :Everyday for Breakfast and Dinner with Sunday Roasts.

KooKai'z Cafe'

Western and Asian Food - Coffee, milkshakes, slushies and cool drinks. Located at the Christmas Island Recreation Centre. Opened: Tues-Sun

Golden Bosun Tavern

Rocky Point Complex, Gaze Road Settlement. Modern International fare, with a dessert selection and coffee. Uninterrupted views of the Indian Ocean from the restaurant verandah Dinner served 6 nights per week, closed Monday. Restaurant : 5.30pm - 8.30pm Bar : 4pm till late.

Longs Bakery

Mon - Fri :Fresh bread daily including white, wholemeal, wholegrain and rolls containing Kaya paste; Coconut and chicken sausage rolls. Thurs: Sticky Buns Sat :Closed but bread is still available from shops listed below. Sun: Fresh bread and french sticks Available from Boong Trading, Meng Chong Trading, and Metro Enterprises.

Rockfall Cafe

Huge range of burgers, rolls, sandwiches, delicious meals and fresh salads, Fresh coffee and cakes BYO - Eat in or Take away Open :6 days 7:30am - 1:30pm (closed Sunday).

Rumah Tinggi Tavern & Restaurant

Gaze Road Settlement. The Rumah Tinggi offers modern Australian fare, fine wine and cocktails. With uninterrupted views of the Indian Ocean and a spacious open air verandah - the perfect location to watch the sunset or the moon rise over the Indian Ocean. Bar open 5pm till late - Dinner - 9 pm. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

Season's Palace

Poon Saan area - upstairs from the Poon Saan Shops. Offers authentic chinese dishes in air conditioned comfort.

As Christmas Island is duty free, alcohol is usually lower priced than the Australian mainland. Some of the bars and taverns are:

Tracks at Drumsite
Golden Bosun
Pool Hall at Poon Saan
Rumah Tinggi, coconut grove, settlement.

Accomodation

Seven possibilities for accommodation exist on the island, five of which are in the main settlement. Of the other two, one is located next to the island's waterfall whilst the other is further out in an area called Poon Saan.

Accommodation available:

- Christmas Island Resort

- The Cabin

- Captain's Last Resort

- Christmas Island Lodge

- Hibiscus House

- Mango Tree Lodge

- The Retreat

- Rumah Biru Cottage

- The Sanctuary

- Sea Gazin

- Sunset

- VQ3 Lodge

For further details, bookings or enquiries visit the Christmas Island Tourism Association website on http://www.christmas.net.au/accommodation.php

Christmas Island District High School is the main school on the island, Year 1 to Year 10 is taught based on the Western Australian Curriculum.

Employment

It is difficult for non-locals to find employment on Christmas Island. The largest employers on the island are the small scale phosphate mining and federal/local government.

The most common way of obtaining employment on Christmas Island for non-locals is to check government positions advertised on the Australian mainland (Federal Government Employment Gazette), there are occasionally posting for teachers on several years contract from Australia.

National Parks, Federal Police and positions related to the Detention Center are occasional advertised on Newspaper and Government Gazette.

Also check http://apsjobs.gov.au online for posting at Christmas Island.
Stay safe

The island is safe all times of the day in the populated areas, locals usually leave their houses and car unlocked. There are no poisonous or dangerous animals/insects on the island.

The most likely danger is large waves at cliffs and coastal waters during the monsoon(October - February).

There are occasional sighting of reef and hammerhead sharks off the coast near the 'drop offs',underwater coastal shelf which drops off into the ocean depths, usually 5 - 30 meters offshore , however there have been no reported sharks attacks on Christmas Island in recorded history.

Some 4 Wheel Drive tracks are steep and slippery during the wet season, caution is advised when driving in national parks areas.

Many tracks are 4 Wheel Drive only, in particular Dolly beach track and Dales and Blow Holes National Park areas. 4 Wheel driving experience required when venturing into these areas.

It is recommended that you bring a local or get local advice before heading off to any unpopulated national park areas.

Health

Wear loose fitting clothing suitable for humid tropical climates. A hat and sunscreen is recommended if you're intending to be under the sun at the beach or fishing.

Bring water with you, as in humid environments you will tend to perspire more than normal.

Mosquito repellent should be brought on trips to rain forest areas, no instances of Malaria have ever been reported in recent history.

There are rare occurrences of Hepatitis A & B. However there is no particular vaccination required when visiting the island.
Respect

Nudity is not permitted at beaches, normal beachwear applies.

It's good manners to wave back if waved by locals when driving.

Christmas Island Tourism Association, PO Box 63, Christmas Island, Western Australia .

Cocos Islands is the closest land to Christmas Island and there are weekly connecting flights which take about 1 hour