Swell Eco Lodge
Christmas Island was a necessary stop off on our journey to Cocos Keeling island. Swell Eco Lodge became our home for three nights as we crossed the Indian Ocean. We had decided to travel via the ‘Northern route’ through Jakarta, rather that the more commonly used Perth route.
When looking up Christmas Island after booking our flights, we had to choose somewhere to stay for the three nights on our way over, and single night on our return. Flights from Christmas Island to Cocos only run on a Tuesday, and the return flight only on Saturdays, so it took some planning to coordinate all our flights and allow the required time in Cocos Keeling islands.
Virgin Australia run the Perth route, alternating the stop off between Cocos and Christmas to allow for transport between the two islands, separated by 900 or so km of Indian Ocean.
The two islands also couldn’t be more different. Christmas is the oldest, and ancient volcano erupting several hundred metres out of the sea, leaving a large volcanic rock covered in rain forest and crabs. Few beaches give access by sea and the island was only inhabited from 1800s in the setting up of a phosphate mine, which still runs today. The island is mostly wild and unexplored, 65% of it rainforest and only a few roads leading to favourite beaches, named after the mining managers’ wives ( Dolly, Ethel and Greta).
The main inhabitants are the red crabs, which migrate to the ocean once a year and then spawn, leaving a mass return of baby red crabs five weeks later. The migration and spawning is instigated by the rain, tides and the moon, and so hard to predict by mere humans so detached from this natural phenomena. It can occur anytime between November and February, and we were extremely blessed to have the spawning occurring during our second day on the island.
Kingdom of the crabs
Many people book years in advance hoping to catch this natural wonder ( David Attenborough filmed the migration of 100 million red crabs for the BBC in 2016) and we just happened to be there at the perfect time.
Researching the islands through instagram, I found many photos of the red crabs and often ‘Swell Eco Lodge’ was included as a hashtag, or even responsible for the inspiring red crab photographs.
Loving all things ‘eco’ I investigated further to find that this lodge was EXACTLY where we needed to be staying during our ‘extensive carbon footprint’ across to follow my dream. Set up by photographers Jess and Chris Bray ensuring that every aspect not only makes a great image, but that any guests can’t help but take fabulous photographs of the ocean sunsets and wildlife these eco lodges are part of.
Compared to the other accommodation options, Swell Lodge looks to be far more expensive. However, on closer inspection, your stay at Swell really is fully inclusive. All of your meals, drinks and excursions are included in the cost and on an island with only a single taxi firm ( Chris of Crabbies taxis) and roads closed during any major crab migration, these are valuable inclusions indeed.
We were met at the airport by Jess in her ‘crab adapted’ 4×4. Chris had designed and made flaps that attach to the truck gently enabling the crabs to be brushed out of the way. The roads and tracks leading to Swell’s remote location through the dense rainforest and on the Western side of the island were busy with wildlife.
During our initial 3 nights, most of the roads were closed and so even if we’d hired a car during our stay, our sightseeing would have been severely limited to the area around Flying Fish cove, or by sea.
As Jess drove us across the island we saw red crabs along the roadside, birds a plenty, including a rare Goss hawk, happy to let us get quite close to observe it.
Red crabs in the rainforest
On entering the National park, we chose to walk part of the trail. The flaps on the truck substantially slowed the vehicle down. We began by stopping at every sighting of a crab. Taking photos and trying to identify all the scents and sounds from this abundant rainforest, took our time.
This landscape was so unlike our familiar Somerset woodlands. We soon became exhausted and soaking wet with our bodies not used to the 28 degree heat and 80% humidity. Grateful of the truck’s air-conditioning we enjoyed the last part of the journey in comfort. Jess shared the story of their project of the Eco lodges and Christmas Island.
Luxury in the rainforest
We began to feel ashamed that such a wildlife rich island had become just a mere ‘add on’ to our trip to Cocos Keeling, and also regretting that we only had 3 nights in this small remote paradise.
After we’d been taken to our lodge, we were shown how to work all the high tech, extremely energy efficient systems in the lodge. The lodge is completely self sufficient and prides itself in leaving no trace of it’s inhabitants. An iPad with details on our electricity usage, and the itinerary planned for us during our stay was also in the lodge.
We were left to relax for the rest of the afternoon and looked forward to our chef Simon’s arrival to cook our dinner for us at 7pm.
After enjoying a spectacular sunset, and a fresh fish and foraged fruit and vegetable dinner, we retired early, able to watch the stars, so bright they reflected in the ocean below, and slept until the early hours to the sound of crabs rustling past our raised luxury ‘tent’ as they made their way to the sea.
We’d arranged to meet Jess at 8am at the edge of the National park. With so many crabs on the move, even the Swell Eco Lodge vehicle was unable to drive through to the lodges and we were advised to allow an hour to walk to the meeting place. With a steep climb for the last kilometre, as well as sweltering heat even at this early hour, we needed the time and met our neighbours, Jen and Richard staying in the other Eco Lodge.
Hot sticky but relaxed and excited, Jess drove us to the main town, Flying fish cove, where we met Dan and his boat ready for our snorkelling trip….
This trip to Christmas Island and Cocos Keeling islands in the Indian Ocean were a result of a dream I had over 25 years ago, I shall be adding posts about this ‘Dream Trip’ over the coming weeks and months. Subscribe to my blog and newsletter for updates on new postings.