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Christmas Island

Christmas Island

You never know where life will take you. Applying for my first job on Christmas Island opened the doors to locum work, remote medicine and becoming a permanently travelling GP. In my typically naive way, I boarded a plane and arrived at the pristine island wonderland of Christmas Island (CI).  I couldn't believe my luck. The drive down to Poon Saan village has views of bright blue ocean as far as the eye can see, barely distinguishable from sky. I knew instantly I was about to fall in love.

There isn't much industry on Christmas Island aside from Immigration detention centre and some residual phosphate mining. The Christmas Island resort was a casino destination for Asian tourists but has been closed for several years now.  Because of scant flights to Christmas island, tourism is currently limited to die-hard twitchers (bird lovers) and some scuba divers, but the island offers a bounty of natural wonders including rare birds and the unique red crab migration

 Red crabs on the morning of their spawning, waiting for incoming waves to wash over them before they release their eggs.

Red crabs on the morning of their spawning, waiting for incoming waves to wash over them before they release their eggs.

Crabs! The crabs are everywhere. They are at your front door, sometimes inside your room. They are littered across the roads. A broom travels in the ute to push crabs off the road. During the red crab migration many roads are closed and other roads have purpose-built tunnels, walls and bridges to accommodate the dense flow of crabs. Giant coconut crabs are aptly named Robber crabs by locals as they're known to steal picnic supplies from unattended bags. While on call for the hospital, dodging crabs on the road is a requisite skill. 

 Flying fish cove where the first settlers arrived on Christmas Island. The phosphate ship-loader is at the top of the frame. The Malay settlement (Kampong) on the ocean front and the stunning reef with visiting yachts.

Flying fish cove where the first settlers arrived on Christmas Island. The phosphate ship-loader is at the top of the frame. The Malay settlement (Kampong) on the ocean front and the stunning reef with visiting yachts.

 The top of a coral bommie

The top of a coral bommie

Have I mentioned snorkelling? The coral reef with floating plates and the Java shelf 3000 metre drop-off are just a few steps from the beach of Flying Fish Cove. Whale sharks emerge from the depths to feed on red crab spawn each year and it is not uncommon to be a lone snorkeler with these giant beauties. Tiger sharks are found off Ethel and Lily beach with its ocean wading pool set between cliffs... and of course the Blow Holes, the Grotto, the waterfall...

 Giant Robber or Coconut crabs live up to 60 years of age

Giant Robber or Coconut crabs live up to 60 years of age

I spent a night on call to the hospital, with a torch on Ethel beach trying to decide which mamma Robber Crab was spawning next. The mother crab scales the cliff's edge with her 'perfectly designed for rock-climbing' legs, then walks carefully into the shallows, wiggles her tail in a puff of brown water, then scrambles back to land.

 Baby brown footed boobie

Baby brown footed boobie

The thing about Christmas Island is every moment of every day is spent watching a Golden Bosun glide through the air, a Frigate bird dive for insects, screaming at the rooster who doesn't know the time, swimming past a turtle, or pushing a red crab away from the wheel of the car -

- and what I've noticed is everybody who visits Christmas Island leaves with a feeling of belonging - maybe it is the fact that nature just won't quit, or maybe it is the Aunties with their Sambal Chicken and Roti Channai.

You can find more about Christmas island on the Tourism association website here, and at the Australian national parks website here.

The crabs of Christmas Island

The crabs of Christmas Island