Cocos Keeling

Environment:

Cocos Keeling is a group of 27 coral islands in the Indian Ocean, some 985 kilometers (612 miles) west of Christmas Island, or about halfway between Australia and Sri Lanka. The terrain consists of flat, low-lying coral atolls, thickly covered with coconut palms and other vegetation. The highest point is only 5 meters (17 feet), and therefore vulnerable to climate change. Apparently, Cocos Keeling is the only place in the world where you can walk the entire atoll on foot. Freshwater resources are limited to rainwater accumulations in natural underground reservoirs.

Cocos Keeling has been recognized as important habitat for seabirds by Ramsar, as well as marine turtles by the IOSEA Marine Turtle MoU. North Keeling island is now Pulu Keeling National Park, with access by permit only. The remains of the WWI era historic shipwreck SMS Emden rests within the marine boundaries of the park. Cocos Dive is the major local dive operator.

Culture:

Captain William Keeling discovered the islands in 1609, but they remained uninhabited until the 19th century. Annexed by the British Crown in 1857, they were transferred to Australia in 1955. In 1984, islanders voted in a UN-sponsored ballot for full integration with Australia. Today, the population of the two inhabited islands is generally split between the ethnic Europeans on West Island, and ethnic Malays on Home Island.

The Cocos Keeling Islands Tourism Association (Cocos Keeling Islands Visitor Centre) is co-located with the Cocos Islands Community Resource Centre, where Internet is available. Virgin Australia flies an Embraer 190 out of Perth into West Island via Christmas Island, where it refuels.

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