Cocos (Keeling) Islands

Travel tips to visit Cocos (Keeling) Islands

Ieva Miltina Ieva Miltina 01 January 2021
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Most people have never heard of this place. 27 heavenly islands in the Indian Ocean and just two of them are inhabited. Each island is filled with the greenest jungle yet surrounded by the clearest blue waters abundant with sea life. Basically - a paradise on Earth! And only the rare one knows that this unfamiliar bit of land happens to be under the jurisdiction of another continent. Yes, this article is about Cocos Islands Australia! 

Another Costa Rican island half-world away beholds the same name. But this time, we will talk about tips for travel to Cocos Keeling Islands that lie midway between Australia and Sri Lanka. You might find it useful if you are already planning a trip to Cocos (Keeling) Islands! But if this is the first time you hear the name and are here just to find out more - some basic information will follow, too. 

Where are the Cocos Islands located?

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It is not a surprise that very few know this place, and the location is an even bigger mystery. Just take a look at how many people live in the Cocos Islands, and you will get an impression of why it is so. Let me make it easier for you...it is 544 people! And all of them live on just two islands - either West or Home islands. These two and the rest 25 islets are two combined archipelagos. Even many Australians themselves are not fully aware of where are the Cocos Islands located. The truth is - they are physically closer to the Indonesian Sumatra and Maldives than the great Down Under. 

How do you get to Cocos Islands Western Australia?

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It is a rather remote location therefore, you will arrive by plane at Cocos Islands Airport (CCK) or by boat/yacht from Christmas or other islands. Traveling to the Cocos Islands Australia will most probably be your departing point. The flights from Perth to the Cocos Islands Airport depart just twice a week! It makes much sense, considering where are the Cocos Islands located and the fact that they take up just 14km2 of land in total! So small that there are no cities in Cocos (Keeling) Islands, just one settlement called Bantam.

It is important to know that the West Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands is where you will arrive and find your accommodation, too. The second inhabited one - the Home Island, is where most locals reside. You will be able to get there for day trips by inter-island ferry and get around on a tourist bus.

Is it expensive to visit the Cocos Islands Australia?

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There is a particular reason why I wanted to cover some rather “technical” information before some more exciting facts. The information in the last two paragraphs gives you an impression of the uniqueness and the exclusivity of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. It is a small and remote destination - not many people get to travel there. That justifies the fact that it is also a rather expensive destination.

So how much money will you have to say goodbye to? First, you will have to get there. Just to travel to Cocos Keeling Islands from Australia will cost you anywhere from 600-1000 EUR for a return flight. Then add the expenses of getting to Australia, too. Accommodation on either Home or West Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands will cost you from 120 - 500 EUR per night, depending on the season and the type of place where you decide to lay your head. Add food, tours, car hire, and you end up with a decent amount of cash needed to fulfill this dream of visiting paradise. On top of that, visiting just for one or two days would be a waste of your money, wouldn’t it? One tip that might make it seem a little less pricey is paying a visit to Christmas Island alongside your travel to Cocos Keeling Islands! Or save time on research and pay an agency for a complete travel package.

How about the people in Cocos (Keeling) Islands?

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I mentioned already that there are no cities in Cocos (Keeling) Islands. And you know how many people live in the Cocos Islands, too. It is basically a village spread out on several bits of land in the sea! Therefore you can expect that simple life vibe from the locals almost anywhere you go.

The locals are friendly and hospitable, and the culture stems from a unique blend of traditions. The past events and the remote location ensured a mix of Malay, Islamic, and subsequently, European Australian traditions. Most locals are Sunni Muslims and, therefore, the biggest event of the year is the end of Ramadan - Eid al Fitr. 

What is the best time to visit Cocos Islands?

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To find out the best time to visit Cocos Islands, you have to hear a slight intro into their climate patterns. You can expect relatively little temperature changes throughout the year since the islands are located so near to the Equator. The air temperature rarely drops below 24C and the water below 26C! There are just two things you might want to consider when planning your time there. It is rainfall and tides.

If you go there to enjoy surfing or other water-related activities, then make sure to find out if the water levels are appropriate for the activity you have chosen. Or just contact their Visitor Centre to get all the information in one place. And the second aspect - rainfall, is quite predictable, too. Even though it should not ruin your holidays completely, rainy days on the beach might not be what you expect from a vacay on a tropical island. Therefore opting for travel in the Doldrums season (December - January) is a smart move. On the contrary, you might expect more rainfall from March through July.

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Usually, when I travel, I try to plan my trip around some special local holidays to observe the traditions closer. If you are also a traveler of the same breed, then there are two holidays to look out for. The Self Determination Day on April 6th and the breaking of fast at the end of Ramadan, or Eid al Fitr (dates change each year). You can expect delicious food and dances throughout the night, fire shows, and various other traditional activities to enjoy with your family. With that said - choosing the best time to visit Cocos Islands is really up to you, but knowing the variables does sound like an easy task! Also, you must check the possible closest time to apply for an Australian visa

Is it safe in Cocos (Keeling) Islands?

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There are a few parameters on how the safety of a destination can be evaluated from the perspective of a visitor. In this case, we can consider two main aspects you might want to hear about—first, the crime rate. Considering how many people live in the Cocos Islands and the prices tourists are paying even for the simplest of services, it can be considered very safe. All locals know each other, and in such tight communities, being recognized for carrying out criminal activity is more likely. Therefore the locals wouldn't do it by default to avoid the risk of exclusion from their own community. 

The other aspect is the weather and other natural forces. When traveling to Cocos Islands tsunami and volcanic activity might concern some because of their location. Nevertheless, no devastating seismic event has taken place here in ages. Actually, if you search on Google for keywords “Cocos Islands tsunami” all you get is information about an interesting precedent that took place in 2004. Basically, the tsunamis that hit the coast of South America after one of the strongest earthquakes in Indonesia were bigger than the ones in Cocos Islands. What you can expect, though, are the cyclone warnings that alarm about winds of up to 150m/s and usually take place in the first half of the year. Unfortunately, there is no way to predict if this might happen during your trip. 

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Is there anything else you should know before going there? Honestly, an article like this would not be able to cover everything. Let me just mention one last noteworthy fact - these islands are one of the locations where Darwin did his wildlife research back in 1838. Many of his theories have been confirmed just nowadays with the help of modern technology, but these islands will remain a significant point in his discoveries. You will be able to find out more about this if you visit the museum on Home Island

So how do you know if this destination is for you? If you are willing to experience how it would be to have the whole island just to yourself, this is probably one of the more likely spots. Water is so clear that you can see 30 meters in front of you and the best thing - phone and internet reception is very scarce. It is an easy task to avoid cities in Cocos (Keeling) Islands because there are none! You get the idea. A remote paradise-like location that will allow reconnecting with yourself and unwinding from your daily life fully. Sounds quite tempting, doesn’t it? All you have to do is properly plan, packing, and jumping on the plane. The view you will get while flying over the atoll right before landing on West Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands will be just the first of many breathtaking moments to experience...

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Ieva Miltina
Ieva Miltina Activist and entrepreneur

Ieva Miltina is an activist and entrepreneur of many sorts. By profession project manager of marketing and culture events, in her heart she is a passionate traveler and a cook, soon to become a pastry chef. Deeply rooted in non-formal education she has been involved in youth work since her teenage years and up till nowadays holds a deep interest in innovative approaches to learning and personal development, which she transfers to people from all Europe during various international trainings. Always looking for new discoveries and adventures she happily shares her positive view on the world and the neverending stories with the people who cross her path. While studying hospitality and tourism management she wrote a thesis on home-chefs, which ignited her dream of owning her cozy and heartwarming home restaurant, which will hopefully materialize very soon. Meanwhile writing articles and doing food photography she is working towards another dream of hers - becoming a published author someday. 

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