Imagine palm trees swaying in the breeze, unspoiled white-sand beaches and an ever-changing aquatic patchwork of blue hues.
And now picture yourself here, your days filled with hammock naps, strolls along far-off beaches, ocean activities, and magnificent sunsets without the crowds. Welcome to Australia’s most idyllic island getaway – the Cocos Keeling Islands.
Incredibly remote and unbelievably pristine, Cocos Keeling Islands is an atoll of 27 islands, each a stunning oasis where you can escape the worries of the world. Known locally as Cocos, this quintessential tropical destination, situated northwest of Perth and surrounded by the Indian Ocean, is a water-lovers’ paradise.
From the adrenaline rush of kiteboarding to the bliss of exploring uninhabited islands, from fishing for your own catch of the day to experiencing unique culture, Cocos is a wellspring of both activity and tranquillity.
The waters of the islands are famously pristine.
Needless to say, snorkelling and diving is a dream on Cocos where visitors will delight in reefs and a coral lagoon teeming with precious and colourful marine life. More than 500 species of fish, 100 species of hard corals, 600 species of molluscs, 200 species of crustaceans and nearly 100 species of echinoderms have been recorded around the islands.
Look out for turtles, manta rays and dolphins, too. Both Hawksbill and Green turtles call these islands home and can often be spotted in the lagoon. Green Turtles breed on Pulu Keeling National Park (North Keeling Island) and occasionally on the southern atoll. Bottlenose and common dolphins are also regulars and manta rays are a common sight, gracefully gliding through the turquoise lagoon.
Treasures even rarer than these can also be found thanks to Cocos Keeling’s unique position. Along with neighbouring Christmas Island, Cocos is the only place in the world where a unique group of marine species reside, a result of the union of fish from both the Indian and Pacific Ocean. Keep an eye out for new species such as the Cocos Pygmy Angelfish, an extremely rare (and extremely beautiful) dwarf fish.
Palm trees and unspoiled sand beaches are the norm here.
And while you might be inclined to dedicate your time to the lagoon and its endless splendour, there’s plenty on offer beyond this stunning backdrop. Natural beauty is in abundance on Cocos, including spectacular world-class birdlife and lush green jungle, along with a rich and colourful history influenced by both westerners and the Cocos Malay settlers.
The tiny society of about 600, the Cocos Malay people of Home Island have been held together for more than 150 years by geographical isolation, shared religious beliefs, strong family loyalty and a unique version of the old ‘Trading Malay’ language of the East Indies. Despite their mixed origins, the Cocos Malay people achieved an identity of their own within one generation of settlement. This identity is at the heart of any visit to Home Island, a must-do for visitors to the Cocos Keeling Islands.
Some of the country’s best snorkelling can be found here.
Also included on a long must-do list:
- Snorkel ‘The Rip’, an aquarium like land-based snorkel on Direction Island.
- Explore remote and uninhabited islands on a motorised canoe safari.
- Glide effortlessly through the water on an underwater scooter tour.
- Learn to kitesurf in perfect conditions during the trade winds season.
- Play a social game of golf across an International Airstrip.
- Try your hand at fly-fishing and pursue the highly prized Bonefish.
- Keep your eyes peeled skyward – Cocos is home to a spectacular bird population.
- Enjoy the majesty of the ocean from a glass-bottom boat.
- Discover Cocos’ incredible history with a visit to Oceania House.
The Cocos Keeling Islands experience warm days and balmy evenings all year round. The two main seasons often overlap: the trade wind season from May/June to September/October and the calmer season from November through to May. No matter the season, you will always experience temperate weather.
These idyllic isles are truly paradise defined.