07:40 Cocos Keeling was sighted. A burst of excitement and expectation surged through us.
Two hours later, having meandered through the reefs of coral,
we were at last anchored only metres from shore in the most idyllic of places as five harmless two foot long Black Tipped Reef Sharks and the largest pelagic fish we had ever seen, arrived to welcome us.
Like the Abrohlos in Western Australian – only much more ancient, the islands are a low lying cay and only came into view when one was practically upon them. Situated on the cone of a long extinct volcano, over the eons coral reefs have grown, died and rebirthed, progressively building into what we see today.
What a paradise, yet it is simultaneously a paradox!
Only a century past, densely covered in luscious green tropical rainforest, today one is greeted by coconut palms, white beaches and crystal clear waters, all matching the descriptions one reads about in books (only North Cocos Keeling retains the original habitat – now a fully protected rookery for migratory birds, one can only visit this area with a park ranger).
However, with poor quality sandy soil, it is practically impossible to grow fresh products, so all food is shipped in by freighter once a month.
The greatest surprise was the lack of bird life!!!
Rife with birds, turtles and myriad of fish in bygone days, the early settlers used these creatures as their major food source. In addition, the total decimation of the birds’ habitats for the sole purpose of planting coconut palms with the intent of harvesting their copra called the final death knoll for the avians, as no habitat meant no chance of reproduction for replenishing the populations.
Customs having come and gone, Little G2 was finally lowered into the clear waters. Upon Direction Island, Hermit Crabs of all colours, shapes and sizes roamed the sandy shore in their hundreds, whilst Asian hens scratched in the undergrowth for delicious delicacies.
A body leapt in shock as crabs so white they were practically invisible took off in flight and raced like rockets across the finest of purest white sands.
Below in the crystal clear tropical warm waters, large green sea turtles lazily meandered whilst sea cucumber rested upon the sea bed.
Early to bed, the gentle sough of the waters upon the shore lulled us into the Land of Nod.