The Crab Island Down Under

Posted On November 23, 2009 

Common Info

Christmas Island is located off the northwestern coast of Australia in the Indian Ocean. The capital of Western Australia, Perth is about 2,600 kilimetres away from Christmas Island. The island is a territory of Australia with its nearest neighbour being the Indonesian island of Java. The island is spread over an area of just 135 square kilometres and is home to rich endemic flora and fauna. The Cocos Keeling Island is also located close to the Christmas Island (together these two island are known Australian Indian Ocean Territories). It has a population of just over 1,000 which Christmas Islandis mainly settled in the northern part in and around places like Flying Fish Cove, Silver City, Drumsite, Poon Saan and others. A national park has also been set up covering 60 per cent of the island which is managed by the Australian Department of Environment and Heritage.


The island was first brought in the charts of exploration by the British and Dutch navigators in the seventeenth century. The island was named as Christmas Island by Captain William Mynors of Royal Mary, a British East India Company vessel after he had arrived at the island on the Christmas Day in 1643. The first map showing the island was first published in 1666. Successive explorations have taken place to the island in the following time.


Surrounded by coral reef, Christmas Island is a volcanic island featuring cliffs and sheltered bays.  Its coastline is 80 kilometres long. Volcanic remnants can be seen at the Dales and Dolly Beach. There is no coastal shelf with the sea taking a deep plunge within 200 metres of the coast. The island plateau which is located atop the cliffs is over 350 metres high (The Murray Hill is 361 metres high).  Christmas Island has tropical equatorial climate with wet and dry seasons. The wet season extends from December to April when the northwest monsoon arrives at the island. In other times, the southeast trade winds lead to lower temperature and humidity with lesser rain. Tropical cyclones occasionally pass by the island during the monsoon season. Mean annual rainfall is nearly 2,000 millimetres.


The Christmas Island plateau is mainly covered by rainforests. These forests mainly include twenty-five tree species, including: orchids, ferns and vines that grow in humid atmosphere beneath the canopy. Of the little woodland found in the island, coconut palm plantation is mostly found. The island also has about 200 species of native flowering plants of which 16 are endemic.

Birding in the Christmas Island

Christmas Island is home to a various endemic (thanks to the isolated geographic location leading to minimum human disturbance) avifauna species and sub-species. The Golden Bosunbird, White-tailed Tropicbird, Red-tailed Tropicbird and Silver Bosun are some of the most charming birds found in this island.  The island also has some unique seabird species. For instance, it is the last remaining habitat of the endangered Abbott’s Booby that prefers to make nests atop Brown Boobytall trees. Besides, there are the Red-footed Booby and Brown Booby varieties.

An endemic frigatebird is also found in many areas of the island. This rare avifauna type includes Christmas Island Frigatebird, Great Frigatebird and Lesser Frigatebird.

The island also holds home of various land bird species like Linchi Swiftlet, Christmas Island Imperial Pigeon, Christmas Shearwater, Christmas Island Hawk-Owl, Emerald Dove, Christmas Island Goshawk, Christmas Island White-eye and Island Thrush. Common Nody and Red Warbler are also found.

White-breasted Waterhen is another bird that has come to the island from Southeast Asia. There are also birds that migrate to and fro from the island every year (their number has been recorded to be 86).

Red Crab

Red Crabs are one of the biggest attractions of the Christmas Island. There are over 100 million of these land crabs that inhabit the island and they are mostly visible in November and December, the time when they take part in a Red Crabspectacular migration movement to the ocean shores from the rainforests for laying eggs and breeding purpose. The migration event continues for 18 days or so. There is a rich diversity of these creatures (21 crab species are found here) in Christmas Island ranging from the Robber Crabs (also called Coconut Crabs), Strawberry Land Hermit Crabs, Blue Crabs to others that are often seen hurrying and scurrying about on forest and shorelines. Red Crabs mainly feed on fallen leaves, flowers, fruits and seedlings. They also prefer fresh green leaves besides other dead crabs and birds and snail.

Breeding of the Red Crabs usually takes place throughout the island and is related to the lunar phases. Eggs are released into the sea at the beginning of high tides during the last quarter of the lunar phase following the onset of the monsoon. However, the Red Crab population in the island has a major threat in the Yellow Crazy Ants that are disturbing the crabs by occupying their habitats and attacking and killing them.

Other fauna

Christmas Island was home to two native rats species, namely, the Bulldog and the Maclear’s Rats that have gone extinct now. The Christmas Island Pipistrelle bats are also seriously endangered.

Communication to and in Christmas Island

Tourists can avail three weekly flights from Perth to Christmas Island Airport (The National Jet System flights connect Perth with the Christian Island and the Cocos Keeling Islands) besides a weekly charter flight from Malaysia on the Saturdays. The road network in the island is of good quality although some of the distant forest areas and remote beaches are linked by dirty, rough roads. The Flying Fish Cove at Norris Point areas of the island have container uploading/downloading ports.

Major Attractions at Christmas Island

The Christmas Island is a traveller’s paradise. There are hosts of activities that one can indulge in while touring the island.

  • Scuba Divingscuba driving

    Some of the best scuba diving trips in Australia (and also in the world) are found in the Christmas Island. The steep physical rise from the edge of the Java Trench, the deepest point in the Indian Ocean, gives fantastic opportunity of drop-off diving. Wall diving, unexplored and untouched corals, fish species, whalesharks, dolphins make scuba diving in Christmas Island the ultimate pleasure trip. The local scuba dive operators are well qualified and provide personalised trips and services.

  • Bird watching

    Tourists can experience sight of some of the most beautiful and charming birds in Christmas Island throughout the year.

  • National Park & Wildlife

    The Christmas Island National park is the last remaining habitat of the endangered Abbott’s Booby bird species. christmas island national parkIt also hosts the world’s largest remaining Robber Crab population. The main aim of setting the park is to preserve the magnificent rainforests, ocean shores and reefs of the island.

  • Other attractions in the Christmas Island include Dales freshwater streams, Lily Beach, blowholes, Margaret Knoll, Ethel Beach and others. One can also visit the neighbouring Cocos Keeling Islands, the beautiful atolls and coral islands.
  • Mountain biking
  • Rock fishing

Christmas Island offers a great range of accommodation facilities, ranging from simple lodge style to luxurious self-contained living. The Christmas Island Tourism Association ( can act as an important guide in this regard. Some of the best known accommodation facilities available in the Christmas Island are: The Cabin, Hibiscus House, Christmas Island Lodge, Captain’s Last Resort, The Retreat Rumah Biru Cottage, Sunset, Sea Gazin and others.

Best time to visit the island

February, May and September are the best time to visit the Christmas Island.

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