Christmas Island Crab Migration: Lessons Learned from a Failed Trip

Update: see the discussion in the comments with Linda Cash from Christmas Island Tourism. I had misinterpreted the twitter and facebook posts, not understanding the full sequence leading up to the main event, the spawning. I think I can be forgiven for misinterpreting these. You be the judge. Anyway, it is good to know that generally about 3-4 weeks out it should be possible to know if the dates are a go.

Once a year crabs swarm Christmas Island, far off the west coast of Australia, in their annual migration. Parks Australia releases possible dates in advance. For 2014 they had potential target dates in October, November and December. November was predicted for November 17-19.

I booked for November as only that worked in my calendar. A Delta redemption on Virgin Australia. I did the award poorly as there is no published fare between the US and Christmas Island, Delta prices as a US-Australia roundtrip to Perth, and then an Australia award from Perth to Christmas or Cocos Island. Delta’s award chart says this should be 60,000 miles (economy only plane) however for the Southwest Pacific region Delta reserves the right to charge whatever it wants and anything that crosses the ocean intra-region from Australia other than to Tasmania costs 80,000. And in 2015 a stopover will not be allowed so adding Cocos will cost even more on Delta.

Miles To Go found a much better option for Perth – Christmas Island – Cocos Island via a Singapore Airlines 30,000 mile redemption on Virgin Australia but by then there was no availability, see his Getting to Christmas Island and Cocos Islands on Points for the full roundup.

Christmas Island Tourism releases sporadic updates, though best to ping them at twitter (@CItourism) or facebook to get updated info. Parks Australia also responds to twitter (@ParksAustralia). Neither is proactive in releasing much info. They were silent as the October dates pased and as November approached I kept having to contact them for updates.

Two weeks out from the November dates they said it was extremely unlikely that November would happen as there had been few rains. Best to look at December. I had to make work plans that would conflict so went ahead and canceled November. Glad I didn’t find anything feasible for December as I woke up in Europe this morning to a tweet and facebook post from Christmas Island Tourism:

CITourism tweet

CITourism facebook

Coming from the US, even on an award, you are looking at a massive miles redemption and 3-4 days of travel each way.

Nature is unpredictable and this event is especially fickle. No one knew the November 17-19 dates would happen until November 18 when the crabs suddenly appeared.

I want so much to see this some year but don’t know if it is worth the uncertainly. Maybe for 2015 I will try to book all target dates, if possible, and keep canceling them, and only fly with either firm conviction from the the experts or fly the last target date on faith.

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  • Alan

    i also have tried to book a trip in christmas islands. i think it is code as south asia. unfortunately, there is no published routing from anywhere in south asia to christmas islands. i think this trip is best taken using SQ miles.

  • Your comments are slightly misleading about dates of the migration, and our post on our FB indicating the migration had “started” on 18 November. The red crab migration comprises a sequence of events that follow on from one and other in a distinct order – a following sequence cannot be undertaken without the crabs having accomplished the preceding.

    The crabs migrate to the coast where the males will dig mating burrows and they will mate. After mating, the males will commence their return migration. The females will brood their eggs for 12-13 days before emerging from the burrows to commence spawning … the spawning dates are the only dates that can be accurately predicted but only after the male migration has started. Thus we knew around the end of October that the Nov 17 – 19 dates would not be met as the migration had not commenced, and advised accordingly. Rain in the last week has seen the male crabs now begin their migration which means we can now accurately predict the December spawning dates of 17 – 19 Dec which have been well publicised on our website (www.christmas.net.au)

    Unfortunately the crabs do not operate on a timetable as this is nature as nature intended, the crabs are driven by their environment, ie, the weather, and we all must be patient and understanding that we cannot control their migration patterns and dates, but do our best to advise the best and most up to date information as possible, once it becomes available.

    David Attenborough rated this animal migration as one of the most spectacular and we would very much welcome you to Christmas Island to witness this spectacular migration in 2015, but as stated above, we cannot accurately guarantee when you should book or travel given the uncertainty of the start of the event.

    Please do contact the Christmas Island Tourism Association early in 2015 when we will once again publish possible “spawning” dates for this amazing natural event.

    Thank you.

  • If I may also reply to Alan – Christmas Island’s airport code is XCH – all information regarding flights to Christmas Island are available on our website – http://www.christmas.net.au – and are updated as flight information changes … flights from 1 Jan 2015 are already published.

    An RPT service is only available from Perth, and routing information is available for this. Charter services do run intermittently from SE Asia and dates are advised on our website. Please do not hesitate to contact the Tourism Association directly (or Tweet us as @RapidTravelChai has done) to obtain the latest information 🙂

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Linda Cash – thank you for the clarification. I misinterpreted your tweets and facebook posts as they showed tons of crabs and the “it’s started” right on the Nov dates. They do seem misleading to a non specialist audience. Now I understand the sequence better. So if I understand correctly now, what we want to see is the spawning or is it better some days before or after the spawning, as in for this December would 17-19 be the best dates to see it?

    With regard to Alan’s point and mine in the post on flights. The issue is not the flight schedule per se, it is that there appear to be only ‘published fares’ from points in Australia. This is a technical thing so what happens for a revenue ticket is the Perth – Christmas Island part will essentially price as a separate ticket. That has a bigger effect on award tickets. For instance, I tried to book a Delta award on Virgin Austalia from NYC – Christmas Island but there is no published fare so I could only book it to Perth, and then a totally new ticket, at an additional new ticket price, to get from Perth to Christmas Island. In the Delta example that adds 80,000 miles to the trip that wouldn’t be applied if there were published fares like to other destinations in Australia. What Alan is finding is that on some airline award charts Christmas Island may sit in South Asia region rather than Australia/Pacific, so from South Asia it would be really cheap if there were published fares.

  • Thanks @RapidTravelChai – I will certainly pass on your comments regarding the flights to Virgin Australia … any information that we can pass on that will make travel to Christmas Island easier for everyone is much appreciated 🙂

    We look forward to welcoming you to Christmas Island in 2015 🙂

    Cheers !!