Meeting whale sharks instead of Santa Claus
Once upon a time, there was an island, remote and distant from the rest of the world. Despite not having a large dive centre, it was one of the best diving spots in the world. Its isolation ended in September 2016 – with the fulfilment of a vision that had started six years ago.
Standing almost perpendicular, the steep walls crash down to a depth of 4,000 metres. Large gorgonians flash their fans out into the open water, with perches all around, as a gray reef shark swims several metres below. If you are lucky, you will have tiger sharks and hammerheads for company. Of course, the white-tip sharks and whale sharks will be there as well, if one visits Christmas Island between December and March. When these gentle giants come visiting during a dive class, they would simply (and gently) push aside any divers in the water at that time. As many as thirteen whale sharks have bee spotted in four days alone – that's more than what most divers get to see in a lifetime!
The problem with such a diving paradise is only that in practice, it often isn't. Things are not as what's seen in the advertisements, nor in some dive magazines. If a country like Cyprus (which does not have any fish) is called a diving paradise, how should one name a region like Christmas Island? Put five exclamation marks behind it, ala Til Schweiger?
Well, Christmas Island doesn't need any exclamation marks at all. The underwater scene is as we have described above: untouched, full of fish and lots of sharks. However, its lack of prominence in the European dive circles in the earlier days has little to do with the quality of the dive spots. Rather, it was the long travel times and the lack of logistics (The continent being about 2,500 kilometres away).
Till one day, a European appeared on the scene with a vision.
It took Walter Harscher six years to get his proposal off the ground. He owns a chain of dive centres (www.extradivers-worldwide.com) as well as Germany's largest dive travel organiser (www.rcf-tauchreisen.de/). Tough as it might have been, since his first day on the island, he was determined to set up his dive centre there.
His dive centre, opened in September 2016, now caters to a maximum of 25 divers at a time. With him, they will discover a place that must be one of the world's most exhilarating (even without the crabs). None of the larger sea creatures show any signs of shyness. Here, the diver is not an intruder, but a welcome guest. This is equally true for the scalloped hammerhead, which make their appearance during the second dive. For three to four minutes, the curiosity is satisfied – at least on the part of the hammerhead sharks, which then swim off into the endless blue yonder.
The Crabs of Christmas Island
The crabs are found only here and on the neighbouring Cocos Islands. There are over 40 million of them; and when they come out of the jungle in November to lay their eggs, Christmas Island literally turns red. Then there are the whale sharks, for whom the freshly hatched crabs is a protein snack. “For whale sharks, the tiny young animals are great to eat,” said Sandra Yoshida, a dive instructor at Extra Divers. “They contain a lot of protein and are easy to catch. As fish up to twelve metres long, they just have to swim slowly through the soup with their mouth wide open.”
Christmas Island has everything needed to become a prominent dive destination. It is a pristine tropical paradise above water; and a pristine underwater paradise – with sharks, rays and large fish galore. For divers, it is truly a dream island, with many areas still yet to be unexplored.
Very much like what we have in Cyprus ;-)