Hey there! My name is Lilian Tagliari. I was born and raised in Brazil and moved to Australia twelve years ago. Thanks for checking out my guide to Cocos Keeling Islands – a remote paradise off Western Australia.
Moving to Australia was my first ever trip and since then I haven’t stopped travelling. I always had an urge to explore and see the world but I grew up very poor in Brazil. It seemed like a far away dream to be able to travel. Until one day, my mum sold all of her jewellery and sent me off to see the world. Two years later, I was fortunate enough to bring her to live with me in Oz.
I love living in Australia and exploring all the beautiful treasures that this massive continent has to offer! Last year, in 2020, I was forced to cancel five trips abroad because of the COVID-19 situation. I felt a little depressed just staying in one place. I started to hear about a paradise called Cocos Keeling Islands but I wasn’t sure exactly where it was or if it was even a real place!
Then out of boredom one day I began researching Australian territories overseas and then, wow – Cocos Keeling Islands appeared! After calling the information line, I found out it was open for Western Australian residents.
I booked a flight to Cocos Keeling Islands from Perth straight away! I was supposed to stay for seven days but it ended up being ten due to our flight being cancelled. The airline I was flying with didn’t want to bother the migrating crabs who were on the airport runway at the time (how good)!
Arriving in Paradise – Cocos Keeling Islands
When I arrived at Cocos Keeling Islands it was even better than I had imagined! It was more beautiful than photos could ever portray. You instantly slow down, start walking barefoot, don’t dress up and sync with island time. I would say it’s similar to the Maldives but without the fancy accommodation. A raw, beautiful island paradise with crystal-clear water.
My favourite island – out of all 27 tiny islands that make up the territory – would definitely be Direction Island. The locals simply call this place “DI”. It’s a half hour ferry from the main island and costs AUD $2.50. Direction Island is one of those places that you picture when you imagine Paradise Island. I was pinching myself at the untouched beauty of this island.
Top 5 Things To Do in Cocos Keeling Islands
Coming to Cocos Islands is all about immersing in paradise. Whether it be meeting the friendly Cocos Malay locals, swimming in perfectly clear water, snorkelling world-class reefs or watching a magical sunset – there is never a shortage of things to do in Cocos! Here are your must-do’s:
- Take a day trip to Direction Island: Cossies Beach on this island was crowned the best beach in Australia in 2017 and it’s easy to see why when you arrive. You also have to check out the “Rip” which features amazing marine life such as colourful fish, corals and reef sharks!
- Enjoy a beach bonfire at sunset: Bonfire’s with friends and a few cold beers is always a good time when in paradise. You can set up a small beach fire on the north point of the West Island (capital of Cocos) and take in a wonderful sunset. Then it’s time for a bit of stargazing!
- Go exploring in a motorised canoe: Visitors to Cocos Islands can hire a motorised outrigger canoe and explore the amazing untouched islands at the southern end of the island chain. There is no experience needed for these canoes and you can join a tour with many fantastic inclusions.
- Meet the local Malays of Home Island: This island is one of only two Cocos Islands with permanent inhabitants. Cover up with appropriate clothing and catch the ferry to Home Island where the local Malays live. Enjoy an amazing traditional Malay dinner with the friendly locals.
- Hire a push bike or scooter and explore West Island: West Island is where you can rent a push bike or scooter and explore the island until your heart’s content! Only 6.23 km² in size, this is an ideal place to discover those classic island treasures of jungle, beach and peace.
Culture of Cocos Keeling Islands
There are around 600 residents on the islands (West Island and Home Island combined). On the West Island – where I stayed and where the airport is located – everyone is Australian. There are a few workers that are Malay that catch the ferry everyday from Home Island to West Island.
Home Island is where a small population of Cocos Malay people live. The locals here have maintained a unique culture over the years. You can enjoy a cultural tour to watch basket weaving, learn a few Malay words and visit a museum. Make sure you arrive on Wednesdays for the cultural tours.
Limited Food Options of Cocos Keeling Islands
Food-wise, well, that was the only small downside to visiting Cocos Islands. We didn’t know that we could bring food as our flight was classified as a domestic flight. West Island has a supermarket and a few restaurants and cafes but there is only one place that opens for dinner. You have no choice.
That one little supermarket is open for five hours per day and closed some days. They receive food once every two weeks. Whatever they sell tends to be expensive. I remember seeing one little pack of blueberries for AUD $20! I would suggest bringing some essential foods for your visit if you can.
Nevertheless, being so remote, it totally makes sense that food is hard to come by. It doesn’t detract from the experience at all. It’s just something to keep in mind so you don’t get shocked when you see some of the prices!
Staying at the Amazing Cocos Homestead
There are no big hotel chains in Cocos Keeling Islands which for me makes it even more special. You have three small accommodation options. They are more like guesthouses and airbnbs. I stayed in a 4-bedroom beach house called Cocos Homestead. I highly recommend this homestead.
I much prefer this type of accommodation than hotels. Accommodation is very limited on the islands – so anyone who is planning on going should research that first and ensure spaces are available to book.
Need to Know Before you Go
If you plan on visiting Cocos Keeling Islands – which you totally should – make sure you book your accommodation first. Ensure also that you apply for permission to enter the Indian Ocean Territory. It’s all very easy and can be done on the official tourism website: click the link here to get the info.
Take food with you if you can. There are not many options on the islands and things can get pricey! In terms of packing, don’t pack anything apart from bikinis, togs and comfortable clothes. Bring your cameras, phones and photography gear as you will be taking endless photos.
Believe it or not – I will be coming back to Cocos on the 5th of February, 2021 and can’t wait to create more memories of this paradise. I hope to see you there! Thanks for reading and enjoy your visit to Cocos Keeling Islands.