Cocos (Keeling) Islands

Map of Cocos (Keeling) Islands


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.


Southeastern Asia, group of islands in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Indonesia, about halfway from Australia to Sri Lanka

Geographic coordinates:

12 30 S, 96 50 E


total: 14 sq km
note: includes the two main islands of West Island and Home Island
water: 0 sq km
land: 14 sq km


tropical with high humidity, moderated by the southeast trade winds for about nine months of the year


flat, low-lying coral atolls

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location 5 m

Natural resources:


Natural hazards:

cyclone season is October to April

Environment - current issues:

fresh water resources are limited to rainwater accumulations in natural underground reservoirs

Geography - note:

islands are thickly covered with coconut palms and other vegetation


629 (July 2004 est.)

Ethnic groups:

Europeans, Cocos Malays


Sunni Muslim 80%, other 20% (2002 est.)


Malay (Cocos dialect), English

Dependency status:

territory of Australia; administered from Canberra by the Australian Department of Transport and Regional Services

National holiday:

Australia Day, 26 January (1788)

Legal system:

based upon the laws of Australia and local laws

Economy - overview:

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.

Labor force - by occupation:

the Cocos Islands Cooperative Society Ltd. employs construction workers, stevedores, and lighterage workers; tourism employs others

Unemployment rate:

60% (2000 est.)


Australian dollar (AUD)

Fiscal year:

1 July - 30 June

Telephones - main lines in use:

287 (1992)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

note - analog cellular service available


total: 15 km
paved: NA km
unpaved: NA km (2003)

Ports and harbors:

none; lagoon anchorage only


1 (2003 est.)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2003 est.)

Military - note:

defense is the responsibility of Australia; the territory does have a five-person police force