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The very first thing to learn about Christmas Island is that it is not the same Christmas Island which exists in Kiribati and which search engines will probably conjure up information about when you run a search for the island. Christmas Island is located due west of Australia's northenmost protrusions, directly south of Jakarta. It is in fact a territory of Australia, a fact which has made it a popular destination among asylum seekers willing to dare the voyage over from Indonesia.
Other aspects of its situation have made it popular among more ordinary travelling types. It is dominated by national park where (predictably) flora, fauna and ecotourists flourish. The island is the sole habitat of the creatively named Red Crab, so make sure you don't step on them - it'll hurt your feet! Divers are drawn to the island's steep drop-off and abundant marine life, while the gambling spirit will find the new casino a suitable place to dispose of ready cash.
Although Christmas Island was discovered in the 17th century on Christmas Day, giving the island its name, the first real exploration of the island did not happen till 1857. Even then the first exploration of the island was only limited to an attempt to summit the highest point, which failed because the cliff's were impassable.
In 1887 the HMS Flying Fish discovered an anchorage in a bay, which is the present day location of the largest town, and created an interesting collection of the local flora and fauna. In the following years different boats came by and did short term scientific exploration on the island. One of the explorers found phosphate of lime in some of the rock samples, which made the British Crown annex the island on the 6th of June 1888.
Soon after the annexation the first settlement was established in Flying Fish Cove. By the 1890s the phosphate was being mined out of the island by indentured workers mainly from Singapore, China and Malaysia. During World War II the island was occupied by the Japanese from 1942 to 1945. In 1957 the island was transferred to Australia and Australia had to pay compensation to Singapore for loss of phosphate profits.
Christmas Island is 2,600 kilometres northwest of Perth, Western Australia, 500 kilometres south of Indonesia, 975 kilometres east/northeast of the Cocos Islands, and 2,748 kilometres west of Darwin, Northern Territory. Its closest point to the Australian mainland is 1,560 km from the town of Exmouth, Western Australia. The island is about 19 kilometres in greatest length and 14.5 km at the widest point. The total land area is 135 square kilometres, with 138.9 kilometres of coastline. The island is the flat summit of a submarine mountain more than 4,500 metres high, the depth of the platform from which it rises being about 4,200 metres and its height above the sea being upwards of 300 metres. Steep cliffs along much of the coast rise abruptly to a central plateau. Elevation ranges from sea level to 361 metres at Murray Hill. The island is mainly tropical rainforest, of which 63% is National Park. The narrow fringing reef surrounding the island can be a maritime hazard.
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, which is also called "The Settlement". Other settled areas, all in the north east, are Poon Saan, Silver City, Drumsite and Kampong.
Christmas Island has some great diving. One of the main features is that the island is it rises drastically out of the Java Trench, which is the Indian Ocean's deepest point. This provides opportunities for some amazing drop off diving, with the majority of walls only being 20 metres from the shoreline. The island is also surrounded by a narrow tropical reef before it drops into the abyss. There are are many great reefs to explore, especially on the northern tip of the island. For more information on diving contact one of the following local dive operators:
With over 63% of the island being a national park there is plenty of room for the birds to nest. Christmas island is home to many birds species that don't exist any where else in the world or on a few other islands. These birds are part of unique rain forests ecology that makes up the island. There are several land birds natural to the island and most of the year round you can see many amazing bird species nesting.
Fishing is becoming a more and more popular activity on Christmas Island. One of the big reasons why is that the Sailfish, Tuna, Wahoo and other species of fish are much larger here then compared to other tropical locations. It is even possible to see fish in excess of 100 kilograms feeding on the surface. If looking for sailfish it is best to come in the pre-monsoon months.
Public hoidays include New Year's Day, Australia Day, Chinese New Year, Labour Day, Good Friday/Easter, ANZAC Day, Territory Day, Christmas/Boxing Day, Hari Raya Puasa and Hari Raya Haji.
As Christmas Island is located close to the equator, the weather on the island is tropical. There is little variation regarding the temperature. March and April average around 28 °C during the day, July to September around 26 °C. At night, temperatures hover around 22 °C in most of the year. December to April is the wet season, with February being the wettest month. July to September sees much less rain, coinciding with the cooler and sunnier months. This obviously is one of the better times to visit, weatherwise. Tropical storms and even cyclones can hit or pass Christmas Island during the wet season.
There are no regular passenger services to Christmas Island. Cruiseships occasionally go here and you can always try to get a place on a yacht.
Getting around Christmas Island is fairly straightforward and your options are limited. Apart from walking or renting a bike, you may want to rent a car or 4WD vehicle but is certainly not necessary as many sights are easily reached by bike. There are however some special 4WD tracks as well, less suitable for exploring by bike.
You can also get a lift from the locals as this is fairly common.
The same requirements as for Australia.
See also Money Matters
Christmas Island uses the Australian Dollar (AUD). Australian Dollar notes come in $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 and coins come in 5¢, 10¢, 20¢, 50¢, $1 and $2. Most places will accept credit cards and debit cards, though charge cards are less commonly accepted.
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.
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.
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.
There are several restaurants on Christmas Island serving Western and Asian cuisine.
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. List of Accommodation available:
As Christmas Island is duty free, alcohol is usually lower priced than the Australian mainland.
See also: Travel Health
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Christmas Island. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering Christmas Island) where that disease is widely prevalent.
It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Christmas Island. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and vaccination against hepatitis B is also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.
Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.
See also: Travel Safety
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 metres 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.
See also: International Telephone Calls
The country calling code to Christmas Island is: 681
To make an international call, the code is: 0011
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