Explore Christmas Island and witness one of nature's greatest wonders!

 

  • Cost: £1,500 for 8 days/7 nights, all inclusive of costs on Christmas Island. Flights to/from the island not included in tour price. Dinners include main course (drinks and desert paid individually).
  • Start Point: Jakarta International Airport, Indonesia.
  • End Point: Jakarta International Airport, Indonesia.
  • Dates: Saturday December 29th, 2018 to Saturday January 5th, 2019.
  • Group Size:  6–10
  • Bespoke Tour: If you do not wish to join a group tour, we can customise a private trip to fit your dates and interests. Please email us for details and a quote.

Christmas Island is often referred to as the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean owing to the high numbers of endemic species that it harbours. No less than ten bird taxa, eighteen plants and many butterflies are unique to the island and occur no where else on Earth. The island is a naturalist’s paradise; two thirds of its landmass are fully protected as a national park, and home to lush tropical forests, natural springs, spectacular waterfalls and exquisite beaches, frequented all year round by nesting sea turtles and flying foxes.

Without a doubt, it is the land crabs that make Christmas Island special. 26 species of land crabs occur on the island. The Christmas Island red land crab (Gecarcoidea natalis) is by far the most obvious, with approximately 40–50 million individuals of this species living in the isle’s forests. Most are bright red, but some are orange or purple. They may measure up to 116 mm (across their carapace).

Every year, the crabs undertake a spectacular migration to release their eggs into the sea. This mass movement of crabs is one of the great spectacles of the natural world, and observing the red crab’s migration is the main goal of this adventure!

Also prominent across Christmas Island is the coconut crab (Birgus latro), also known as the robber crab. This beautiful species is the biggest terrestrial invertebrate alive today, and can measure up to 1 m across (from leg tip to leg tip), and can weigh up to 4 kg! Christmas Island harbours one of the world’s healthiest populations.

Join this adventure to explore Christmas Island’s most beautiful trails and visit her pristine beaches! See diverse bird populations, unique plants, and follow the world’s biggest crab migration!

DATES: The mass migration of the red land crabs depends upon lunar cycles and rains within the period of November, December and January each year. Next year’s mass migration is most likely to take place on January 1st and January 2nd, 2019. A Garuda flight will fly from Jakarta to Christmas Island on Saturday December 29th, 2018 and will fly back from Christmas Island to Jakarta on Saturday January 5th, 2019. Join us for an UNFORGETTABLE New Year’s day watching one of the world’s greatest natural spectacles - the spawning of Christmas Island’s charming red land crabs!

KOMODO DRAGONS: we have specifically designed this Christmas Island Adventure to run immediately before our Komodo Dragon Adventure. We will meet participants in Jakarta, Indonesia, fly to Christmas Island, return to Jakarta, then (for those undertaking the Komodo trip), we will travel from Jakarta to Komodo. Join us for just the Christmas Island Adventure, OR both the Christmas Island Adventure and the Komodo Dragon Adventure to see two of Asia’s most incredible natural wonders!

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Adventure Rating: Moderate

Some strenuous trekking over long distances is required during this adventure. Treks are integral to the itinerary and are required to experience the key highlights of this adventure.

Participants must be capable of walking or clambering on often steep or rocky terrain, carrying a day pack with water, camera, weather protection and some food. River crossings may be required. Local porterage can sometimes be arranged at cost.

Adventure Itinerary

Red crab migration cycle

Triggered by the lunar cycle and weather conditions, males red crabs lead the first wave of migration from the interior of Christmas Island to the coast, and are joined by the females as they progress. Larger males arrive at the sea first (after about 5-7 days) but are soon outnumbered by females. The crabs replenish moisture by dipping in the sea, then the males retreat to the lower terraces to dig burrows. The density of burrows is high (1-2 per square metre) and fighting occurs between males for burrow possession. The females move to the terraces and mating occurs, usually in the privacy of the burrows that males have dug and fought for. As mating and fighting abates, males begin returning inland. They move quickly, reaching the plateau in only 1-2 days.

The females produce eggs within 3 days of mating and remain in the moist burrows on the terraces for 12-13 days while they develop. The eggs are held in a brood pouch between their extended abdomen and thorax. A single female can brood up to 100,000 eggs.

In the morning and late afternoon around the last quarter of the moon, the egg-laden females descend from the terraces to the shoreline. They pack into shaded areas above the waterline at densities of up to 100 per square metre in places. The females usually release their eggs into the sea toward dawn, around the turn of the high tide. Release of eggs may occur on 5-6 consecutive nights during the main breeding migration. After the first two days, eggless females may be seen crossing plateau roads, kilometres from the shore.

If the spawning migration is delayed or disrupted, usually because of unfavourable weather conditions, both male and female crabs will remain on the terraces for the next month and complete the spawning one lunar month later.

The eggs released by the females hatch immediately on contact with the sea water and clouds of young larvae swirl near the shore before being washed out to sea by waves and tides. Millions of the larvae are eaten by fish and plankton feeders such as manta rays and the enormous whale sharks which visit Christmas Island waters during the crab spawning season.

After about a month in the ocean, and after growing through several larval stages, the surviving larvae have developed into prawn-like animals called megalopae. The megalopae gather in pools close to the shore for 1-2 days before developing into young crabs and returning to land.

Although only 5 mm across, the baby crabs begin their march inland, taking about 9 days to reach the plateau. Here they seem to disappear and are rarely seen, living in rocky outcrops and under fallen tree branches and debris on the forest floor for the first three years of their lives.

Coconut crabs

Coconut crabs similarly release their eggs into the Indian Ocean, but during our visit, it is unlikely that we will see the coconut crabs spawning in large numbers. But we will find adult speciments crawling through the forests of Christmas Island, especially close to the base of palm trees.

Bird Life

During our visit to see the crab migration, few seabirds will be nesting. But we have the chance to see almost all of Christmas Islands’ birds during day trips to look out points across the island. Highlights include frigatebirds, red booted and brown boobies and the golden bosun!

ITINERARY

Witnessing the migration of the crabs is the main objective of this advenutre. Experts on Christmas Island have helped plan this trip, so that we visit during the optimal window in the lunar cycle at the most likely point during the crab spawning season in the coming season.

Note: the itinerary below offers the best possible chance to see the red crab migration, but ultimately, an element of chance is involved due to factors such as weather during the days building up to the spawning dates (the spawning is partly triggered by rainfall and high humidity levels during the run up to the optimal days in the lunar cycle). While we stand a very good chance to witness the movement of the crabs, ultimately it is not possible to guarantee in advance precisely what the numbers of crabs will be like. Regardless of the mass migration, we will certainly see large numbers of crabs in the islands forests.

It is necessary to spend a week on Christmas Island because the Garuda charter flights arrive/depart only on Saturdays. We need six full days to see all that the island has to offer, and (most importantly) this period of six days gives leeway in case the migration is a few days early or late. 

Day 1: Saturday December 29th, 2018: fly on Garuda Airlines charter flight GA7000, departing Jakarta at 13:40, arriving at Christmas Island at 15:00.

Day 2: Sunday December 30th, 2018: activities on Christmas Island (see below).

Day 3: Monday December 31st, 2018: activities on Christmas Island (see below).

Day 4: Tuesday January 1st, 2019: Likely crab mass spawning.

Day 5: Wednesday January 2nd, 2019: Likely crab mass spawning.

Day 6: Thursday January 3rd, 2019: activities on Christmas Island (see below).

Day 7: Friday January 4th, 2019: activities on Christmas Island (see below).

Day 8: Saturday January 5th, 2019: fly on Garuda Airlines charter flight GA7010, departing Christmas Island 15:40, arriving at Jakarta 17:05.

On arrival, we will have an orientation briefing and a guided tour to see many of the different species of crabs in the forest, followed by a BBQ.

Crab watch: on January 1st and January 2nd, 2019, we visit key crab sites very early (at 3 am) to see the amazing spawning event as millions of crabs march to the sea to release their eggs. We will most likely be very tired for the rest of these days, so can relax of visit Christmas Island’s beaches during the afternoons.

We may see small numbers of young crabs (megalops) returning from the water from the previous month’s (smaller) spawning event.

Non-crab related activities: Christmas Island offers so much to see! Participants can relax on Christmas Island’s beaches, or undertake non-crab related activities, such as guided walks along the island’s many nature trails through lush rainforest to see coastal blow holes, natural springs, waterfalls and bird lookouts. We can go to key locations to see coconut crabs, or visit the Lizard Lodge to view Christmas Island’s rare reptile species and learn about the conservation efforts saving many unique species. There are also several historic buildings to visit, Chinese shrines and participants can snorkel or dive at beautiful coral reefs or swim with whale sharks (at additional expense). These is even a golf course! We can decide the itinerary as the trip unfolds, and have a crab-free day or two if we have seen enough crab action. We may be able to watch sea turtles nest at night on the beaches from a responsible distance.

Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinners will be a mixture of restaurants, picnics and BBQs depending upon the crab activity! Dinners include main course (drinks and desert paid individually).

KOMODO DRAGONS: we have specifically designed this Christmas Island Adventure to run immediately before our Komodo Dragon Adventure. We will meet participants in Jakarta, Indonesia, fly to Christmas Island, return to Jakarta, then (for those undertaking the Komodo trip), we will travel from Jakarta to Komodo. Join us for the Christmas Island Adventure, or the Christmas Island Adventure and the Komodo Dragon Adventure to see two of Asia’s most incredible natural wonders!

 

Download the Brochure

 

Getting there

Flights are available from Jakarta, Indonesia to Christmas Island with Garuda Airlines, or alternatively, from Perth, Australia to Christmas Island with Virgin Australia! The Garuda flight is STRONGLY recommended (as it is much more reliable than the Virgin Australia one).

Possible extensions


KOMODO DRAGONS: we have specifically designed this Christmas Island Adventure to run immediately before our Komodo Dragon Adventure. We will meet participants in Jakarta, Indonesia, fly to Christmas Island, return to Jakarta, then (for those undertaking the Komodo trip), we will travel from Jakarta to Komodo. Join us for the Christmas Island Adventure, or the Christmas Island Adventure and the Komodo Dragon Adventure to see two of Asia’s most incredible natural wonders!

Simplified map of the Christmas Island Adventure itinerary

What's Included

All transport during the itinerary
Professional guide
Accommodation (on a twin/double basis)
All main meals during the itinerary

Note: single room upgrade is available at extra cost

What's Not

International flights
Souvenirs
Alcohol