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The Cocos (Keeling) Islands are located in the middle of the Indian Ocean some 2,750km north-west of Perth, and 900 km west south-west of Christmas Island, its closest neighbour. Cocos lies approximately 12° south and 96.5° east, locating the islands in the humid tropical zone.
There are 27 coral islands in the group. Captain William Keeling discovered the islands in 1609, but they remained uninhabited until the 19th century. Annexed by the UK in 1857, they were transferred to the Australian Government in 1955. The population on the two inhabited islands generally is split between the ethnic Europeans on West Island and the ethnic Malays on Home Island.
Grown throughout the islands, coconuts are the sole cash crop. Small local gardens and fishing contribute to the food supply, but additional food and most other necessities must be imported from Australia. There is a small tourist industry.
There are two inhabited islands in the group, West Island and Home Island. West Island is the capital of the territory with about 100 inhabitants. It is mostly an English speaking area with the most tourist facilities, a clinic and an airstrip. The largest village is Bantam on Home Island with a population of around 400, most of whom speak the Cocos dialect of the Malay language.
The other islands in the archipelago are uninhabited. Horsburgh Island and South Island are among the larger uninhabited islands. Direction Island, a true island paradise, is connected by ferry every Saturday. It includes a beach that's been identified as the best beach in Australia. Finally, there's North Keeling Island, a national park approximately 50km north of the other islands. Access to this island is only allowed with permission from Parks Australia.
Flat, low-lying coral atolls, thickly covered with coconut palms and other vegetation.
- Cocos (Keeling) Islands Tourism Association Inc. PO Box 1030, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Indian Ocean WA 6799 ☎ fax: e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org M 08:00-17:00, Tu- Th 08:00-14:30, F 08:00-16:00, Sa (early flight) 13:00-16:00, Sa (late flight) 14:00-17:00, closed Su & Public Holidays