Traveling with children can turn a relaxing holiday completely on its ear, especially when you are traveling without your partner, as I did to Christmas Island, one of Australia’s most remote island territories.
I traveled twice to Christmas Island – the first time blissfully solo on a photography tour with Chris Bray Photography in May and had such an amazing experience that I returned last week with my two girls aged 6 and 9, with the desire to show them a pristine coral reef and the rest of the island’s natural wonders.
Some might have called this trip a social experiment, others an expedition doomed to fail. Thankfully, it was just as I had hoped – a wonderful experience for my girls, and for me.
We traveled from Coffs Harbour via Sydney to Perth and then onward out to this rainforest-covered island rimmed by shear cliffs crumbing into deep sea. Looking at it as we approached, Christmas Island really is both incredibly majestic and dramatic, with a touch of lost world inspiration.
This time, we stayed in the new luxury eco-lodge, Swell Lodge, where our gracious and enthusiastic hosts Chris and Jess Bray ensured Christmas Island fulfilled all our wishes. We dived in the sapphire-blue ocean were my girls had their first encounters with Giant Trevally and friendly reef sharks and even started an early romance with free-diving.
We sat in religious awe in the sea caves contemplating which beautiful structures were stalactites and which were stalagmites (for the record stalac’tites’ hold ‘tight’ to the ceiling, stalagmites rise up from the floor).
The girls danced with crabs keeping a running total of all their crabby friends – 27 robber crabs, 220 red crabs (before they lost count), 50 blue crabs, 5 little nippers, 3 purples, 20 strawberry Hermits and 5 white hermits.
Our morning jungle walks were punctuated by bizarrely unique bird song and cameo appearances of frigate birds and Christmas Island pigeons and gorgeous emerald doves.
Our human companions were no less impressive. Nights were spent dining on the finest of cuisine prepared by the charismatic and talented French chef to the delight of my kids who would trade jokes and riddles in English seasoned with his native French. Hannah, our Zoologist guide charmed the girls, identifying all the different species of wildlife we encountered.
The accommodation at Swell Lodge is exceptional, perched right on the ocean’s edge surrounded by jungle and the stars – in absolutely exquisite isolation. The ocean’s rhythm lulled us to sleep and woke us with its song. At Christmas Island you have no choice but to be engulfed in nature and harmonise with its pulse. Life is everywhere and for once, humans aren’t king. Many times my children had to patiently try and usher giant coconut crabs from their throne in middle of the road so we could carefully drive past – these regal locals are always reluctant to move more than they have to, if at all.
As we left the island my youngest daughter and I decided that it was our favourite place in the whole world, and the oldest decided she’s yet to make up her mind, preferring to see everywhere else before committing. My hunch is that eventually she will agree.