My name is Josh Bramall, I’m a primary school educator and (when time allows) a designer/Illustrator from Sydney, Australia. Recently, my family and I had the pleasure of holidaying on the fascinating and incredibly beautiful Christmas Island…
Yep, CHRISTMAS ISLAND.
I know what you’re thinking, “What! The Christmas Island that’s just some small rock in the Indian Ocean, that’s the location of some big arse detention centre? THAT Christmas Island!? Why the bloody hell would you wanna go there!?”
And, you’re not alone. Once we’d disclosed the destination to friends and family that’s the exact same response we received. They thought we were mad! Little did they know that the island offered so much more than just an empty detention centre, rocks and palm trees. It was so much more. Much, much more. The truth is it became one of the best holidays we’d ever experienced as a family and in these brief few paragraphs I’ll try to explain why.
Did you know Christmas Island is home to a beach that is currently recognised in the top 10 of Australia’s Most Beautiful Beaches? Or that it is home to numerous endemic species (animals native to Christmas Island) that can’t be found anywhere else on Earth? – What about having quaint, picturesque beaches completely to yourself? Or segments of world class coral reef and diving opportunities located minutes from your accommodation…No? With closer inspection, you may find that there are a few surprises about Christmas Island you totally weren’t aware of.
For me, my main focus on wanting to visit was of course, The Red Crab Migration. Having the opportunity to witness a natural marvel that can’t be viewed anywhere else on the planet unfold was something I’d wanted to experience since I’d first read about it in my late teens. There was something fascinating that intrigued me about the whole process which caused me to add it to my bucket list in the hope of witnessing it sooner rather than later. With my daughter at a suitable age for long distance travel and her obvious love of all creatures great and small, I figured now was the perfect time to pack up and go on an adventure.
So, with that realisation of wanting to embark on this intended journey, my job now was to break it to the family and hopefully get them on board. My 3yr old, Aria wasn’t too difficult to entice. That’s because she’s 3 and strongly influenced by her parents, haha. Obviously, she pretty much goes along with anything we say so there wasn’t too much resistance from her. Being a HUGE Octonaut aficionado, the idea of an island swarming with crustaceans had her tickled pink. She couldn’t wait to get there and make lots of (in her words) “crab friends” which was nice. For months leading up to departure, Aria would ask various questions on our intended holiday and you could tell she was as excited and as enthusiastic as myself to get there. What nature lover wouldn’t want to spend some time on the world’s #1 hotspot for unique arthropods??? Like me, it seems my fascination with nature and all its wonders has been passed on to her which made my decision to make this trip happen even stronger.
Ok, I’ll be honest with you; my wife wasn’t too thrilled with the notion. It took her a while to agree to visiting an island that – A) held the general stigma of being just one big detention centre, B) didn’t appear very touristy, and 3) she generally wasn’t fond of 8 legged creepy crawlies with enormous pincers. So yeah, it took some convincing. I had to repeatedly immerse her in as much info and imagery of all things Christmas Island related as I could possibly muster, internet articles, docos, instagram pics, pamphlets, you name it – if it had something to do with Christmas Island it was put in her hands or sent to her email. After a couple of months of pestering and numerous infobombs, she eventually succumbed to my wishes. Being the wonderful person she is, she ended up taking a chance on my choice of destination and left the organisation of the trip in my capable hands. We were going to Christmas Island!…
So that’s how we got there, so now you might be wondering, “what was it like?”. The way I describe it to friends is by saying, “think of Australia but an Australia in another dimension”. There’s a lot that’s similar to the mainland and even more that’s different. It’s like a gateway point between the familiar and foreign – you feel right at home but somewhere completely different and exotic. It’s truly remarkable.
Everybody is so damn friendly!! People of all nationalities, cultures, religions and orientations inhabit the island and are all equally open to offering you help and assistance. Lots of smiling faces and people more than happy to stop for a chat and offer up some information on anything that might be on your mind. Christmas Island has that sort of social cohesion that sometimes feels absent from big cities and it’s so refreshing and humbling when you become a part of it, even for a short time.
Whilst there, we found that travelling around in a hired 4WD is definitely the way to go. A lot of the roads are dirt and uneven so this will allow you easier access if they’re open of course and not inundated with the presence of Red crabs. 4WD’s are certainly the best choice. If you’re travelling with a baby or toddler it is essential you take a baby seat. The hire place we went through didn’t have any to rent so we took one across with us and I had to set it up in the airport carpark. We left it behind for future travellers but whether or not it’s still available, I can’t be sure.
Another good point is that everything we wanted to check out was within about 45mins (everything is basically within 45mins) drive from Flying Fish Cove so in the space of about 4 days you really get to see most of what the island has to offer. With a week, which is how long we stayed, you not only get to see most of the island but also the chance to go back and enjoy the places you fell in love with while you’re there, which I can assure you will happen.
You only have to spend a short time searching through photos on the internet to see just how magnificent some of the natural locations of Christmas Island are and even then they don’t do them the same justice as it does when you’re actually there. Three of the spots we absolutely adored were the easily accessible Greta Beach – and it’s absolutely beautiful natural swimming pool, The Dales – with their various bush walks, fairy tale waterfall and hidden beach, and also The Grotto – a swimming hole with pristine water, inside the mouth of a cave.
They’d be our top three favourites but singling out or ranking the beauty of the places you find is no easy task. It’s all amazing!!
Upon return, a frequent question we were asked is, “what about the CRABS!? Don’t they nip you?” Seriously, they are purely part of the scenery and leave you well alone. They are possibly the most timid, docile and non-aggressive crab species in existence. They just go about on the island doing their thing, completely unfazed by your presence. If, for some reason you do accidentally touch one they merely scuttle off in the opposite direction. I even attempted to see their crushing power by placing a twig in between a really big male crab’s claw to watch it snap in two…It literally ignored the fact that anything was in its grasp and tried to move away from me. There were a few incidents (when climbing down rocks and during the spawning) where I accidently made contact with Red crabs and Robber crabs. It was startling and gave me a bit of a shock but every time it happened they always chose flight instead of fight. I learnt quickly that there was nothing to be worried about.
At first, Aria and Bianca were wary and nervous around them but after a few hours they both were completely content in sharing their surroundings with them. Aria was even happy to gently pat the big ones on the head as they walked by, she’d even nurse the little ones if she could catch them, haha. It was really lovely to watch just how much she enjoyed it.
After seeing firsthand how they react to the presence of people, the thought of the red crabs nipping someone seems extremely unlikely. The crabs are the pinnacle of the experience on the island, they’re what makes the trip so special. Being able to share the environment with them is not only captivating but completely unique.
It was difficult to come home from such a wonderful place but at the same time we’d managed to soak up a generous amount of Christmas Island hospitality and magic to suffice. I could waffle on and on about how much we enjoyed every moment there but I’d be stuck at this keyboard forever. It is honestly a once in a lifetime holiday and one that people with an appetite for a bit of adventure and a love of nature will cherish for the rest of their lives. Take a chance on something different and experience a part of Australia that is so unusual it appears to be taken straight out of an episode of the Twilight Zone. You’ll be glad you did. You’re sure to find something on Christmas Island that’ll take your breath away and leave a tattoo on your brain with some incredible memories.
Just go for it!