Ashmore and Cartier Islands Travel Guide

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What a great place to get lost! Halfway between Australia and Papua New Guinea, Ashmore & Cartier are the perfect place to spend a quiet holiday: no other people around - and then I don't mean no other tourists but no other people period. One problem though, you can't send any postcards home because there is no such thing as a postman on the island to pick up your card, nor can you buy cards or stamps on the islands.

As to the facts, the Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands comprises West, Middle and East Islands of Ashmore Reef, Cartier Island and the 12 nautical mile territorial sea generated by those islands. The islands are uninhabited, small, low and composed of coral and sand, with some grass cover.

The Territory is located on the outer edge of the continental shelf in the Indian Ocean approximately 320 km off Australia's north-west coast and 144 kilometres south of the Indonesian Island of Roti. The Jabiru and Challis oil fields are adjacent to the Territory.

In early May 1996, Indonesian and Australian officials, at the request of the Indonesian’s, visited the Territory with the objective of satisfying Indonesian officials that the Territory does in fact include islands generating a 24 nautical mile boundary. This has important implications for negotiations between Australia and Indonesia on the maritime boundary.

Basically, this all means that the chances of you spending some time on the islands is pretty small. Your best bet might be to try and hitch a ride with traditional fishers from Indonesia, who are allowed access to the lagoon and the fresh water supply of West Island. The only official way would be through the Australian Nature Conservation Agency (ANCA) which might issue permits to visit the Sahmore Reef and give advice on how to get there and back. In 1983 Ashmore Reef National Nature Reserve (583 sq km) was established under National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975. Access to East and Middle Islands, the main sea bird breeding areas, is by permit only. Either way it will involve spending quite some time and money...

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