The Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Australia

The Cocos Islands, also known as the Keeling Islands, are a small archipelago which consists of 27 islands, located more than 2100 km west of Australia, among the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. The archipelago occupies an area of 14 sq. km, and is divided into two groups of islands – North and South Cocos (Keeling) Islands. The Southern Cocos Islands are larger in area.

cocos keeling islands sea turtleThey are located at 12 degrees and 9 minutes north latitude, and about 96 degrees and 52 minutes east longitude. Larger islands of this archipelago are the South Island, West Island, Home, Horsburgh and Direction Island. The Northern Cocos (Keeling) Islands consist of only one small and uninhabited island.

Nature. The Cocos (Keeling) Islands are beautiful and exotic. They are covered with lush tropical vegetation and numerous coconut palms. They have flat terrain and low altitude. The highest point of the archipelago is about five meters above sea level.

The islands are situated amidst magnificent coral lagoon with shallow and crystal clear ocean waters. The lagoon that surrounds the islands is almost always calm, and its shores are covered with fine white coral sand.

In December 1995 the Northern Cocos Islands and their surrounding waters were declared a national park under the name Pulu Keeling. The Cocos (Keeling) Islands are home of many species of birds, but the most impressive is local underwater diversity.

Here one can see blue whales, humpback whales, sharks, tuna, sea turtles and hundreds of species of small colorful fishes, inhabiting the reefs of the archipelago.

Climate. The Cocos (Keeling) Islands have hot subequatorial climate with abundant rainfall throughout the year. The temperatures are high and almost unchangeable, ranging between 28 and 30°C.

The temperatures during the night are around 24 – 25°C. The average number of rainy days per month ranges from 10 to 20. September and October are usually the dryest months.

flag of cocos keeling islandsPopulation. The Cocos (Keeling) Islands remained uninhabited until the 19th century. The situation didn’t change even after the arrival of Captain William Keeling in 1609. Today the population of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands is more than 650 people.

Most of them inhabit the small town Bantam Village, which is located on the Home Island. However, the Home and West Islands are the only populated islands of the archipelago. The majority of residents are Asians (Malays), followed by the Europeans (mainly British settlers).

The most widespread religion in the islands is Islam, which is followed by about 80% of the inhabitants. Official language of the islands is English but it is spoken of only ¼ of the total population.

Economics. The economy of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands relies mainly on three sectors – the cultivation of coconut palms, fishing and tourism. Official currency of the archipelago is the Australian dollar (AUD).

The islands have relatively good standard of living, although it can not be compared with the large and highly developed Australian cities.

The economy is almost entirely concentrated in the West Island, although there live only about 150 people. This is a major political center of the archipelago, and here lies the biggest airport in the islands.

Tourism. The Cocos (Keeling) Islands are very beautiful but not very popular tourist destination. The reason is that the islands are remote and poorly known, and do not offer great variety of entertainment opportunities.

Most visitors come here to enjoy relaxation amidst the pristine scenery, long walks in a quiet and detached place in nature, diving among the coral lagoons and lounging carefree along the shore. Here you will not find luxury resorts and villas, restaurants or exciting nightlife.

cocos keeling island from spaceHow to get there? The regular flights between Perth, Western Australia and Cocos (Keeling) Islands are the best way to get there. You can fly three days a week, and the flight lasts about 2 hours. The flights from Christmas Island (also an Australian territory) are an alternative to Perth flights.

When to visit Cocos islands? The best period to visit the Cocos (Keeling) Island is during the winter season in the Southern Hemisphere, from June to October. The weather conditions are most easily tolerated and pleasant during the winter months, and the combination of air temperature and humidity is optimal good.

What should I wear? Light and airy summer clothing throughout the year, a sunscreen with high SPF, slippers and sunglasses. It is good also to wear snorkel and swim goggles, since the islands have a lot to offer.