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Christmas Island is truly one of the world's last undiscovered pleasures. Although the island only covers 135 square kilometers, there is enough natural beauty here to stun even the most seasoned traveler.
The island takes its name from Captain William Mynors of the East India Ship Company. He arrived at the island on Christmas Day, 1643, but was unable to land. Forty-five years later, in 1688, Captain William Dampier managed to land, and he and two crewmen were the first recorded human visitors to Christmas Island. The island was annexed by the British in the late 19th Century, and was used as a phosphate mine.
The Japanese conquered and occupied the island during World War II. After the war, the island briefly belonged to Singapore, before Australia bought it in 1957 for 2.9 million pounds. October 1, 1958, when the purchase was officially completed, is still celebrated here as Territory Day.
For history buffs, Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) islands have a tremendous amount to offer. Join the Christmas Island Orientation Tour and uncover an intriguing insight into the island's enthralling past. Although first spotted in the 1600s by British and Dutch navigators, Christmas Island was officially 'discovered' in 1888 and has since become the focal point of many fascinating occurrences.
Many remnants of by-gone times have been left behind for you to examine. Explore Christmas Island's historical highlights such as the army quarters and gun placements at Smith's Point. Christmas Island was a key target for Japanese occupation during World War II due to its rich phosphate deposits. Delve into the depths of the island's associated war history with the tour. On Cocos (Keeling) Islands in particular, there are also several historical shipwreck sites that divers can now enjoy.
Today, Christmas Island is a naturalist's paradise. Sixty-three percent of the land is protected as a national park. Inside the park, hundreds of species of flora and fauna indigenous to the island flourish. Only fifteen hundred people live here year round, and their presence is dwarfed by over one hundred million red crabs that call Christmas Island home. In fact, the crabs yearly migration to the sea to spawn may just be the most impressive natural wonder left on Earth. The event has attracted naturalists, scientists, and curiosity seekers from around the world.
Docking & Local Transportation
Christmas Island's port is located in Flying Fish Cove, on the northeast tip of the island. You will have no problems finding your way around once you reach the port.
Most of your time on Christmas Island will most likely be spent in organized groups. As a result, all transportation will be provided for you by your respective tour groups. The island is not very suitable for individual exploration, so that is not advised.
Things To See and Do
Annual Red Crab Migration
Around October/November Christmas Island is home to some of Australia's most majestic and unique creatures, including the stunning red crab. Regarded as one of the greatest wonders of the natural world by ecologists, the mass migration of this crustacean occurs every year around October/November on Christmas Island and is a not-to-be-missed spectacle for all visitors. Numbering well into the thousands, these red crabs take over the island as they embark on a synchronised journey from the forest to the coast for breeding. Creating a visual feast for spectators, the pilgrimage at times forces various road closures to ensure safe passage for the crabs. This also allows people to get up close and personal and carefully navigate through the hordes of crustaceans as they roam the island. For the best views, head to Drumsite, Flying Fish Cove, Ethel Beach or Greta Beach or check out the seasonal Red Crab Discovery Tour to learn all their secrets.

Bird Watching
Christmas Island in September with a multitude of bird species inhabiting both Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) islands, avid bird watchers will not be disappointed. Much of Christmas Island comprises national park (63 per cent of the island's 135 square kilometres) and its close proximity to South East Asia has meant that the island has become a birdwatching haven, with a wide range of bird species calling the island home. Among these are the Christmas Island thrush, Abotts booby, Christmas Island frigatebird, and Christmas Island hawk owl. Interestingly, seven land birds are endemic to Christmas Island. Not to be outdone in the bird watching stakes, Cocos Keeling Island also plays host to a diverse variety of birdlife, providing birdwatchers with the opportunity to spot 39 breeding or resident bird species including the Cocos buff-banded rail, white tern, red-footed booby and common sandpiper. Bird-sighting tours are available for those wanting guidance in the many sighting spots across the atoll. Arrive during Christmas Island Bird 'n' Nature (September 1 - 8) week for the best bird watching experiences.
Scuba diving and snorkelling
Accommodating radiant tropical reefs and marine marvels such as dolphins, whale sharks and hundreds of species of fish (including the Cocos pygmy angelfish, endemic to Cocos Island) Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) islands are the embodiment of underwater bliss. Scuba dive from the edge of the Java Trench on Christmas Island, the Indian Ocean's deepest point, or simply snorkel through the innumerable kilometres of exquisite coral, breathtaking wall diving in tepid waters, which are swarming with majestic marine life. Cocos (Keeling) islands also contains an abundance of amazing dive spots with diverse locations begging to be explored, from reefs and drop-offs to wrecks and caves. Try the Rose Wall, Garden of Eden, Cabbage Patch or Two Walls to get you started. In terms of snorkelling, it is impossible to ignore intense spot The Rip, located at the southern tip of Direction Island or the gentler Humbug Drift alongside Prison Island. Over at Christmas Island, Flying Fish Cove is immensely popular among snorkelling enthusiasts.
Locations: For scuba diving: Cabbage Patch, Fern Wall, Garden of Eden, Two Caves and the Rose Wall on Cocos (Keeling) islands; Java Trench and Christmas Island Marine Park on Christmas Island.  For snorkelling: Flying Fish Cove on Christmas Island, the "Rip" at the southern end of Direction Island or the "Humbug Drift" alongside Prison Island  Best time to go: May - November
Rainforest/nature walking
Unsurprisingly, with the vast natural resources and National Park landscapes both Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) islands have to offer, there is no shortage of ecology begging to explored. Walks ranging from complete beginners to advanced trekker level can be found all over Christmas Island. Take advantage of the abundance of endemic flora and fauna in your surroundings and entice your senses with a rejuvenating nature walk. Experience every natural element Christmas Island can provide - stand under Hugo's Waterfall, watch the astonishing Blowholes or take time out to soak up the impressive views from Magaret Knoll. Discover the captivating local fauna including the iconic red crab and the red-footed booby then trawl through 200 species of native flowering plants - 16 of which are found only in Christmas Island.
4WD Tours
For a slightly bolder take on a traditional island tour, Christmas Island offers a unique chance to roam through the exhilarating landscape with its 4WD tours. The Dolly Beach Jungle Tour combines a thrilling ride past Dean's Point to Greta Beach (where you may be lucky enough to see nesting Green Turtles in season) with an invigorating stroll through some of the most luxurious natural landscapes, including sandy and shell beaches as well as rock pools and the jungle. If you're after a little romance, be sure to experience the Champagne Sunset Tour. With champagne and gourmet snacks provided and culminating in a picturesque sunset, the drive allows you to traverse some of the awe-inspiring natural environment of Martin's Point. Alternatively, hire a private charter to explore the island on your own terms (dependent on the availability of vehicles and guides).
There's not much in life that can compare to the allure of sinking a hook in the water and trying your luck at a hand of fishing. Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) islands both satisfy this desire by supplying splendid fishing conditions against sublime surroundings containing clear, azure waters. The quality and diverse nature of the marine life on the islands is virtually unmatched anywhere else in Australia. Challenge yourself by endeavouring to reel in wahoo, mahi-mahi and sailfish or, alternatively, species of the deep-sea variety such as tuna and trevally. The bonefish fly fishing available on Cocos (Keeling) is also particularly enviable. With options offered for every type of fisherman, including open ocean trawling, deep-sea jigging and lagoon sport fishing, people of every experience level can feel like the next Rex Hunt.
Location on island: Visit the outer Cocos atoll and North Keeling on Cocos (Keeling) islands or fish from Christmas Island's shoreline or use their boat launching facilities to get out on the water.
Island hopping
Boasting some of the most picturesque views in the country, the pristine beaches of Cocos (Keeling) Islands are ideal for island hopping odysseys. Spoil yourself and relax amongst the purity and serenity of the undisturbed white sands at any one of the 27 coral islands that constitute the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Alternatively, pander to your more adventurous streak and explore the horseshoe-shaped atoll and enclosed lagoon. For those spirited enough, the Cocos Island offers an exclusive chance to walk the entire atoll at specific times and is the only place in the world where this is possible. Journeying from island to island by other methods is simple enough, with ferries provided for accessible transport.
Water sports
Among the extensive list of things to experience at Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) islands, there's no better way to get the adrenalin pumping than with a bit of surfing or kite- and windsurfing. Recently enjoying a surge in popularity, these sports have lured two experienced operators from the mainland of Australia which hold several windsurfing and kite surfing clinics in Cocos every year - so there's never been a better excuse to learn these adventure sports. Conditions are best during the 'winter' season (despite the still-balmy weather) so aim to arrive during July to October if this activity appeals. Even if water sports aren't your thing, head down to the southern end of the lagoon and enjoy the view of a kaleidoscopic sea of colourful sails during peak periods.
The Christmas Island Tourism Association (08/9164-8382) is definitely the first place you'll want to visit upon arrival. The office will supply you with maps and brochures, suggest itineraries for your stay, and even book fishing, sightseeing, or scuba diving tours for you.
Christmas Island National Park is definitely the most prominent attraction on the island. The park actually covers over 60 percent of the land on the island, about eighty-five square kilometers worth. Much of the flora and fauna found on Christmas Island is indigenous, with the island's remote location ensuring that most species that find their way here, end up staying here. Over two hundred plant species are found here, to go along with over seventy species of birds, and twenty distinct species of crabs. Christmas Island has become known for its crab population, easily earning the title of one of the world's crabbiest places. In particular, the red crab has become the unofficial mascot of the island. Amazingly, over one hundred million of these crabs make their home on Christmas Island. If you are lucky enough to visit during migration season, you will get to witness one of the most fascinating displays on Earth. Each year, the entire red crab population heads to sea to reproduce. The crabs literally overrun the entire island, and the phenomenon has attracted scientists and nature lovers from around the world.
Bird watching is an absolute pleasure on Christmas Island. There are seven bird species indigenous to the island, including the Christmas Island thrush and Christmas Island frigatebird. The tourist office offers detailed checklists so you can identify each of the different birds as you see them.
Water Sports
Christmas Island is a snorkeling and scuba diving paradise. Rare species of fish can be spotted off the pristine coral reefs just offshore. Among the fish and plant life often spotted here are butterfly fish, sea anemones, and even the occasional whale shark! Contact Indian Ocean Diving Academy (08/9164-8090) for information on dive packages.
Christmas Island is fast becoming one of the hottest fishing spots in the world. Yellowfin and dogtooth tuna are plentiful in the Indian Ocean, which surrounds Christmas Island. Sailfish and wahoo are also caught on a regular basis. Fish that weigh in at over one hundred pounds are caught with surprising regularity. Contact Christmas Island Wet 'N' Dry Adventures (08/) for more information.
Eating Out
The variety of food on Kiribati is limited. If a shipment of imported food has just come in, buy it now, as it won't last long! The variety and amount is increasing and improving all the time as is the number of supply boats that arrive.
While Western style products will always be slightly limited you will find that the basics are generally available. A lack of fruit and vegetables really being the major concern.
The staple diet of the I-Kiribati is fish and rice and this is reflected in many of the eating outlets on Tarawa. It is always worthwhile trying the local sashimi which is straight from the ocean to your plate.
Western style meals are best found at the two hotels, Mary's and the Otintaai. There is also a variety of Chinese restaurants.
As you can imagine, Christmas Island is heavy on seafood dishes. There are plenty of restaurants that feature the ubiquitous catch of the day. However, the influx of people from Indonesia, Malaysia, and China has altered the culinary landscape of the island. Season's Palace (Poon Sann, 08/9164-7688) is a Chinese restaurant that has become popular with tourists for its combination of island hospitality and Far East delicacies. Christmas Island hasn't forgotten that it's a region of Australia, and Track's Tavern (Drumsite, 08/9164-7170) serves up Aussie cuisine. To top off your night, head over to Golden Bosun Tavern (Rocky Point Complex, 08/9164-7152) for a drink and some live music.
Shopping is limited in Kiribati except in the capital South Tarawa where you can find more variety and bigger shops. Several supermarket type stores and cooperative stores carry a wide range of consumer goods. In North Tarawa and the Outer Islands you will find only small convenient stores.
Typical handicrafts from Kiribati include baskets, mats, fans, and cups made from pandanus leaves, coconut leaves, coconut shells, and sea shells. Particularly popular are the traditional daggers ‘te reeree’, sea-shell necklaces and miniature models of canoes. Handicraft shops and vendors are located on South Tarawa and on Kiritimati Christmas Island and provide a variety of local handicrafts and local products. On Christmas island and Fanning Island handicrafts and souvenirs are sold at outlet stalls during shore excursions from cruise ships.
Christmas Island isn't big on commercialism or consumerism. People here are more content to focus on the island's natural beauty. However, there are some shopping options if you are in dire need of souvenirs. KC's Souvenirs (08/9164-8184) sells small trinkets and other island related memorabilia. The Red Crab Surf 'N' Sound Shop (08/9164-7176) sells surf and swim wear, along with sunglasses and shoes. Gold 'N' Things (08/9164-8215) is one of the only jewelry merchants on the island.

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