A Travellerspoint blog

July 2021

Cocos (Keeling) Islands

Tuesday 29 June
We were allowed to leave Christmas Island, and boarded a plane that had arrived from Perth without any passengers onboard. Thanks to the most recent lockdown in Perth, we had a very spacious cabin to roam around in. Of course the flight was only about 1 hour long, but we were still required to wear our face masks.
Upon arrival at Cocos Keeling, and the talk from the Australian Federal Police about obeying WA laws and the local speed limits (in town 30 km max & beyond town 50 km), we were allowed out of the airport, and we could rip off those masks!
Pictures from the plane shared & taken by Ian Clarke, with thanks

On to our accommodation. The travel agent booked two different accommodation sites, and we had no initial choice as to where we were located. Five couples ended up in the Hotel Cocos Village Bungalows. Nice. The rest of the group went to the Cocos Beach Resort Motel. Not as nice. Our original room had large ants. The next was ok.
Our location is very good, right next to the pounding sea. Excellent. We walked outside onto the deck chairs to sit & enjoy a cuppa & watch the turtles swimming by.

Cocos (Keeling) Islands are built around the rim of an old volcano. So, as Christmas island is the tip of a volcano, and hence quite hilly, Cocos and is quite flat. In fact the airport boasts it is 10 feet above sea level. So you can ride around the island easily, if the breeze isn't blowing a gale, whereas you'd need a vehicle to get around Christmas Island.

First night dinner was pizza pre-ordered from Salty's for tonight's group gathering. We missed happy hour at the Cocos Club by 6 minutes! Anyway, drinks aren't too expensive. On our way back to the room Deborah spotted a local inhabitant, a hermit crab.
Picture below taken & shared by Ian Clarke, with thanks

Wednesday 30 June
Our time on the Island is mainly to recharge our batteries after the hectic pace of Christmas Island. Morning was a short stroll around the corner to the only supermarket for provisions. Milk, juice, tomato ($19 a kilo), and a tin of peaches ($9 for 700g). Also ordered a loaf of bread for the Friday baking day.

Mid morning bike ride to the South end of the Island. 5km each way Into a raging headwind. Some in the group had already attempted the ride and turned back. Deborah, Ian and another couple Paula and Keith (the Potato farmers), were made of sterner stuff. We made it to Scout beach, had a paddle and snorkel, and then ate lunch. The return bike ride was so easy...with a great tail wind.
During our afternoon walk we came across the local public library. A joint use library with the District High School, open 2 times a week.
Dinner that night was also at Salty's. A nice mild Malay style fish curry, and this time we made it for happy hour at the Cocos club right next door.

Thursday 1 July
Today was the planned trip to Direction Island. We had an alarm set for 6am to catch the local bus at 7.10am and then ferry at 7.30am. This was to be a day trip. Alas, weather intervened with strong winds and occasional rain squalls, so trip is delayed until Saturday.
Ian took the opportunity to try and get close to the local turtles just outside our rooms.
We wandered over to Salty's cafe and had a quiet coffee, muffin and chocolate brownie to share.IMG_20210702_120356007_HDR.jpg
The Malay lady, from the cafe, stopped and chatted with us. She explained about cooking the curry we had the night before and a few other food items. She also waved to her husband driving past, who is the refuse truck driver, so we all waved as well. Her sister is on the front desk at our budget motel. They all do some kind of work on West Island, and catch the ferry over from Home island.
In the afternoon we took Ian's Mystery Tour. In the morning some of the others had taken the bus out for a drive around the island, so we took the bus with a few others out at 1pm. Well, that was the plan, but Ian noticed the front drivers tyre looked a little deflated. We drove everyone around to the hire house, followed the lady down to the local mechanic who promptly inflated the tyre.
Off we went up the island.
Stops occurred, during warm rain showers, at the old jetty...
Trannies beach...a good snorkel spot...
A easterly beach past 'The Farm', where we all had personal photos...plus some flora and fauna...

The freshwater lake....and a few coconut palms...
This is when Ian again noticed a deflation so, cutting the trip short we headed back to the mechanic who advised changing the wheel. We dropped everyone back at their digs and high tailed it back for a old bus tart up.

Deborah convinced others to take the bus out again in the late afternoon when Ian, and a few other hardy fools, took up the scrounger golf challenge with the locals. The golf was a hit, with the ducks. They all hit one ball towards the first green, then retreated into the 'Donga' to escape the monsoonal downpour which raced down the runway like a plane taking off and some lightening. Game eventually abandoned.
Golfing photos below courtesy of Linda de Vries.
Dinner at Salty's, lamb kebab and fish kebab.

Friday 2 July
After a leisurely morning, again looking at the turtles swimming at the local beach, we prepared for our afternoon trip over to Home Island for the Malay cultural tour with dinner. Catching the local bus, at 50 cents each one way, we got to the jetty to take the $2.50 one way ferry across the lagoon to Home Island. This where the Malay population lives.
Picture below supplied & taken by Ian Clarke, with thanks

We are met at Home Island by our guide, ready to trip around in some of the local transport options. We all got to take a turn driving. IMG_20210702_155203887_HDR.jpgIMG_20210702_153239720_HDR.jpg
Deborah found one buggy she really liked. IMG_20210702_145449282.jpgIMG_20210702_145529289.jpg
The island is home to a cemetery that houses the graves of many of the Clunies-Ross dynasty...the founders of the population and industries on the Cocos and Christmas Islands. Our tour included a demonstration of traditional basket weaving. A skill, unfortunately, that is not being passed to the younger folk.

The next demo was of coconut husking, and extraction of the flesh and water.
We took a tour of the island facilities, and the Kampong streets. The original accommodation was traditional long houses, which have since been replaced by more western houses. They are all leased from the Cocos Shire.
They've also had a large cyclone proof hall built, for locals to go to during wild weather. No cyclone had hit yet. It doubles as a community hall.
Ian also found the library.
At the end of the tour was a Malay dinner, including local curry chicken, beef rendang and roti, with a sweet drink.

Saturday 3 July
After the poor weather on Thursday, our rescheduled trip to Direction Island was on. Beautiful blue skies and light wind boded well for our snorkeling adventure. Again a local bus trip and then ferry to the island. Direction Island is so named as it was a communication base for many years including during WWI and WWII. It was decommissioned in 1959 and much of the equipment bulldozed into the ocean.
We found a shelter to hide under from the sun whilst trying to avoid stepping on all the hermit crabs.

Photos and videos taken & shared by Ian Clarke, with thanks

Our ride home on the ferry. Thanks Ian Clarke for taken & sharing this photo, we were all feeling quite tuckered out after our big adventure.

Snorkeling ensued, and many took to the infamous RIP to get swept into the lagoon and then a swim back to shore. Amazing. All sorts of large and small fish were seen, as you got swept along above the deep trench, including many reef sharks.
Deborah even went snorkeling and encountered one of these relatively friendly sharks.
Of course it wouldn't be a group adventure without some member having an incident. This time it was the group leaders wife. The 'RIP' is a rip, so warning signs do mention the facts. Our member hit the rip, floated along quite a long way into the lagoon, saw a shark underwater and in her panic promptly lost her mask and snorkel. As she Slightly floundered in the deep water, a passing fishing boat asked if she required assistance, which she gladly took. And her husband? He was oblivious to her predicament. We all laughed.

Sunday 4 July
We all headed out to Big Barge Art Centre, being shuttled in the hired bus. The Barge, built in 1970, was repurposed in early 2000's into a gallery for local art works with a cafe on the side. Nice set-up.
In the afternoon we had a relaxing time at the motel, and Ian took the opportunity to cut down a few coconuts to get some coconut water.
We also then took a walk along our beach to check the coral, crabs and shells. Like most of the beaches there was a selection of flotsam including old vehicle parts.
Tonight we grabbed a Marinara pizza from Salty's and took it, and a bottle, over to the other groups bungalow accommodation for the nightly catch-up.

Monday 5 July
First up today was a trip to the clam farm run by John Clunies-Ross Jnr. His description of the process, challenges, and 'Yes Minister' bureaucracy was amusing. These blue coloured clams are a delicacy in the Asian market, but he describes the taste as being like eating algae. We quite often see these blue ones whilst snorkeling.
We all headed to Scout Park again, to walk across the reef to Pulu Mari island to do some more snorkeling. This is also home to a Rip. Deborah took the plunge and 'ripped' around the island being guided by Sue, an experienced snorkeller, to see many colourful fish and baby reef sharks along the way.
Picture below taken & shared by Sue Morrison of the three of the least experienced snorkellers after conquering the rip. Accompanied by Carolina who also guided us through.
Pictures below taken & shared by Leanne Green. Both Steve & Ian helping the one with a dodgy foot across to Pulu Maria Island & Deb snorkeling & loving every minute. Thanks boys.
A quiet night having a bbq salmon with some of our Motel neighbours.

Tuesday 6 July
A morning cuppa tea watching the ocean waves and turtles playing, prior to our noon checkout. Ian was able to swap some 2 and 1 dollar coins at the Community Resource Centre. They're very happy to get as much gold coinage as they can.
Our plane is delayed about an hour, but has a perfect landing.
So we all wait around until about 6-7pm for it to land. Of course, the Cocos Club starts happy hour at 5.30pm, so a few take advantage of a drink or 2.
Of course, if we'd stayed a little longer we could have had our next Covid Jan.

Deb's treasured collection.

Posted by iandeborah 12:29 Comments (4)

Christmas Island

Tuesday 22 June
Great Virgin flight over & the weather was kind for our landing. We turned back the clocks an hour to Island time.
Upon landing we were greeted by the Federal Police who gave us a talk about behaving ourselves whilst on the Island.
Most people in our group are over 59 & some even over 90 wonderful years young. Here are a couple of the young ones.

Settled into our digs at the VQ3 (Visitors Quarters No 3).
Put on our togs & took a towel( yes I know a QLD word for what some of you know as bathers) and headed to the Sunset Lodge. Who might we meet on the balcony but 2 lovely young Ladies Alex & Rachel. The pool was refreshing.

The photo below was taken by Linda de Vries after we had our first snorkel, thanks Linda for sharing it.
And a video from Ian Clarke..

This beautiful photograph by Jan Clarke was taken of a beautiful butterfly on our joint verandah. It was sitting for 20 minutes showing itself in the frangipani trees.
Ian Clarke took & shared this photograph of our shared balcony at the VQ3.

We all went down to Let Cla Cafe & Restaurant for dinner.
Photo below was taken by Linda de Vries, thankyou for sharing it.
The Chinese was very tasty. Ian & I took the opportunity to walk home. We noticed on the front of people's gardens quite a few small red crabs & when we arrived at VQ3 we had the first sighting of a robber crab as it crushed a coke can.

Wednesday 23 June
We all hit the shops for an early morning run & picked up a few groceries & booze which was at duty free pricing which made it very affordable. Most fresh items come to the Island from the mainland on the flights on Tuesday & Fridays. This is why tomatoes cost around $19 a kilo. You also might be paying over over $20 for a kilo of sausages in the stores here. We brought over 2 meals of frozen steaks & salads & some groceries in our luggage.

We all caught to bus down to Flying Fish Cove for a swim & some took the opportunity to have a snorkel. It was our first time snorkeling & we saw some colourful fish of all different sizes & shapes. Swimming around the coral reef. We had BYO lunch at the Cove. Afterwards we headed back to the VQ3 to get changed before heading to the National Park with views over Flying Fish Cove. Unfortunately the Rainforest boardwalk walk was closed so we took the opportunity to view some of the Islands great birds & crabs.
We all had BBQ dinner & drinks at the VQ3. Our group has 27 people in it on this Island.

Thursday 24 June
7am early wake up. A small group of interested people park took. We drove to Governors House by a small mini bus to see the view on a clear morning of Flying Fish Cove. Around the buildings & along the road were lots of red crabs. There is a rule on the Island for people driving to slow down to avoid the red crabs as they are protected.

9am we departed for the main trip of the day to The Grotto ( locally known as The Dragons Den - the noise of the ocean coming into the underwater cave.

Next stop was the Casino. Our group has special permission to enter the area. It was a derelict white elephant. It has not been in use for over 10 years. It lost its licence when Kerry Packer got the rights to open the Crown Casino in Perth, Western Australia. It has since been left to crumble unoccupied. It is falling apart. Even though it is visible there is furniture in good condition in the rooms & vehicles left abandoned. It is such a waste of funds.

XXX Ian to add photo of casino. Remove this line.

The pools at the Casino.

Waterfall Bay
Location of a Malaysian Temple & some amazing blow holes.
A lovely chick, a Boobie bird.

Ethel Beach
We took a walk down the wooden steps to the Shelly & Coral beach. Members of our group filled more than 2 large fertilizer bags full of rubbish. It contained polystyrene, things, plastic straws, plastic bottles & a myriad of unwanted stuff.

Lily Beach
For a few brave soles took a dip in the ocean pool. We were two of them. It was so refreshing.

Home for lunch on our balcony. In the afternoon we went out to see Parks Australia, Dr Tanya Detto who educated us & then took us through the rainforest to see the Yellow Crazy Ants. These little micro sizes ants accidentally introduced in the 1920s have recently started killing off colony's of Red Crabs. One of her tasks is to find a way to reduce or eliminate the ants. Another invader is the xxxxxxx snake. It has deviated the native reptile population. She now has to find a way to remove them from the Island.
Photo below taken by Linda de Vries, thankyou for sharing.

Dinner was at Seaview Fish & Chips at Poon San
WA hoo, one of the local fish was off the menu. We had local snapper & chips. We were invited upstairs to a local bar to eat our fish & chips & enjoy a beverage or two.

Friday 25 June
6.30 bus tour included a small group. We took our bus past the Governors House to Daniel Roux Cave. It was a slippery walk through the jungle past hundred of crabs, lots of fungi to the slippery steel stairwell. A few brave Soules took the stairwell climb to find the Cave had been fenced off. It was still an interesting experience.

We took the morning to walk to the local Post Office to purchase a few postcards to send home. We visited the Information Bureau & strolled home for lunch.

We had a trip to the Phosphate Mine Office for a very interesting informative presentation on the Mine Operation rehabilitation process & some local history due to poor weather we were unable to visit the mine site today.

Dinner tonight was Pizza at the local bakery. They cook Pizzas for the town on Friday nights

Saturday 26 June
We enjoyed a leisurely day walking and exploring around the settlement.
A fish mural
A tile collage

Some exercise equipment on the beach front.

A bowling green, skate park, volley ball court, bbqs, tables & chairs, and clean toilets.
This Shire is certainly looking after it's ratepayers with support also by the Christmas Island Phosphate Company..

Mid Afternoon
Deborah took her second snorkel at Flying Fish Cove & saw lots of colourful fish.

Tonight our group gathered at the local. We were told by the locals last night that the flight that came from Perth yesterday afternoon did not land as it could not see the airfield. Storms were brewing. All passengers were returned to Perth & are trying to return again on tomorrow's flight. As a consequence we caught up with Alex & Rachael again tonight. It was a lovely catch up. Looking forward to seeing you both another time back home.

The first night we get to see the sunset was tonight. Each other night it has been overcast or raining.
Tonight's sunset was spectacular.

Dinner was at Poon Saan at Lucky Boy Restaurant. It looked like it was well known by the locals. Nice food. Our shared cost was around $25 a head. Meet Harry & Linda..

Sunday 27 June
6.30 am
Deborah partook in the early morning excursion to the Golf Course Lookout. It was an interesting & slightly difficult walk through an unsigned jungle track over differed terrains up hills & down dale's ensuring not to step on a crab. The view was spectacular. Christmas Island really needs to invest into at least some basic signage to help tourists find locations on the Island.

Late Morning
We took a stroll down the main Street to find good vantage points to observe the phosphate ship " Red Titan" which had docked early in the morning to take on a load of phosphate for Indonesia. Along the way we stopped at a lookout point behind the visitor centre where we could see the bow of the ship & the loading process. It was also a great viewing platform to see local birds & butterflies. Walking further towards the Flying Fish Cove, Kampong we found a spot where we could see the stern of the ship. We strolled home stopping at a few seats along the way & in a park where there was a lovely breeze in the shade. The weather was sunny, hot & humid.

Dinner tonight was a group bbq at the VQ3, where we are staying.

Monday 28 June
The morning was spent down at the 'Blowholes' at the south end of the island, where a 350 metre boardwalk has been built to access this great natural wonder. Amazing. These are volcanic limestone rocks eroded by the sea creating small tunnels for the crashing waves to funnel through. An incredible sight and a blasting sound. This area of coast is one of the main sections where the red crabs move during their annual migration.

We next drive up to the Pink House and the Lizard Lodge, to see the threatened lizards and how Parks Australia is breeding to release. The giant centipede and wolf snake have decimated the endemic population ad have the crazy ants with the red crabs.

Afterwards a quick trip to a Toaist temple which is located next to an original water well developed for the old train line used to transport the phosphate from South end to the port at Flying Fish Cove.

Robber crabs sighted in the afternoon.

Next stop was National Parks headquarters for the bird feeding. Injured birds are rehabilitated in a small enclosure.

We have been amused by a rather large vessel which has been cruising backwards & forwards across the Cove. We are told it is the Border Force.

Thanks Chris Riley for mentioning the Library.
There was a Shire Library on the Island but we didn't manage to get to it. Luckily there were a few of the small local Libraries that Ian found.

Update for Tuesday 29th June...the scheduled Virgin flight is arriving today to take us to Cocos, however due to a Covid lockdown in Perth the plane will be empty of passengers. The upside for us is we can now stay in our accommodation until closer to our plane departure time. The downside is one of our group was expecting his wife to be arriving today.
There may be further updates, but don't hold your breath.
We managed to find the Christmas Island Shire Public Library. Unfortunately it was closed at the time we visited.
A further update on the Library situation.

Posted by iandeborah 14:10 Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 2 of 2) Page [1]