cocos

Crikey intern Alison Drew-Forster writes: The December Australian Traveller issue has been released and features the “The hottest destinations for 2011” as well as the top 10 “Warming Up” destinations for the coming year.

Predicably many of the winning destinations are in Queensland, with the Sunshine State scoring one of the top 10 destinations, and three in the ‘warming up’ category (next big thing).

Even the Gold Coast scores as number one on the “warming up” list. Apparently it’s now retro rather than tired. Or as Australian Traveller says: “The old tart is getting its mojo back.”
But what if you’re the parents of tweens, who have already travelled to many of the winning locations. What if you want to holiday somewhere a little different?

As our daughter is to start her final year of primary school, we have decided to embark on the great family adventure in 2011. We’ve been saving up the annual leave in anticipation, if not yet the necessary funds (damn those rising fuel bills).

Our criteria are loosely based around wanting to take the children out of the ‘privileged bubble’ of life in middle class Australia, to take them somewhere children don’t have the same sense of entitlement as our Aussie Gen Z’s.

At the same time, some fun in the sun is a prerequisite for this family whose history includes lugging all our belongings across the Nullarbor in an old Holden wagon, in search of a life in a warmer climate.

So I’ve come up with a plan.  Destination: Indian Ocean. Stops at Cocos Islands and Indonesia.  Possibly Bali tacked on at the end.

You might not have heard of the Cocos Islands, and even if you have, you probably have no idea where they are. If you have heard of them, it might be to notice they are the other islands, besides Christmas Island, where asylum seekers are processed offshore.

And just like Christmas Island, the Cocos Islands are a modern day Australian territory. You won’t need a passport to holiday there, although you will definitely need a packed lunch as the islands lay in the Indian Ocean, 2750kms North-West of Perth.

Here is a glimpse into the fascinating history of the island and in particular, the Scottish Clunies-Ross family who originally settled the islands.

There are two inhabited islands, Home Island where the former Clunies-Ross mansion dominates the landscape and where the Cocos-Malay people live. West Island houses the few accommodation options available for tourists.

Be very clear about something — Hamilton Island these islands are not. Virgin Blue now does fly directly there (no annoying stops to refuel in Canarvon) but flights are only twice a week.

The islands are bereft of resorts, gifts shops, shopping centres. There is one low key restaurant and grocery shop. So what it is about the islands that make them appealing to your average suburban family? It helps if you like idyllic island paradises.

And if one of your family happens to be an avid kite surfer, then this could be their idea of holiday heaven. While your kite surfer is enjoying what I am reliably informed are “near perfect conditions”, the rest of the family can snorkel, swim with dolphins, fish from glass bottom boats or bike ride the palm fringed islands.

The Robinson Crusoe part of our holiday thereby easily decided, attention now turns to the rest of our trip.

From the Cocos we can fly to the Christmas Islands for a day or so, and from Christmas Island, onto Singapore or KL. Actually we have no choice about the stoppage in Christmas Islands as the flights are only on limited days.

But enforced stays in destinations is part of the spirit of adventure, right?

Once in KL and Singapore, it’s a hop, skip and a jump to Indonesia. But here is where my plans become unstuck. I have never been to Indonesia, and I know very little about the country aside from the fact it’s President has a rock-star sounding name.

So in what I feel is a fine example of Aussie entrepreneurial spirit, I’m using my Crikey internship to plan the unknown leg of our trip. I’m asking for your help with recommendations for places to visit in Indonesia.

Places to interest and challenge our junior WASPs. Off the beaten track, quirky, preferably cheap.

I’ll be grateful for the information and you can be glad you’ve helped widen a child’s horizons. But please, no suggestions for Indonesian versions of the Gold Coast.

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