The World ARC Round The World fleet are spending 15 months sailing around the world, and they started arriving in Flying Fish Cove this week. Yachties Mark Pitman and Catherine Watts aboard Tuuletar, beat them to it, arriving during Bird & Nature Week at Christmas Island for the first time. Here are a few extracts from their log…
Before we got here more than one person asked why we would go to Christmas Island, after less than 12 hours here I wonder why you would ever consider missing it!
Dubbed the Indian Ocean Galapagos, we have been immediately treated to the most amazing tour of this unique place. On approach the land rises sharply out of the sea in a series of craggy terraces, like a model-makers island. The Indian Ocean pounds against black cliffs and the subsequent sea-mist drapes moodily over it, enhancing the aura of mystery about a place we know too little of.
The island is far more colossal than we expected and has a looming presence rising high, straight out of a 5000m deep sea. It feels like the very sort of place where you would come across the likes of King Kong. The air is thick with large sea birds; three types of comical boobies, two types of elegant tropic birds; and the unmistakably piratey frigate birds. The numbers of all which can not be exaggerated. We later learn that it is ‘bird-week’ and the place is awash with twitchers come to see the rare endemic species.
Our generous hosts, fellow WA cruisers with a stunning bali-pavillion style house here, spent the rest of the day taking us on a trip around this raw and unusual place. We darted between cultural sights and the rugged wilderness. At one moment we are having G&T’s at a tavern that exudes colonial languor and the next we are scrambling down into a limestone grotto pool. All the while hearing about the fascinating history and current challenges of this strange outpost.
Crabs are everywhere except on the menu and you have never seen them treated with such reverence. Impressive beasts they are too. The infrastructure and effort gone into their preservation is heartening. The birds nonchalantly sit next to you and we walk right up to fluffy boobie chicks without realising they are there before mother squarks a warning. Among the multitude of flora and fauna that are only found here is the giant pandanus which reach up to 30m. The condition of the rainforest is superb even in this, the driest time of year.
We are far closer to Asia than Australia now and the population mix has long reflected this, not to mention the cuisine. The people could not be more friendly, from the customs and quarantine teams who spent as much time informing us of the tourist activities and the sights not to be missed as they did on the officious tasks, to every shop keeper and local we’ve bumped into so far. This is a no fences, no locks, no frills, no bullsh*t kind of place and it is delightful.
We have been completely blown away by the raw, gargantuan beauty of this island and we have not even made it into the water yet. For surrounding us currently is some stunning reef in clear waters which we are told boasts a unique hybrid mix of Asian and Australian species in a pristine environment. And then there is the heart-stopping drop off, straight down into the deepest of blues, which we can see not far off from our boat.
Christmas Island is a truly unique part of Australia and you could not claim to have seen all the diversity of our country if you missed coming here. It is important to part the curtain of mining dust and look beyond the modest and often shabby exteriors of the township. You will be delighted that you did, this place has become one of our favourite stops in just a few short days. This is in no small part due to a local connection we were so lucky to have but in talking to the other yachts that stopped there, I can confirm my own suspicions that you’d still have an incredible time here without such a contact.
Before we departed one of the final and coolest things we did was snorkel out to the edge of the drop off and gaze down into the deep blue of the Java trench, a must do for all visitors! With the dive operator on holidays we did not get to go to some of the caves and drop offs that we’d herd so much about but the snorkeling is so very good and accessible it is difficult to feel hard done by.
Follow Mark and Cat’s travels here: http://www.svlogbook.com/Tuuletar/