Paradise is Cocos Island
Cocos Island is the epitome of a tropical island, fringed with coconut palms wildly remote and did someone say blue? sky and water merge into a mirage of paradise.
Located in the Indian Ocean, 2700km from Perth the Cocos Keeling Islands are a group of 27 breathtaking islands.
Grouped together in the shape of a turtle the centrepiece being a stunning lagoon, this spectacular chain of islands is a well-kept secret of the Indian Ocean.
Simply known as Cocos to locals, visitors can only get to this remote outpost on a Virgin Airlines flight out of Perth.
Flights fly via Exmouth in Western Australia’s North West or Cocos’s neighbouring Indian Ocean Island Christmas Island.
There are only two flights a week to this isolated part of the world.
Only two islands are inhabited, West Island and Home Island, and both are linked by a ferry which runs a regular timetable.
Sit inside or up top where ever you choose the ferry ride between islands is comfortable.
West Island is the commercial hub for Cocos. The airport is located here and it’s where you will begin and end your adventure.
Moreover, the majority of the accommodation, tour operators and restaurants are here along with the pub, police, visitor information, supermarket and post office.
Home Island is exactly that home for the Cocos-Malay locals who work on West Island and live on Home Island.
During your visit, you can freely and easily visit three islands West, Home and Direction all are serviced by ferry, all are worth exploring.
Your starting point, for adventure, is West Island upon walking out of the airport you stroll right past the pub, pizza shop and bakery on your way to your accommodation, welcome to paradise.
The main settlement is on West Island, the centre of activities. It’s the largest of the three islands you are likely to explore, It’s 10km long and is kinda divided up into three segments. The middle is the settlement, airport arrivals and departures.
The hub of West Island Settlement
The main signpost on the island
The Visitor Information Centre
Further north is the Rumah Baru Ferry Jetty the old jetty and places of interest such as Trannies Beach, The Spot and The Old Barge.
Above is the coffee view at The Old Barge and Below is the Family Friendly Trannies Beach.
Stunning beaches line the south end, Scout Park, Pulu Maraya Island and the yacht club are all eye-popping.
Roads around the settlement and to the north have been sealed while the roads to the south are unsealed and a little rough in places after big tides they can on occasion be closed or quite wet.
You never get sick of the palms that line the roads of Cocos Island.
Ten kilometres from one end of the island to the other doesn’t sound like a great distance.
Thought should be given to the duration of your stay the activities you plan to partake in and how often you see yourself needing to go from one end to the other.
Hiring A Car
This will determine whether or not you need to hire a car or if a bike will suffice.
Bear in mind when making these decisions what you might have under your arm.
If it’s just you and your partner with a bit of snorkelling gear in a backpack then a bike might be all you need.
However, if you have a paddle board, Kayak, surfboard or a few kids all with snorkelling gear and fishing rods then it might be worth the expense to have the back of a ute at your disposal.
We stayed for ten days and used the car every day.
West Island provides wonderful opportunities for Snorkelling, Fishing, Surfing, Kite Surfing, Stand-Up Paddleboarding, Kayaking, bike riding, picnicking and walking.
And the most important thing of all is Beach time, time to do nothing or everything with the ones you love spending time with.
Swim, wander & relax on the Beaches of Cocos Island
By far the best spot, Pulu Maraya, is an island just off the beach at Scout Park.
How do I get to it
Depending on the stage of the tide to how fast the water is moving through the channel between Scout Park and Pulu Maraya island.
Negotiating the channel has to be completed to complete the snorkel.
Ensuring you have reef shoes on you’ll need them to walk across the channel as it’s all reef.
Start walking up the beach further than you need before entering the water, once in let the current bring you back to where you need to be over at the island and hold onto young kids.
Timing is everything here, you can walk across at low tide, however, there will be no water around the island for you to snorkel in.
Mid-tide is what you are after, once the tide turns and is high pushes in there is a lot of movement between the island and the beach
Best Way To Do It
Arriving over at the island the current moves around the island, no need for fins here just let the water take you on a voyage of discovery.
Once on the other side jump out walk across the island and do it again. Once you have had enough swim back across the channel to the beach at Scout Park.
This location is included on a wonderful motorized canoe tour, the tour is awesome and gives an incredible overview of the islands. However, your time at Pulu Maraya is short, only a taster. To fully explore you have to give it a go independently.
Green & Hawksbill Turtles
Blacktip Reef Sharks
Pulu Maraya is teaming with life, fish, baby reef sharks, clams and if you are lucky turtles, it’s an excellent, fun snorkel for the whole family.
The Spot is the island’s surfing beach, however, if you snorkel out past the break there are some wonderful areas to explore, in water that is deeper than other places you will snorkel on the island.
Trannies Beach is a beautiful big lagoon, pretty shallow it’s great for kids, and it empties and fills on the tide, you have every chance to see a reef shark or a fish of some kind.
West Island is user-friendly when it comes to fishing, especially with kids. The beaches to the north and south are worth a go, along with the jetty.
When To Fish
As a general rule, the incoming tide is best, starting your fishing one hour before high tide and finishing half an hour after the top of the tide.
What Could I Catch
From the beach or the jetty, a variety of fish can be caught including the most sought Bonefish & Bluefin Trevally from a boat the options get even bigger and more varied.
Hard for fish to hide in water this clear
Bluefin Trevally’s were common
Chasing Bonefish off the Beach
We had a lot and quite a bit of success walking the beaches on either side of the jetties both old and new.
On an incoming tide in very little water it’s worth the walk between Scout Park and the Yacht Club you always have a chance for a Bonefish.
The main jetty was good fun too, check it out after dark all types of things swimming around.
Catching Bonefish was a thrill
Bluefin Trevally’s were fun
Even Dad got lucky
For convenience, we only fished with soft plastic lures.
There is no fishing allowed at The Spot (Surfing Beach) or at Trannies Beach.
Ocean swells around West Island always find their way to The Spot. It’s a gentle wave breaking over a combination of reef and sandbank. A wonderful location for a Dad who is a bit past his prime or kids who are trying it out for the first time.
Kite Surfing, Stand-Up Paddleboarding & Kayaking
All these activities are best completed at the southern end of the island down around the Yacht Club and Scout Park.
Kite Surfing is a pretty exciting activity completed during the winter and early spring months when the trade wind is strongest, tour operators offer various levels of engagement.
Stand Up-Paddleboards and Kayaks can be enjoyed in relative safety and shallow water. Fabulous scenery and colours are incredibly beautiful and are hard to beat. These watercraft can be hired on the island, advantageous to organise before arrival.
Picnicking and walking.
Scout Park and Trannies Beach are the two stand-out places for a picnic both have heaps of space.
Trannies Beach is probably better if you have smaller kids as the water is safer for swimming and a playground adds extra entertainment.
The Old Barge is another nice location it has a quaint art gallery inside an old barge and offers some of if not the best coffee on the island, at the very least Mum & Dad should drop in here on route to take the kids to Trannies and grab a coffee.
This place has something for all the family, Trannies Beach is a fabulous spot to spend some time.
Art gallery in the hull of an old Barge, coffee and space for the kids to run around The Old Barge ticks a lot of boxes.
One doesn’t have to have their head under the water to see wildlife while visiting the Cocos Keeling Islands. Walking along the beach, glancing out to sea or peering up into the sky or trees will all provide opportunities for sightings.
Hermit Crabs are fun to watch
Silver Terns grace the skies
Cocos Island Horned Crab
The Cocos Keeling Islands have some of the happiest Turtles in the World.
Is the authentic Cocos-Malay experience and where the Cocos-Malay locals live. Its residents are Muslim and follow its code strictly, it is respectful for a visiting woman to cover up their shoulders down to below their knees.
Home Island is where the Clunes Ross family settled the islands, it is vastly different to the other islands it has many old large trees that are not Coconut Palms.
Oceania House the original Clunes Ross residence, now a guest house is a beautiful old home and piece of architecture, well worth a look.
Oceiana House – The Grandest House of The Cocos Keeling Islands
Beautiful old trees of Home Island
Fortunate to have several guest houses Home Island offers accommodation in authentic Malay surroundings which often includes meals as part of the package.
A wonderful experience and an alternative to the conventional accommodation of West Island.
The Seafront restaurant is a must, not to be missed, authentic Cocos Malay food that is simply delicious.
Boasting many beaches to enjoy it’s also the perfect size to cycle around, Home Island is friendly, beautiful, authentic and well worth visiting.
Enjoy Home Island by Bike
Whatever you do, don’t visit The Cocos Keeling Islands and forget to visit Direction Island.
It’s idyllic and breathtakingly beautiful with beaches that are simply exquisite. Direction Island has a palette of blues and turquoise that is only broken by its pure white sands.
Perfectly Pristine you won’t find better anywhere
Getting to Direction Island
The ferry runs to Direction Island on Thursdays and Saturdays departing both West and Home islands it takes 30min a bit longer in rough seas, and it costs $5 per adult kids under 13 travel free, cash-only service.
What’s At Direction Island
Direction Island is uninhabited, there’s nothing there except palm trees, gorgeous beaches and substantial wartime history. You will need to bring everything, drinking water and other refreshments and a picnic lunch.
Don’t forget your snorkelling gear, the rip is an exciting and beautiful place to explore.
Picnic shelters overlook the beach along the foreshore, they have tables and chairs and provide shade, if you are lucky enough to grab one they are wonderful.
Finding The Rip
Disembarking the ferry and once at the end of the jetty, wander right walking all the way to the end of the island, if you follow the track all the way to the end you’ll come to a viewing platform.
Splendid views are had, however, for easier access to the water via off to the beach at the last picnic shelter. Walking the remainder of the way along the beach will give you a much easier access point into the water at the Rip.
What is The Rip
The Rip is a passage of water that passes through a narrow channel between two islands. Water from the open ocean pushes between the end of Direction Island and nearby Prison Island emptying into Cocos Lagoon.
Being a drift snorkel, The Rip has a fast current, it does all the work for you once you’re in the water.
One just floats along enjoying the show that unfolds under the water beneath you. How fast or slow the water is moving depends on what stage the tide is at.
At high tide, the drift will be much faster than at low tide.
White Tip Reef Sharks are a thrill to sight.
Schools of colourful fish dart in every direction.
Deciding if I should go into The Rip
The tide should be a major consideration when deciding if you will give it a go.
Experienced snorkellers/divers and strong swimmers will find it fun regardless of the tide.
Weaker swimmers or those who would like to spend more time freediving to explore and less time fighting the flow of water will find low tide is definitely the better option.
Those intending to purely drift along enjoying the view and then get out, you won’t need fins. However, should you intend to explore a bit, free-dive down and spend a bit of time looking around then fins are essential.
What will you see
With pristinely clear water, corals so vibrant and a breathtaking array of fish of all shapes, sizes and colours there is much to enjoy, with Reef sharks and Turtles regularly seen which adds to the anticipation.
Huge Wrasse cruise the Rip.
Love spotting Turtles, they are the highlight.
When swimming in the rip never fight it, you’ll get tired before it will, never panic about the speed you might find yourself moving just go with the flow, once you are in the lagoon the flow of water slows and its an easy swim in calm water back to the beach, at which point you can call it a day satisfied you have done it once or jump in and do it again.
Cocos island is a paradise for some and doing time for others. There are no five-star resorts, next to no retail, the internet is non-existent and there are very few restaurants and cafes to indulge in.
That being said it’s all these things that make it what it is, less connection to all the external stuff means better connection with the people you are travelling with.
There is no luxury on Cocos Island however, there is plenty of paradise. Immerse yourself in the beauty of the islands and the creature comforts you think you are missing will be repaid many times over in scenes and memories your mind will not be able to forget or erase.
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