A few more days of easy sailing and healthy trade winds meant we could relax a little before we found ourselves in that kind of place that Pacific Island dreams are made of - except it’s the Indian!
The Cocos Keeling Islands are that dream place with a spectacular lagoon of azure blue, white sand beaches, palms swaying in the breeze, clear water full of turtles and colourful fish, and smiling people that greet you wherever you go. Pictures speak louder than words……..
Cocos Keeling, another Australian territory in the Indian Ocean, is regarded by many as Australia’s cheapest aircraft carrier – it had a fascinating part to play in WWI, with the HMAS Sydney sinking the German ship Emden off Direction island. It is history that is worth a read, and a walk around direction island gives the full story on information boards; you can read about it here.
Lazy days were spent on Direction Island’s Cossies Beach (recently crowned the Best Beach in Australia) snorkelling ‘the rip,’ a fantastic safe drift ride , full of beautifully coloured fish, corals, reef sharks, huge wrasse and parrot-fish to name a few, and, snorkelling the incredible coral gardens near our anchorage.
We also took a trip with a local guide Geoff, who took us across to the uninhabited Horsburgh Island, introduced us to some pretty intense sharks, and best of all made it possible for me to experience snorkelling a wreck - a great treat for someone whose ears mean that they will never get to dive a wreck!
Sunset brought out the BBQ food and beers and plenty of swapping of tales at sea ensued. It was great to have the time to start to get to know some of the other people on the rally. The BBQ area was adorned with yachtie memorabilia - a testament to those that had sailed the Indian Ocean before us, and not only an idyllic location, but also a fitting scene for our sundowners.
We spent plenty of time on West Island, learning about the coconut production and trade, visiting the local clam farm, buying tasteful souvenirs in the best art gallery ever (see the pics below), playing golf on the crazy course shared with the airport runway, exploring the island on scooters, kayaking to other islands, and eating and drinking with the most wonderful local people at their cafe and pizza house.
The Art Gallery inside and out - and beautiful creations made with flotsam and jetsam!
Finally, we got to Home Island where we could explore and visit Oceana House, the Clunies-Ross family’s ancestral home. The Clunies-Ross family were original settlers to the island and ruled the islands as a private fiefdom for almost 150 years until the territory was transferred to Australia in 1955. It was pretty interesting hearing about these larger than life characters - including how one of them kept his women on the very small Prisoner Island where they could not be touched!
One thing that shocked us was the amount of plastic that washes up on Direction Island. Much of it comes direct from Indonesia and sadly accumulates on this beautiful strip of land, where in places it is heartbreakingly deep. We all found it quite distressing and it certainly hardened our resolve to do what we could to reduce the use and waste of plastic in our daily living on the boat and at home.