Photos of Cocos (Keeling) Islands



British captain William KEELING discovered Cocos (Keeling) Islands in 1609, and they were named the Cocos Islands in 1622 for their coconut trees. Some maps began referring to them as the Keeling Islands in 1703. In 1825, Scottish trader John CLUNIES-ROSS was trying to get to Christmas Island but was blown off-course and landed on Cocos (Keeling) Islands. The next year, a British trader hired John’s brother to bring slaves and a harem of Malay women to create the first permanent settlement on the island. By the 1830s, the Clunies-Ross family had firmly established themselves as the leaders of the islands and they ruled Cocos (Keeling) Islands in a feudal style until 1978.

The UK annexed the islands in 1857 and administered them from Ceylon after 1878 and from Singapore after 1886. Cocos (Keeling) Islands hosted a cable relaying station and was attacked by the Germans in World War I. The Japanese similarly attacked the islands in World War II. The UK transferred the islands to Australia in 1955, which officially named the islands the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, and in 1978, Australia bought all the land held by the Clunies-Ross family, ending their control of the islands’ governance. In a referendum in 1984, most islanders voted to integrate with Australia, and Western Australian laws have applied on the islands since 1992.


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

Geographic coordinates

12 30 S, 96 50 E

Map references

Southeast Asia


total: 14 sq km

land: 14 sq km

water: 0 sq km

note: includes the two main islands of West Island and Home Island

comparison ranking: total 240

Area - comparative

about 24 times the size of The Mall in Washington, DC

Land boundaries

total: 0 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm


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


flat, low-lying coral atolls


highest point: South Point on South Island 9 m

lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m

Land use

agricultural land: 0% (2018 est.)

forest: 0% (2018 est.)

other: 100% (2018 est.)

Population distribution

only Home Island and West Island are populated

Natural hazards

cyclone season is October to April

Geography - note

note 1: there are 27 coral islands in the group; apart from North Keeling Island, which lies 30 km north of the main group, the islands form a horseshoe-shaped atoll surrounding a lagoon; North Keeling Island was declared a national park in 1995 and is administered by Parks Australia; the population on the two inhabited islands generally is split between the ethnic Europeans on West Island and the ethnic Malays on Home Island; the islands are thickly covered with coconut palms and other vegetation

note 2: site of a World War I naval battle in November 1914 between the Australian light cruiser HMAS Sydney and the German raider SMS Emden; after being heavily damaged in the engagement, the Emden was beached by her captain on North Keeling Island

People and Society


596 (July 2014 est.)

comparison ranking: 236


noun: Cocos Islander(s)

adjective: Cocos Islander

Ethnic groups

Europeans, Cocos Malays


Malay (Cocos dialect) 68.8%, English 22.3%, unspecified 8.9%; note - data represent language spoken at home (2016 est.)

major-language sample(s):
Buku Fakta Dunia, sumber yang diperlukan untuk maklumat asas. (Malay)

The World Factbook, the indispensable source for basic information.


Muslim (predominantly Sunni) 75%, Anglican 3.5%, Roman Catholic 2.2%, none 12.9%, unspecified 6.3% (2016 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: NA

15-64 years: NA

65 years and over: NA

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: NA

youth dependency ratio: NA

elderly dependency ratio: NA

potential support ratio: NA

Death rate

8.89 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

comparison ranking: 64

Population distribution

only Home Island and West Island are populated

Infant mortality rate

total: NA

male: NA

female: NA

Life expectancy at birth

total population: (2021) NA

male: NA

female: NA

Drinking water source

improved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: NA

unimproved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: NA


Environment - current issues

freshwater resources are limited to rainwater accumulations in natural underground reservoirs; illegal fishing a concern


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

Land use

agricultural land: 0% (2018 est.)

forest: 0% (2018 est.)

other: 100% (2018 est.)


Country name

conventional long form: Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands

conventional short form: Cocos (Keeling) Islands

etymology: the name refers to the abundant coconut trees on the islands and to English Captain William KEELING, the first European to sight the islands in 1609

Government type

non-self-governing overseas territory of Australia

Dependency status

non-self governing territory of Australia; administered from Canberra by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities & Regional Development


name: West Island

geographic coordinates: 12 10 S, 96 50 E

time difference: UTC+6.5 (11.5 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions

none (territory of Australia)


none (territory of Australia)

National holiday

Australia Day (commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet of Australian settlers), 26 January (1788)


history: 23 November 1955 (Cocos (Keeling) Islands Act 1955)

amendments: amended many times, last in 2020

Legal system

common law based on the Australian model


see Australia


18 years of age

Executive branch

chief of state: King CHARLES III (since 8 September 2022); represented by Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia General David HURLEY (since 1 July 2019)

head of government: Administrator Farzian ZAINAL (since 11 May 2023)

cabinet: NA

elections/appointments: the monarchy is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch on the recommendation of the Australian prime minister; administrator appointed by the governor-general for a 2-year term and represents the monarch and Australia

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Cocos (Keeling) Islands Shire Council (7 seats; members directly elected by simple majority vote to serve 4-year terms with 4 members renewed every 2 years)

elections: last held on 21 October 2023 (next to be held in October 2025)

election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NA; composition - men 6, women 1, percent of women 16.7%

Judicial branch

highest court(s): under the terms of the Territorial Law Reform Act 1992, Western Australia provides court services as needed for the island including the Supreme Court and subordinate courts (District Court, Magistrate Court, Family Court, Children's Court, and Coroners' Court)

Diplomatic representation in the US

none (territory of Australia)

Diplomatic representation from the US

embassy: none (territory of Australia)

Flag description

the flag of Australia is used

National anthem

note: as a territory of Australia, "Advance Australia Fair" remains official as the national anthem, while "God Save the King" serves as the royal anthem (see Australia)


Real GDP growth rate

1% (2003)

comparison ranking: 185

Agricultural products

vegetables, bananas, pawpaws, coconuts


copra products, tourism

Unemployment rate

0.1% (2011)
60% (2000 est.)

comparison ranking: 1


revenues: NA

expenditures: NA

Fiscal year

1 July - 30 June

Exports - partners

United States 57%, Ireland 15% (2019)

Exports - commodities

integrated circuits, vaccines and cultures, furniture, carbon batteries, rubber gloves (2021)

Imports - partners

Australia 73%, United Arab Emirates 15%, Netherlands 5% (2019)

Imports - commodities

gold, x-ray equipment, cars, prefabricated buildings, packaged medicines (2019)

Exchange rates

Australian dollars (AUD) per US dollar -

Exchange rates:
1.311 (2017 est.)
1.3442 (2016 est.)
1.3442 (2015)
1.3291 (2014)
1.1094 (2013)


Telecommunication systems

general assessment: telephone service is part of the Australian network; an operational local mobile-cellular network available; wireless Internet connectivity available

domestic: local area code - 08

international: international code - 61 8; telephone, telex, and facsimile communications with Australia and elsewhere via satellite; satellite earth station - 1 (Intelsat)

Broadcast media

1 local radio station staffed by community volunteers; satellite broadcasts of several Australian radio and TV stations available (2017)

Internet users

total: 80 (2021 est.)

percent of population: 13.4% (2021 est.)

comparison ranking: total 233



1 (2024)

comparison ranking: 218


total: 22 km (2007)

paved: 10 km (2007)

unpaved: 12 km (2007)

comparison ranking: total 223

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Port Refuge

Military and Security

Military - note

defense is the responsibility of Australia

Transnational Issues