In the Indian Ocean, approximately equidistant from Australia and Sri Lanka, are the Coconut Islands, or, as they are also called, Keeling Islands. The coral archipelago includes 27 small islands, with a total area of only 14 square kilometers. The population of the Cocos Islands is small, with a population of about 600 people. They were discovered in 1609 by the English navigator William Keeling, hence their second name.
The first settlement of Europeans here was founded only after more than 200 years. In 1825, the islands were visited by the Scotsman John Clounes-Ross, who, two years later, moved here with his family. The settlers were engaged in the cultivation of the coconut palm, and the Malays were brought here to work on the plantations. In 1836, the English naturalist Charles Darwin visited the islands.
The islands remained the property of the Clunise-Ross family for two decades, they were annexed by Great Britain in 1857, and 21 years later the Cocos Islands were transferred to the control of the British governor of the island of Ceylon. In 1886, Queen Victoria made a luxurious gift to the family of the first owners - she gave the islands for unlimited use. Interestingly, in 91 years, from 1887 to 1978, the Clunise Rosss even issued a local currency called the Cocos rupee.
Despite the remoteness from Europe, where the main battles during the First World War took place, this tragedy also affected the Cocos Islands; in November 1914, a battle took place in coastal waters between two warships - the Australian cruiser Sydney and the German Emden. It was seriously damaged and was thrown on stones. It has long been dismantled for metal, but even nowadays diving enthusiasts often find small fragments.
Despite its small population, the Cocos Islands have their own capital, West Island, with 130 inhabitants. In 1945, an airfield was built here, which allows local residents to reach Australia by air, the distance to which is more than 2, 000 kilometers. On the islands themselves, due to their tiny territory, there are, of course, no roads or railways. In one of the lagoons there is only anchorage for small boats.
In 1955, the Cocos Islands were transferred under the control of Australia, and 23 years later, the owners of the island, the descendants of the Scotsman John Clooney-Ross, decided to give up their rights to this territory altogether, selling almost all the land. The remaining small holdings were sold in 1986. The population of the islands is gradually decreasing, many islanders have chosen to move to Australia. In 1984, a referendum was held on the islands, in which the majority of the population of the Cocos Islands voted in favor of joining this state.
From the earliest days of Europeans living on the Cocos Islands to the present, the basis of the economy has been the cultivation of the coconut tree. Bananas and papayas are also grown in small quantities. Some part of the population is employed in airport services. In recent years, tourism has begun to develop on the islands. Currently, five small hotels have been built on the islands.
Tourists are attracted here by the opportunity not only to relax on tropical beaches, but also to take part in catching exotic fish and diving. Remote islands allow you to take a break from civilization at least for a while. And the tourist season lasts here all year round.
There are no significant temperature fluctuations here. Tourists are forbidden to take shells, turtle shell products and even coconuts from here. There are some restrictions on import. For example, you can bring only one liter of alcoholic beverages with you to the Cocos Islands, the strength of which is higher than 22 degrees.
The majority of the population are Malays and descendants of Europeans. Almost all residents are located only on the two islands of Christmas and West. Approximately 2/3 of the islanders are Muslims, more than 20 percent are Christians. There are no political parties here, the Council of Islands deals with local self-government issues. Almost all residents are Australian citizens.
Like many other tropical islands, there is an acute shortage of fresh water, which has to be collected during rains and stored in huge underground reservoirs. The islands are often subject to heavy, albeit short-lived, downpours.
Despite the fact that the Cocos Islands are becoming more and more popular with divers, diving is a serious danger. In coastal waters, there are a huge number of sharks, as well as poisonous coral snakes. For lovers of flora and fauna, it is safer to visit the Pulu National Park, which was opened in 1995.