Cocos Keeling Islands
The tranquillity of the Cocos Keeling Islands today gives little hint of their colourful past, their human dramas and tragedies, or the many different rulers who controlled them.
From first settlement in 1826 by English merchant Alexander Hare, through decades of rule by the Clunies-Ross dynasty, most island inhabitants had little freedom or contact with the outside world.
For many years the islands were a powerhouse of copra production, with all resources and workers devoted to coconut growing and processing. Apart from disruptions caused by cyclone damage, the industry only ceased in 1987 but the abundant coconut palms throughout the Cocos still bear testament to the extent of the trade.
Two World Wars saw the islands become targets because of their strategic position in the Indian Ocean. From 1944 to 1946 the tranquil islands came under military administration and buzzed with activity, home to thousands of military personnel.
The people of the Cocos Keeling Islands voted to become part of Australia in 1984. The remote atoll is now an internationally significant habitat for wildlife … and a faraway paradise for tourists seeking something a little bit different.