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 got on a plane and landed on the pristine, unspoiled 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 bright blue 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.
Crabs! The crabs are everywhere. They are at your front door, sometimes inside your room. They are littered across the roads. You carry a broom in the car to move them aside. Red crabs are everywhere and during the red crab migration many roads are closed. The island has purpose-built tunnels and walls along roads to accommodate the huge flow of crabs during migration. Giant coconut crabs are aptly named Robber crabs by locals and some doctors I worked with accused a Robber of stealing their car keys while they were surfing. While on call for the hospital, dodging crabs on the road is a requisite skill. My favourite crabs are vintage, powder blue crabs who hide in the forest undergrowth.
Have I mentioned snorkelling yet? The coral reef with floating plates and the Java shelf 3000m drop-off are just a few steps off the beach of Flying Fish Cove. Whale sharks pass through to feed on red crab spawn every year and it is not uncommon to be a lone snorkeler with these giant beauties. Tiger sharks are found off Ethel beach and Lily beach with its ocean wading pool set between cliffs... and of course the Blow Holes, the Grotto, the waterfalls...
I spent one of my night's on call with a torch running up and down Ethel beach trying to decide which of my mamma Robber Crabs was going to release her eggs first. They have a pouch beneath their tail that changes from red to brown before spawning. 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 and then scrambles back to land.
The thing about Christmas Island is every moment of every day is spent watching a Golden Bosun glide through the air, or 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 goes to 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.