Cocos (Keeling) Islands is an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean with a population of just over 500 people. After visiting Australia’s other territory in the Indian Ocean, Christmas Island, I expected something similar, but Cocos (Keeling) Islands turned out to be something completely different. A destination that didn’t feel like Australia at all, and instead like a country of its own.
Many small territories in the world could easily be countries if they had bigger populations and were more ‘fit’ for being countries but are instead classified as territories despite being unique and very different from the country owning them. Cocos (Keeling) Islands consists of two atolls of which there are 27 coral islands. Only West Island and Home Island are inhabited.
My experience in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands started at the airport on West Island before taking the public boat to Home Island, where I stayed for four nights at the historical Oceania House. It was built by George Clunies-Ross around 1887 according to their website. Avril is a friendly host that helped me a lot making my visit special. Home Island is home to the Cocos Malays people whose first language is a dialect of Malay. More than 60% of the population of the territory practices Sunni Islam, which is a much higher percentage than on the mainland of Australia where the percentage is less than five. Home Island was nice and a culturally very interesting experience. There are smaller shops in the town and a supermarket on both Home Island and West Island.
Direction Island, the most beautiful island in the world?
On Thursday of my visit, I took the public boat out to the uninhabited island of Direction Island for a day trip. A stunningly beautiful island that is perhaps the single most beautiful island I have seen in the world. It has a long, white sandy beach. Photos are below beside the one above. It’s certainly one of my new favourite islands in the world and definitely the highlight of my visit to the uniquely Cocos (Keeling) Islands. For culture, West Island and Home Island are very interesting experiences but without the extraordinary beauty of Direction Island, which on the other hand lacks culture as there is no permanent population.
While Direction Island might be the most beautiful island, I wouldn’t say it’s the best island. I prefer a similar island, for example in the Maldives, where you can stay at a stunning resort for several days instead of just visiting an island like Direction Island on a day trip.
For more information, the tourist board’s website can help you in planning a visit to the island. Flights from Perth or Christmas Island with Virgin Australia are expensive, but that is often the case with remote island destinations anywhere in the world. Visiting every country in the world is very expensive, but many can be visited rather inexpensively. Visiting remote territories is a completely different case, with many destinations (including this one) not having any cheap alternative ways of visiting it. That’s at least to my knowledge, but if you are interested in working on a cargo ship or a cruise line there might be an alternative way of visiting the territory.
Some of the photos I took during my visit to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands are below.