Islands with a Difference - Part 3 - Orlando / Florida Guide
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CHRISTMAS ISLAND, AUSTRALIA
This a relatively small island at around 135 sq km with a population around 3,000. This is best described as a Tropical Australian outpost but overrun with crabs.
So why stop off here? It was discovered amid the Indian Ocean on Christmas Day 1643, hence its name. This Australian territory is actually the summit of a submerged mountain and is closer to Indonesia than it is to its motherland. It’s certainly tropical in feel, covered in rainforest and rich in endemic species. The foremost of these is the Christmas Island red crab and a best guess is that around 120 million of the crimson crustaceans live here. Once a year they make a mass migration from their forest burrows to the sea to breed. Spurred by the phases of the moon, they sideways traverse down cliffs, over rocks and across roads to reach the coast. It takes some luck with timing to catch them, although Parks Australia do issue predictions. However there is more to this island than its relocating crabs. The diving is superb and if you go from November to April you have a good chance of seeing whale sharks. The birdwatching is wild and loud as about 80, 000 seabirds nest here. Also with 63% of the island designated as a national park, the hiking is varied and pristine.
So when’s the best time to go? Well, temperatures vary little with it being between 22 and 28°C all year round. The wet season is December to March and the red crab migration usually occurs November to January. You can get flights to Christmas Island from Perth (3. 5 hrs) and Jakarta (1hr). Also some cruises do stop here when changing locale.
MACAU or Macao Special Administrative Region of the People' s Republic of China to give its full name.
It is only 33 sq km is size with a population around 700, 000. It does offer a great deal more than gambling even though it is currently estimated to have 10 times the turnover of Las Vegas.
This formerly Portuguese region of Asia is comprised of the Macau Peninsula and the islands of Taipa and Coloane and is best known for its casinos. However this Special Administrative Region of China isn’t all gambling. Though you can get a day trip from Hong Kong, it’s worth staying several days. The centre of Macau is UNESCO listed, with baroque churches, wide squares and crumbly mansions that hint about its rich colonial history. There’s also a 17th-century fort, Taoist temples, world class museums and little antique shops. The food’s good too, a fusion of Portuguese and Chinese, so you can follow your crispy fried pork with a pasteis de nata (egg custard tart).
If you really want to get away from all the bling, aim for the nine sq km island of Coloane. In Coloane Village, high-rises are changed for fishing boats, quiet temples and Catholic chapels, while there’s an expanse of green, hilly parkland to roam.
October to December is the best time to go as the weather is cool and clear. March to May is also pleasant. July to September is typhoon season. There are no direct flights from the UK to Macau, but flights run via hubs such as Hong Kong and Bangkok. You can also get ferries between Hong Kong and Macau which take about 45mins.
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