Safe alternative for the uncertain future
An island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, between Indonesia and Australia, far from political constraints and war fantasies: Christmas Island.
The long wait seems to be over. Sluggishly, the red crab pushes one of its six legs through the white sand in order to get a few inches closer to its goal. It belongs to a small vanguard that will soon be followed by millions of conspecifics in order to lay their eggs on the beaches of Christmas Island and thereby set a biological food chain in motion, at the end of which is the whale shark. But it’s not that far yet. Man and crab are still waiting for the redeeming signal from the highest authority. First of all it has to rain a lot so that the female crabs flock out of the forest and cover the island like an invasion with a blood-red carpet of crab bodies, which made the island famous. A sight that fascinates some and causes pure disgust in other people.
Report by Gerald Nowak
As I said, it’s not there yet, because on Christmas Island there is little left for the hasty pace in the rest of the world. Things are taken leisurely here. A quality that David Watchorn may have liked when he opened the Extra Divers diving school here in 2017. Christmas Island is a melting pot of cultures. Australians, Japanese, Malays, Chinese and Europeans live and work here in harmony.
However, you should have the peace and quiet so as not to blow up with the everyday supply bottlenecks. The island is 360 km from the coast of Java, but most goods come from Australia by ship. Weeks of waiting for a spare part for the car, long-awaited groceries or urgently awaited parcels? David just grins with a thoughtful look and shrugs his shoulders, then improvisational talent is required, and that is what he has. In the meantime David has welcomed numerous divers and underwater photographers to the Extra Divers Christmas Island. Everyone loves his competence and years of experience.
Great variety of beautiful and healthy coral gardens
As soon as you arrive it becomes clear why this island is not overrun by mass tourism. Thickly forested and clad by rugged lava rock, the island protects itself from the onslaught of waves and the world, beaches are rare. The breakers do not take on Atlantic proportions, but in the monsoon months they can thunder formidably over the cliffs. Then it’s time to take boats out of the water and divers look longingly at the sea. But this is limited to a few days a year and the sunny months clearly predominate. Even if it rains more often in autumn, the sun shines and the sea is calm.
A volcanic eruption created Christmas Island as the top of an underwater mountain a few million years ago. Small plateaus and steeply sloping walls characterize the reefs around the island, the seabed sinks to well over a thousand meters. The warm water that laps the island all year round is ideal for coral growth. There is a large variety of magnificent and healthy coral gardens on the predominantly narrow reef roofs.
Well over two hundred different hard coral species have been counted, which are densely packed and share the sparse space just below the sea surface. Large sea fans and leather corals populate the mostly vertical or even overhanging cliffs and offer shelter for many reef inhabitants. Particularly beautiful coral spots are located at the corner points of the island with high currents. Here, meter-long spiral corals, gigantic gorgonians and colorful sponges grow on the vertical steep walls. Countless small animals live in between. Several of the rare dragon morays live right in front of the front door of the diving base on the reef, which forms a slowly sloping roof here and is a playground for many extraordinary sea creatures. Just a few hundred meters further in front of the harbor is a huge colony of columnar corals, which dragon and soot-head moray eels have made their homes.
Bottlenose dolphins and spinner dolphins live around the island
The porous lava stone has formed larger caves in some places, which can also be dived. One of the most spectacular is the Thundercliff Cave. It extends far into the rock and, with a depth of just eight meters, is also suitable for beginners. Just a few meters behind the entrance is a huge air-filled chamber, in which you can emerge safely and admire the stalactites in the glow of the diving lamps. At the end of the cave there is another pool where cave shrimp live. They are magically attracted by the light of the diving lamps and then dance on the surface of the water. On the way back you will meet a huge school of lead belly fish just before the exit. In contrast to their crawling colleagues from the back of the cave, they try to escape the light of the lamps and chase away.
On the excursions to the dive sites one also meets dolphins more often. Bottlenose dolphins and spinner dolphins live around the island and come very close to the boats when they are in the mood. Sometimes they accompany the dive boat for a while and allow snorkelers to get close. At the dive spots, however, large fish are not so common, despite the sometimes strong currents and exposed location. Once a year, however, when all the conditions are right, the large plankton eaters such as whale sharks and manta rays come to Christmas Island to eat their fill of the crab eggs. You only have to catch the right time, because everything has to be right: After the full moon it has to rain, because only then will the crabs migrate, the currents should not wash the eggs laid in the sea, because only then can the little ones return. Even if billions fail to do this, Christmas will then be covered by a red carpet worth millions of young crabs. If this only happens every five to eight years, there will be enough offspring to secure the red crab population on Christmas.
Christmas Island – island information:
The islands: The island was discovered by English sailors at Christmas 1643 but was not settled until 1887, after the phosphate-rich soil was discovered. In 1958 Great Britain sold the island to Australia. It is the top of an underwater mountain, which makes the beautiful reefs drop very steeply. Almost two thirds of the 135 square km island are designated as a nature reserve and a retreat for many endemic animals. Christmas Island is known for the red crabs that live here and come down from the forests to mate on the rocky lava coast every year between October and December. However, there are many other attractions. Tropical birds, waterfalls, blowholes and the highest mangrove forest on earth, as well as 12 other crab species, including the largest population of coconut crabs, live here.
Diving: Fantastic hard coral gardens and endless steep walls with huge gorgonians around the island. Very good visibility and water temperatures between 25 and 28 degrees Celsius almost all year round. The macro world also has some interesting creatures to offer, so there are permanent places where ghost or dragon moray eels live. Shredded fish and frogfish, rare nudibranchs and much more can also be seen. Gray sharks and schools of mackerel can also be found in places with high currents. The great whale sharks usually come in the months of November to March, although this depends on the crab migration.
Arrival: In the diving season via Jakarta in approx. 50 minutes with a charter plane directly to Christmas Island, alternatively via Perth (mainland Australia) twice a week with the National Jet.
Accommodation: Small modern resorts with and without breakfast service. All are furnished with their own bathroom and toilet, air conditioning, fan, telephone, TV, refrigerator and coffee maker. However, the accommodations are only intended for overnight guests. There are no hotel’s own beaches, fitness rooms, child care, entertainment programs and the like.
Climate: Due to the proximity to the equator, there is tropical weather all year round. The dry season is from May to November, when the southeast trade wind blows, there is hardly any rain and the temperatures are usually very pleasant. From December to April the northwest monsoon rules with strong tropical showers, high humidity and sometimes violent cyclones. The heaviest rainfall is in February and March. The air temperature is almost all year round at a pleasant 28 degrees Celsius and a humidity of 80 to 90%.
Cuisine: The culinary offer corresponds to the Australian taste: food like with nuts. Huge portions at affordable prices. Quietly ask for half a portion, there is still plenty! The menu is mainly dominated by fish and meat, but Italian and Southeast Asian influences can also be felt. Since many foreign workers live on Christmas, who mostly have lunch, the evening menu is limited to the Rumah Tinggi (Malay), the Golden Bosun (Australian), Gecko Pizza (pizzeria) and the Silver Birch Restaurant (Chinese).
Other activities: surfing, fishing, golfing, tennis, biking, hiking, bird and animal watching, waterfalls, blowholes, museum visits and open-air cinema. What’s up-to-date is on the huge wall newspaper in Settlement.
Christmas Island CET + 5 hours in summer
Internet: Christmas Island Tourism Board: www.christmas.net.au