Christmas Island: A Jewel on Indian Ocean
January 1, 1970
by Sasan Sedighi
Travel to Christmas Island
Eventually, after almost four hours flying from Perth, the pilot announced our approach toward Christmas Island. As the airplane was just about half full, so I shifted to an empty row and sat on the window seat. The plane was gradually descending. It crossed the sporadic thick cotton candy like cumulus clouds and then got closer to the surface of the Indian Ocean. It was around 10 AM local time and the ocean’s surface was reflecting the sun rays, which it gave a golden hue to the turquoise color of the ocean. A few minutes later plane changed its direction. It brought an emerald green rocky mass into my view. By getting closer to this rocky mass, more details were becoming detectable. It was a raised rocky island covered with tropical trees. From that height, it looked like a dream paradise island.
When we were just few ten meters above the land I could see the runway, a long and straight tarmac covered strip, carved into a tropical forest. The plane was skilfully landed, taxied and ultimately stopped in front of an old style one-story cuboid shape building. Later I found that the building was divided into two parts, one section was designated as departure and the other as arrival terminals. Locals were at the airport to pick up their loved ones and few minibusses were there to pick up others who travel there for business. There wasn’t any trace of taxis as we usually expect to see them lining up at airports. Later I found that there was only one taxi operating on the island, and it was not always easy to catch. I have never had the chance to see that ghost taxi during my one month stay there. On that occasion, I was on the island for business. I cannot think of anything better than your employer pays you to travel to an exquisite place.
Adventure of living on the island
My one month stay on the island was amazing. On most of the days, the sky was partially cloudy. Because of strong currents above the island, clouds were moving very fast. Looking at clear patches of blue sky and fast moving and frequently shape changing cumulus clouds were creating a mesmerizing vista. I heard from locals that sometimes when those air currents get stronger they can cause cancelation or delay in arriving or departing flights. I almost forgot to mention the sunsets. The island has beautiful sunsets. On one occasion, the sunset was so astonishing, which it looked like professionally taken photographs that only can be found in magazines like National Geographic.
Almost, all roads were cut through the tropical forest. It was common during my afternoon walks, to find Papaya trees with lots of fruits on them, sometimes with few ripe ones, which were not touched by birds and ready to grab. I found wild pumpkin plants, with lots of pumpkins on them, some ready to pick. I saw red crabs crawling all around the island, even though it was the dry season. Every morning, small groups of red crabs were out of their sanctuaries and playing joyfully. Like being drunk from the morning dew. Red crabs’ famous annual migration usually occurs in the early stage of the rainy season. Seeing rubber crabs some as big as a basketball ball, was amazing. They looked alien and unearthly. Swimming in the ocean and weekend sightseeing around the island, all made my trip to Christmas Island to be one of the most memorable life experiences that I have ever had.
About the island
Because of rocky nature of the island and dense forest, there are only a few places that are suitable for swimming and even some of them are only accessible by 4WD cars. In some places, I had to leave the car at the end of the road and follow the walking trail for up to 45 minutes to reach the destination.
The island’s jetty, a small size harbor near the main island’s settlement area with its calm and clear water, is popular among locals and tourists for outdoor activities such as a picnic, BBQ, swimming, snorkeling and even fishing. Because of coral nature of that part of the island, its clean water and abundance of different marine species including stunningly colorful fishes, make jetty a great spot for snorkeling.
Almost all the foods and necessary goods are imported from Australia, so the availability of fresh foods dependent on the frequency of the shipments and time of their arrival. consequently, there is a limitation on what you can find on the island and prices are dearer than Perth. There are quite a few restaurants on the island that many of them are in settlement and Poon Saan areas. Fairly speaking, I didn’t find a restaurant to call it terrific and want to introduce it to a friend, and a dish could be twice or even more expensive as the same dish in a restaurant in Perth. However, I found a great fish and chip shop at Poon Saan, which the owner was using freshly caught fishes to cook his exceptional fish and chip.
There is not any rental car company on the island, but there are some locals who have few 4WD cars and rent them to visitors, which they are usually not in their top condition.
While Christmas Island has huge potential to attract large numbers of tourists. To tell the truth, the island is not adequately prepared for it. It lacks the proper infrastructure needed for tourism, such as a cheap flight to the island, hotels, recreational and entertainment facilities, transport, tours and so on. There are lots of things that need to be done to accommodate a decent number of tourists.
Christmas Island with its unique ecosystem is one of the most go destinations. If you like nature and have a taste for adventure, you should add Christmas Island to your bucket list.