MANDY Anderson and Ann Christiansen travelled to Christmas Island earlier this month to take part in the annual Christmas Island Bird and Nature Week.
Christmas Island is sometimes referred to as the Galapagos of Australia, and it is not difficult to see why.
Frigatebirds, tropicbirds and three species of Booby constantly wheel overhead as they follow the air currents and search for food in the fertile seas that surround the island.
There are about seven species or sub-species of bird which are endemic to Christmas Island, along with a long list of other regular visitors and vagrants. The Abbott’s Booby is critically endangered and nests only on this isolated land-fall in the centre of a huge expanse of ocean.
The mining of superphosphate over recent decades has caused the destruction of the forests, which the Abbott’s depend upon as their nesting sites and there is now a concerted program underway to restore the ecosystem now that the mining is being scaled down. Over 65 per cent of the island is now national park.
Another outstanding feature of Christmas Island is the array of amazing land crabs. Bird Week is not held during the time of the great crab migration, when literally millions of red crabs migrate across the island after visiting the ocean to spawn: the crabs are motivated to move by the arrival of the wet season, which would not be conducive to bird-watching.
But after a short sharp tropical downpour one afternoon during our stay, thousands of the red crabs emerged from their burrows under the leaf litter and began to move around, giving a taste of just how amazing the main event would be.
Robber crabs are enormous creatures, measuring around 40cms in length. They are well named, as they prowl around picnickers, grabbing anything that looks at all edible.
Christmas Island is an ideal holiday destination for anyone who seeks a quiet time filled with enjoyment of what nature has to offer. Don’t look for night life or fabulous surf. Just be prepared to be overwhelmed by the natural beauty and richness of a special piece of Australia’s remote territory.