Diving with whale sharks in Christmas Island by Kirsty Faulkner Diving with whale sharks in Christmas Island by Kirsty Faulkner

Christmas Island

Christmas Island is a dot in the Indian Ocean surrounded by a fringing reef with ones of the most dramatically wall dives of the Java Trench, the Indian Ocean’s deepest point. Its volcanic topography and endemic species -this is a hybrid hotspot for reef fishes-, gain interest year after year between the scientific and diving community. Famous by the red crabs migration and the interaction with whale sharks, Christmas offers unique travel experiences for photographers.



Diving in Christmas Island

Christmas Island is the emerging point of a volcano whose base is 3,000 meters below, at the bottom of the ocean. The island is surrounded by shallow waters bordered by coral reefs, which sink into the vastness of the blue, a few dozen meters from the coast, forming one of the longest underwater walls in the world. Visibility often reaches 50 meters, so it's common to see other divers explore the magnificent bottoms. The dive sites on the wall around the island are plentifully of pristine corals, bizarre critters and hundreds of fish species. Into the blue you will spot dolphins and whale sharks, and eventually different kind of sharks. Many caves and the fantastic Eidsvold Wreck complete this extraordinary travel experience for the diver.

Best diving season in Christmas Island

Diving in Christmas Island is possible year-round, visibility and currents are largely unaffected by its monsoons. The air temperature has a constant average high of 28°C/82°F with slightly cooler temperatures in July and August. The water temperature is usually 28°C/82°F from November to March and 26°C/79°F  from April until October. The dry season features calm surface conditions and great visibility, from April to October. Instead in the wet season, from November to March, the sites on the northern may be inaccessible and visibility can drop to between 20-30m/65-100ft. But is during this season that plankton blooms attract manta rays and whale sharks.

Diving environment

Located in the eastern Indian Ocean, the region including Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands is a marine suture zone between Indian and Pacific Ocean. Latest research on The Indo-Pacific biogeographic border bring to the conclusion that Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands have by far the most reported hybrid marine fishes of any location reported to date. Hybridization frequently occurs between Indian and Pacific Ocean sister species and in most cases where one o both parent species is rare (Gerald R Allen & Jean-Paul Adrian Hobbs - Dec 2014). 


Coral reef at Christmas Islands
Diving in Christmas Islands. Crinoids on bommie by Mathieu Meur

Here are some amazing facts about Christmas Island


The Territory of Christmas Island is an Australian external territory comprising the island of the same name. Christmas Island is located in the Indian Ocean, around 350 km (220 mi) south of Java and Sumatra and around 1,550 km (960 mi) north-west of the closest point on the Australian mainland. It has an area of 135 square km (52 sq mi).


Christmas Island has a population of just over 2,000 residents, the majority of whom live in settlements on the northern tip of the island. The main settlement is Flying Fish Cove. Around two-thirds of the island's population is Malaysian Chinese, with significant numbers of Malays and Australians as well as smaller numbers of Malaysian Indians and Eurasians. Several languages are in use, including English, Malay, and various Chinese dialects, while Buddhism is the primary religion, practiced by three-quarters of the population. The first European to sight the island was Richard Rowe of the Thomas in 1615. The island was later named on Christmas Day (25 December) 1643 by Captain William Mynors, but only settled in the late 19th century. Its geographic isolation and history of minimal human disturbance has led to a high level of endemism between its flora and fauna, which is of interest to scientists and naturalists. The majority of the island (63%) is included in the Christmas Island National Park, which features several areas of primary monsoonal forest. Phosphate, deposited originally as guano, has been mined on the island since 1899.


Christmas Island is the summit of a submarine mountain, rising steeply to a central plateau dominated by stands of rainforest. This plateau reaches heights of up to 361 meters and consists mainly of limestone and layers of volcanic rock. The island's 80 km coastline is an almost continuous sea cliff, of up to 20 meters in height. In a few places, the cliff gives way to shallow bays with small sand and coral shingle beaches. The largest of these bays forms the island's only port: Flying Fish Cove.


Christmas Island experiences a tropical equatorial climate with wet and dry seasons. The wet season is from December to April when the island comes under the influence of the north-west monsoons. During the rest of the year, the south-east trade winds bring slightly lower temperatures and humidity with much less rain. The mean annual rainfall is 1,930 mm. Most of this rain falls between November and May. February and March are usually the wettest months. Because of the oceanic influence, the relative humidity does not vary seasonally as much as rainfall. Humidity usually ranges between 80 - 90%. Temperatures on the island vary little from month to month. The average daily maximum temperature reaches a high of 28° Celsius in April and the average daily minimum temperature falls to 22° Celsius in August.


Cave diving in Christmas Islands
Cave Diving in Christmas Islands by Gary Bell

Christmas Island, a remote and exotic island with great diving

Christmas Island is surrounded by a narrow tropical reef, which plunges into a bottomless abyss. This makes Christmas Island the perfect destination for scuba diving trips! This reef is laced with many unspoiled corals and abundant species of marine life. The northern coast in particular boasts some of the most pristine corals in the world, with Acropora and plate corals which host to a wide variety of small tropical species such as surgeon fish, wrasse, butterfly fish, gobies, anemones, eels and many others that are the delight of photographers. You may also be visited by one of the most important residents on your diving trip: the whale shark, the ocean manta or the sea turtle. Pelagics such as rainbow racers, trevally and tuna cruise along the walls and every now and then a shark approaches for a curious look. You could be graced with the presence of the majestic whale shark, an encounter with one of these gentle giants usually happens anytime between November and April, during the red crab migration, which is an experience on your diving trip that you won't want to miss!


Spinner dolphins in Christmas Islands
Spinner Dolphins in Christmas Islands by Glen Cowan

The Red Crab Migration

At the beginning of the wet season (usually October - November), most adult Red Crabs suddenly begin a spectacular migration from the forest to the coast, to breed and release eggs into the sea. Breeding is usually synchronised island wide. The rains provide moist overcast conditions for crabs to make their long and difficult journey to the sea. The timing of the migration breeding sequence is also linked to the phases of the moon, so that eggs may be released by the female Red Crabs into the sea precisely at the turn of the high tide during the last quarter of the moon.

Red crab migration at Christmas Islands
Red Crab Migration at Christmas Islands

It is thought that this occurs at this time because there is the least difference between high and low tides. The sea level at the base of the cliffs and on the beaches, where the females release their eggs, at this time varies the least for a longer period, and it is therefore safer for the females approaching the water's edge to release their eggs. Sometimes there are earlier and later migrations of smaller numbers of crabs but all migrations retain this same lunar rhythm.


Cave diving at Christmas Island
Cave Diving in Christmas Islands by Justin Gilligan

Christmas Island useful information

How to get there

  • By Air. A few airlines fly to Christmas Island, including Virgin Australia from Perth and Garuda from Jakarta
  • By Private Charter Boat (Liveaboards), generally from Indonesia. There are currently no scheduled cruise trip for Christmas Island. We will keep this page updated if cruise trip visits are announced.
  • By Private Visiting Yachts. The Port of Christmas Island and the community welcomes visiting yachts to call at Flying Fish Cove.

When to go

  • From May to November, during the dry season.
  • The red crab migration starts can occur at the beginning of the wet season, in November, December, depending on the whims of nature. December to April is the wet season and can be subject to monsoons.

What to do

  • Witness the amazing red crab migration.
  • Laze on deserted beaches.
  • Snorkel or dive in the Christmas Island Marine Park.
  • For the most adventurous hiking it is a must: 63% percent of Christmas Island territory is national park.

What you need to know

  • English is the official language for the 1500-plus residents, but 70 percent of the residents are Chinese, followed by Australians, Europeans, and Malay.
  • It’s very hot and humid so make sure to drink plenty of water.
  • Phosphate mining is the main source of revenue for the island. 
  • Book flights ahead because Christmas Island will book up during school holidays in Australia.
  • Check if you need a Visa on the official page of IMMIGRATION HOME AFFAIRS AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT
  • Reserve accommodation in advance.
  • There is a medical center and a post office.


Coral reef at Christmas Islands
Coral Reef at Christmas Islands by Udo Van Dongen

Diver Travel Packages

Cruising Indonesia offers one or two-week resort stays with dives, which can also be combined with a destination in Indonesia, or on land tours in Java or Bali.


18,307 islands
World-class scuba diving destinations
Cruising Indonesia - diving and liveaboards