11 things you never knew about Christmas Island

A tiny speck of land 1500 km off the coast of Western Australia, Christmas Island is one of Australia’s most astonishing natural wonders.

The island is celebrating 60 years as part of Australia in October 2018 (it was administered by British Singapore before 1958).

To mark our diamond anniversary, here are 11 things you probably didn’t know about this Indian Ocean gem.

It’s got loads of crabs…

Blue crab. Photo by Chris Bray Photography

Christmas Island is known as the Kingdom of Crabs.

20 terrestrial and intertidal crabs call the island home, but only 13 are regarded as true land crabs (meaning they only need the ocean for larval development).

…including some scarily large ones

Coconut crab. Photo by Christmas Island Tourism Association

Christmas Island is home to the world’s biggest land crab – the coconut crab, also known as the robber crab.

Coconut crabs are found on islands right across the Pacific, but on Christmas Island they are a protected species.

That means these monstrous crustaceans can grow up to one metre across, weigh up to 4.5 kg and live for more than 50 years.

It’s one of Attenborough’s favourite spots

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yo7Rpr_xyOU?rel=0&w=560&h=315]

World-renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough described sitting among thousands of red crabs as they marched over him as one of his greatest TV moments.

Most of it is national park

The Dales. Photo by Chris Bray Photography

Christmas Island is a wildlife wonder, and two-thirds of the 135 square kilometre island is protected as a national park.

The Dales, a wetland site of seven watercourses, is internationally recognised for its natural value. It boasts permanent and perennial streams, springs, and an extraordinary array of animals, birds and plants.

It’s a birdwatcher’s paradise…

Greater frigatebird. Photo by Max Orchard

Christmas Island is internationally recognised as one of the world’s most spectacular seabird rookeries.

More than 80,000 seabirds call the island home, and many species are completely fearless of people. This means you can often walk right up to nesting birds to take the perfect photo.

…and a heaven for botanists

Hoya aldrichii, a vine only found on Christmas Island. Photo by M Fagg

About half of Christmas Island’s unique plant life isn’t found anywhere else in Australia.

Some of the best bits are underwater

Swimming with a whale shark. Photo by Christmas Island Tourism Association

The tropical reefs surrounding the island support a fantastic variety of fish. We’ve counted more than 570 species, and visitors can often swim or snorkel with dolphins, turtles, sunfish and whale sharks.

It’s a world-class diving destination

Diving the wall. Photo by Christmas Island Tourism Association

Christmas Island renowned among scuba divers for having some of the steepest drop-offs in the world.

Within 20 m of the shoreline, the reefs suddenly plummet straight down into the blue. Some spots within 200 m of the beach are around half a kilometre deep!

It’s a conservation success story

Blue-tailed skink. Photo by Parks Australia

Two reptile species have been brought back from the brink of extinction on the island – the blue-tailed skink and the Lister’s gecko.

At one point there were only 43 Lister’s geckos left alive. But thanks to our effective captive breeding programs the plight of these two species is now greatly improved.

You can take a virtual tour

Red crab migration. Photo by Parks Australia

Not quite ready to visit us in person?

No problem – you can explore this remote Indian Ocean island from the comfort of your lounge room thanks to Google Earth and Google Street View.

Captured during Christmas Island’s annual red crab migration, this 360-degree journey  of our beaches and rainforests features tens of thousands of our most famous crustaceans.

Head over to the Christmas Island National Park website to start exploring.

It’s surprisingly accessible

Dolly Beach boardwalk. Photo by Phil Cash

You don’t have to be David Attenborough to discover Christmas Island’s natural treasures. Virgin Australia flies directly to the island from Perth, and the flight only takes about three hours.

There are plenty of places to stay, including Swell Lodge, a new luxury eco-chalet with unbelievable ocean views.

Visit the Christmas Island National Park website for more information about visiting one of Australia’s most captivating destinations.