The unbelievable journey begins – with a flew and fever at home in bed. The timing can’t be better. Ten days before our trip to Christmas Island. “Wonderful”, I think. “I have the chance to dive with Sharks, Mantas and Wales, but instead, home in bed with this stupid typical German Winter flew”. My doctor however encourages me: “You will make it to Christmas Island, no worries”. Like crazy, I take all the pills and drops he gave me. The day before our big trip, my flew is almost gone. Yeahhhh what a doctor!
Munich Airport gladly isn’t as bad as the Airport in Frankfurt, but they still can’t put a readable sign up where to park correctly. At least if you got an online – per-ordered parking ticket. So I have to re-park the car and pay extra two Euro for this stupid Airport Parking. The shuttle bus comes on time, and soon, we are waiting at the gate for our Qatar Airways Flight to Doha. After a very short layover there, my Diving Teacher Dula (who actually is the one who came up with the whole Christmas Island trip while we where in El Hierro) finally arrives with her friends when we are already seated for our connecting flight. A few long, long ours later, the whole group of ten is complete and we check in to the FM7 Hotel near Jakarta Airport. If you ever stay in this Hotel, go to the Rooftop Lounge and order the Sweet and Sour Fish for Dinner! Its the biggest most delicious Fish meal I had for decades!
After a typical Javanese Breakfast the next morning, the one hour flight with Garuda Indonesia brings our group to our final destination. This flight was actually chartered by Extra Divers CEO Walter Harscher in 2016 and still flies every Saturday between Christmas Island and Jakarta. Before, European visitors had to fly several hours longer all the way to Australia to get to Christmas Island. It took almost seven years to overcome the bureaucratic obstacles to open the Extradivers Diving Center. Because of such a remote island, everything has to be shipped in expensively. To just get the diving boat there with a container ship, cost over 30.000 Euro. If a car brakes on Christmas Island, its bad luck. We have been told that there is only one guy on the entire island, who fixes them. Of course he is always booked out and not cheap. However, if transportation is needed while a car is broken, everybody helps out. Our first impression of Christmas Island are friendly Police Officers, driving some of us from the Airport to the Hotel next to the Extra Divers. How nice! And then, an hour later at the Dive Center: “Welcome to Christmas Island, we will start tomorrow at 7:30AM !” Ohhh nooooo I think.
A couple of years before our visit, on December 25, 1643 to be precise, Captain William Mynors on the Royal Mary, an East Indian Company vessel landed on this island and named it on Christmas Day. He probably got up that early in the morning as well, but he had no jet-lag of six hours. After another unsuccessful attempt in 1857, the owner of the Cocos Islands George Clunies-Ross pr-empt any other claim to the resources of the island. A Phosphate lease for 99 years was offered by Britain and soon after and the Phosphate mining becomes the main business on the island. But it wasn’t really the most safe and calm workplace. More than 500 workers died of Beriberi, a Thiamine deficiency (vitamin B1). In World-war Two, 900 Japanese troops invaded Christmas and Imprisoned European, Malay and Chinese workers or hunted them into the jungle. On October 1st, 1958, The United Kingdom transferred ￼the Islands Sovereignty to Australia. Since then, Christmas Island is Australian Territory. Today, there are about 1500 people living on Christmas Island. However, the main Population consists of the true natives on Christmas Island: Red Crabs! One time a year in rain season (usually October/November), the big Crab Migration takes place. Millions of Crabs are moving from the rain forests to the ocean to bread and then slowly walk back. Soon after, rocks and stones turn red. Trillions of tiny little baby crabs cover every centimeter of the ground. Most roads are closed by then and traffic signs are all over Christmas Island: “Slow Down – Drive around”. Especially the much bigger Crab called “Robber Crab” is a protected animal and the fine is 5000$ if someone witnesses you run one over with your car.
To actually start our vacation halfway relaxed and calm, Stefanie and I skip the first day 7:30AM diving action and walk around at Flying Fish Cove, the only island village. Not too many red crabs, but all kinds of other crab species are residing on rocks stick out of the shallow water. It is that hot, that we play “shadow run”, rushing from one shady tree to the next one until we relax under a little roof covered picnic place at the beach. In the evening, everyone goes to the Golden Bosun Bar and Restaurant for Dinner. So do we. The food tastes excellent and the beer even better after such a hot first day. First diving stories are being told while I am putting Aloevera lotion into my already sunburned face. Gladly, we didn’t miss the too much this first day. Everyone looks pretty tired and we all go to sleep early.
The next few days, our dives are very nice. Dolphins accompany us almost every day for a while, jumping happily out of the waves. Together with another group from Switzerland, the boat feels a little crowded, but as soon this huge Manta glides right towards us while our next dive, all space problems are forgotten. A little reef-shark circles around another day. Even a Whale-Shark shows up, unfortunately right after the dive. Only the ones who are still in the water are lucky to see it. Some Barracudas, Surgeonfish and Unicornfish, Toadfish and Puffers, Damselfish, Cods and Basslets,
Wrasses and many others are home in the reef. The underwater world shows 88 coral species and more than 650 species of fish. 34 species of moray eels have been recorded at Christmas Island. Sadly, some reef places are dead, the corals all broken fragments on the ground, caused by the Tropical Cyclone Gillian in 2014. One day, we are diving into a underwater cave, surfacing inside a big limestone cave hall with stalactites and stalagmites.
Then comes the rain! With the rain comes the storm. The diving boat moves up and down so dramatically that boarding from the peer becomes a jump and pray game. Sandra from the diving center slips and falls into the water between the boat and the peer. She gets almost crushed by the heavy ship. Gladly she doesn’t get an injury, but it was very close. Time to take a diving break and to move the two boats to the other side of the island, where the sea is more calm.
There are two guys on the island who rent out some older Toyota RAV4s four wheeler cars. With the car, it takes about three hours to drive around the entire Island. If you plan to go on the few well documented hikes, it takes maybe one day. The police recommends their little yellow emergency transmitter boxes to take. In case of an accident, flat tire or whatever else can happen somewhere in the ￼jungle, you can press a button and help is on the way. Its a way more relaxed drive that way and the rent of those emergency transmitters is free.
As soon as we hit the road, the portals of heaven open to the fullest. But actually, it is fun. With rain jackets and umbrellas, jungle walks become a true rain forest experience. The first stop is “The Grotto”, a cool little natural cave with a sea and freshwater pool. Then, we walk to the the Waterfall and Lilly beach right after. A wonderful island panoramic view from the Margaret Knoll, followed by Greta Beach. A Temple at South-point is more like a red painted Garage, but the old railway ghost station is pretty cool. Old tracks and ruins feed the wildest fantasies. On the way to the blowholes, a fallen tree stops us. But with an old belt we find in the car, we move it off the road, just enough that we can pass. Of course, all that in heavy rain! Except a politically much discussed detention center and west white beach, there isn’t really much in the northwest of the island. All human life takes place at the north-east.
With the stormy rain come the crabs! Many Crabs! Crab Migration second time this year. Very unusual. So the drive to the diving boat equals a slalom track race in slow motion. “Slow Down – Drive around”. Then, the crabs on the streets are just too many. The only solution: One stays in the car and drives, four walk in front of the car, soft and carefully pushing or scaring the crabs off the road. Every single of them. Most run away, but one of ten stands and fights. Then you have to fight back with a leaf or a stick until they give up and run away also.
On the east side of Christmas Island, there is only one place where it is possible to get close the ocean with the car. Ethal Beach, a couple of rocks and a slippery boat ramp. That’s it. The boat parks about twenty meters away from the beach. Everyone has to swim. But we have lots of fun and feel like pioneers of undiscovered territory. After diving, the warm heavy tropical rain showers wash the saltwater off our diving suites, hair and skin. What an adventure.
Many special thanks to the extraordinary Extradivers Team! With the rainy and stormy weather conditions, it was not easy to manage the perfect diving trips. But they did everything possible that we had the most awesome stay. On the days where it was impossible to hid the ocean, they showed us around the island and introduced us to the local animal research centers.
Thank you Sandy, Hiro, Dave and Dylan for such a fantastic time!
Here are our Christmas Island Impressions:
Special Thanks to Wolfgang for sharing his spectacular underwater photos with bluefins.de!