West Island, Cocos Islands

Photo: Cocos Keeling Island
Photo: Cocos Keeling Island

The middle of the Indian Ocean. Between Australia and Sri Lanka. Southwest of Christmas Island. The middle of absolutely nowhere, basically. Is that far enough away for you?

You’ve just arrived on the Cocos Islands after a flight from Perth, Australia. The owner of Cocos Seaview is waiting to drive you to your hotel on West Island. Along the way, he gives you a quick tour and history of the islands. The British arrived in the 19th century. The Battle of Cocos was one of the first naval battles of World War I. Japan bombed the archipelago during World War II. And the islands have been part of Australia since 1955. Flights now arrive three times per week. You’re nodding and trying to pay attention, but it’s so hard with the beautiful scenery around you.

The two atolls and 27 coral islands that make up the Cocos Islands are breathtaking. The islands are covered in dense vegetation and coconut palms. They’re ringed with soft, white sand and bordered by pale, turquoise water. Trade winds, blowing from the southeast, keep you cool. Only two of the islands—Home Island and West Island—are inhabited. About 600 people call them home. You call them paradise.

Photo: Cocos Keeling Island
Photo: Cocos Keeling Island

You arrive at Cocos Seaview to find three suites with French doors, wide verandahs, and cane furniture. From your room and the BBQ area, there’s a view of the lush gardens with the Indian Ocean in the distance. There isn’t a beach here—a sea wall separates you and the sharks—but they’re just a quick bike or ferry ride away. You quickly unpack, fill the kitchenette with supplies you brought—most people pack an extra suitcase full of food, since prices are so high on the islands—grab a beach towel, and head out to explore.

First, check out the beaches. Trannies Beach—named after a communications facility—is a good swimming spot. Bob’s Folly is bordered by grand Calophyllum and native hibiscus. And the Yacht Club Beach is a perfect spot for a cocktail. During low tide, walk across the reef from Scout Park to Pulu Maraya, a tiny, uninhabited island, to snorkel. The blacktip reef sharks are harmless.

Ride the ferry to Home Island, cover your knees and shoulders, and visit a traditional village. The Cocos Malays were originally brought to the island to work on coconut plantations. Or, on Thursday or Saturday, ride the ferry to Direction Island. It’s home to the best beach and “the rip,” a snorkel spot that will make you feel like you’re in an aquarium. Then you find a hammock suspended between palm trees. The cool breeze and the swaying palms lull you to sleep. Definitely far enough away.

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