My skin glistens in a fusion of sweat and fresh spring water as the late afternoon light filters through the thick jungle surrounds. I’m standing before a remote waterfall 2600 kms west off the coast of mainland Australia, on an island known more for it’s political history and sadly not for the natural beauty that truly defines this land. And as I take in the scene before my eyes, it’s clear that there is a constant here that will continue to thrive and overcome despite any controversies or news headlines. This is remote Australian landscape at its finest. This is Christmas Island.
Located in the Indian Ocean, closer to Indonesia than Australia, Christmas Island is as rich in cultural diversity as it is in natural plant and wildlife. I am here for 5 nights and only after couple of hours after arriving, my expectations have already been exceeded and I have come to see that there is much more to Christmas Island than people think.
The immigration detention centre built by the federal government just over a decade ago has somewhat marred the public reputation of the island. Not only did this centre change the entire dynamics of the island life for locals, it’s also the first thing most people think of when they hear about Christmas Island. What a shame that is.
One of the strangest experiences was when I fist stepped out of our car from the airport and took a short walk through the forest. Accompanying the sound of my own footsteps was that of the millions of crabs that call the island home. The red crabs seemingly glow neon amidst the dark forest floor. They scurry along avoiding contact with us humans, the guests on the island.
The larger, alien-like Robber Crabs can weigh up to 4 kg and live to 60 years of age. As foreign as it was, having these guys always so close by, it only took a couple of days before sharing the landscape with these friendly critters became quite normal.
Being almost two thirds protected national park land, the landscapes here are absolutely thriving with life. Having photographed many coastlines, the diversity on this island is like no other. White sand beaches, coral limestone pinnacles, caves, blowholes, industrial ports and even an ocean waterfall all make up the shorelines that surround the island. What I enjoyed the most however, was the underlying fact that these places had not really been overly explored nor photographed. I certainly wasn’t shooting from any pre-existing tripod holes.
Snorkeling and particularly diving are quite popular here and it was quite evident why. Sea caves, abundant marine life and vibrant coral reefs make this place a playground for underwater adventurists, particularly with the balmy ocean temperatures.
Even though the island has such a small population, I found that I was never alone. Whether on land, sea or sky, I could always turn my head and find one of the many local animal inhabitants curiously watching my every move.
I’m not quite sure what I was expecting from this trip but I can safely safe my expectations were exceeded. Christmas island is certainly no tropical resort, nor does it try to be. The attractions here speak for themselves and it’s really not hard to be lured in by their ancient voices. I haven’t been to a destination quite like Christmas Island and I’m not sure I ever will.