Head overseas without ever leaving Australian waters at Christmas Island and the Cocos Keeling Islands.
Closer to Indonesia than the mainland, you won’t feel like you’re still in Australian territory when you arrive at Christmas Island and the Cocos Keeling Islands – except that you are. Connected by the same flight from Perth, these sparsely populated, exotic islands are bursting with natural wonders waiting to be explored.
Touching down on Christmas Island feels like holidays made manifest. The air is warm and balmy and it’s not long before you’re winding through lush jungle and stepping onto your deck at Swell Lodge, one of the world’s most exclusive eco retreats with just two secluded (read: socially distanced) chalets nestled deep within Christmas Island National Park.
In fact, almost two-thirds of the island is national park. It’s famous for its annual red crab migration, which sees an estimated 40 to 50 million bright red land crabs march across the island to the ocean in a mind-boggling flash mob of colour. And when you’re not busy seeking out your own secret beaches, you’ll find many more endemic creatures besides: reptiles, seabirds (like the rare Abbott’s booby) and marine life found nowhere else on the planet.
Christmas Island is ringed by tropical reef that creates some of the best snorkelling and scuba diving out there. It’s also one of the few places you can encounter a majestic whale shark in the deep blue.
Offering the perfect complement to wild Christmas Island, the Cocos Keeling Islands are all about long stretches of white-sand beaches fringed by swaying palm trees. This atoll of 27 islands, of which only two are inhabited, makes for the ultimate paradise island holiday, pin-dropped halfway between Perth and Sri Lanka. And while you’ll find plenty of hammocks imploring you to relax, there’s also plenty to do.
Cocos sits perfectly on the edge of three Eurasian flyways flown by migrating birds from Northern Eurasia and occasionally overshooting between October and March. Birdwatchers regularly find rare species such as the Saunders’s tern as well as the local specialties, namely the green junglefowl and western reef egret, which are found nowhere else in Australia.
When it’s time to take to the water, Cocos offers the best of both worlds. Its islands form a ring around a central lagoon teeming with colourful marine life: snorkel, scuba dive and even kitesurf here to your heart’s content. Then, on the ocean side, you’ll find the surf – with spots suitable for pros and beginners alike. It’s BYO board: one of the reasons the waves are so blissfully uncrowded. You can’t say that about Bali.