COCOS KEELING ISLANDS: SIAN

I think that this beautiful island paradise is quite possibly Australia's best kept travel secret. There are no locks on the houses, and  car keys are left in the ignition... It's the kind of place where you can go to completely escape the hustle and bustle of regular city life. 

  West Island. Photo: Sian Pritchard

West Island. Photo: Sian Pritchard

With only 150 residents on West Island, it is a very small and extremely friendly Island. Everyone will come up and say hello, and before you know it you feel like you're part of their community. The locals couldn't be more accommodating, and they definitely run on 'island time'. There's only 1 supermarket, 1 pub; the Cocos Club, 1 café called Maxi's which thankfully has great coffee but closes at 1pm (what was I saying about island time?), and 1 restaurant, so you're not going to find any cosmopolitan or trendy dining options... but I think that is all part of its charm. With plenty of houses to rent you can easily self-cater for most of your stay if you prefer. It's the perfect beach escape if you want something a little bit different.

  View of our transport from Prison Island. Photo: Sian Pritchard

View of our transport from Prison Island. Photo: Sian Pritchard

The temperature is set to a perfect 27 - 30 degrees all year round, and there's no rainy season, so any time of the year is a good time to visit. Cocos has a windy season from July to September making it extremely popular with kite surfers and wind surfers for the reliable weather conditions at this time. There's also fabulous diving and snorkelling opportunities on the many reefs throughout the year. And if you want the crystal clear glass-like water then December and January is the best time to go.

  Turquoise water near Direction Island. Photo: Sian Pritchard

Turquoise water near Direction Island. Photo: Sian Pritchard

  Direction Island. Photo: Sian Pritchard

Direction Island. Photo: Sian Pritchard

The highlight for me was visiting Direction Island or D.I as it's affectionately called by the locals. This is where the water is the brightest turquoise I've ever seen. We travelled over to the island with Geoff on his glass bottom boat, seeing turtles and reef sharks en-route. There's nothing better than dropping the anchor and jumping off the side of the boat to go snorkelling in this environment. A real highlight! You can explore many beaches on the various island's and barely see anyone else, giving you that wonderful feeling of complete isolation - like you're special to be the only ones there.

We also did a fab motorised Canoe tour with Kylie and Ash from Cocos Island's Adventure Tours. The early 6am start was instantly softened by a lovely champagne breakfast. The tour took us to the Southern Islands which felt like a scene out of Survivor. More swimming, snorkelling and canoeing resulted in a great morning and one I would highly recommend.  

  South Island. Photo: Sian Pritchard

South Island. Photo: Sian Pritchard

  The Old Jetty, West Island. Photo: Sian Pritchard

The Old Jetty, West Island. Photo: Sian Pritchard

Cocos Keeling Islands have an interesting history. From first settlement in 1826, through decades of rule by the Clunies-Ross dynasty, most island inhabitants had little contact with the outside world. The people of the Cocos Keeling Islands voted to become part of Australia in 1984.

We bumped into Johnny Clunies-Ross at the Cocos Club who is the 6th generation of his family and now the only family member to still live in Cocos. He was incredibly funny, sharp and a real joy to have a chat with. His love of the island was really evident which he put down to the tight knit community that live there; people are constantly lending each other a hand which is really humbling. Old fashioned community values! The Clunies-Ross family homestead located on Home Island has been purchased by a lovely Perth couple who are restoring the house and now provide accommodation on-site. I would love to stay there to chat to Avril for hours... such an amazing woman with many wonderful stories to tell, not to mention the atmospheric historical surrounds.

Getting there:

Virgin Australia fly twice weekly (Saturday & Tuesday) from Perth, with the flight also continuing to Christmas Island (a stay on Christmas Island is also recommended). Due to the flight times, overnight is required in Perth in both directions when travelling from Melbourne.

Where we stayed:

Cocos Homestead; a lovely 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom house that caters to a maximum of 6 guests. Perfect for families or groups of friend's.

  Sunset at Trannies Beach. Photo: Sian Pritchard

Sunset at Trannies Beach. Photo: Sian Pritchard