The Republic of Kiribati: A new untouched tourism potential 1800 miles from Hawaii
Paradise on a remote untouched Pacific Island with friendly people who welcome visitors like family. This is a reality for a travel and tourism experience in Kiribati. Inexpensive, untouched, original is what the Republic of Kiribati represents as a holiday destination.
Kiribati is a sovereign state in Micronesia in the central Pacific Ocean. it’s 1856 located miles from Honolulu. The permanent population is just over 110,000, more than half of whom live on Tarawa Atoll. The state comprises 32 atolls and reef islands and one raised coral island, Banaba.
The Kiribati government say the remote island of Nikumaroro could have the potential to be a micro tourism site — that’s because a team of experts believes it could be where the plane belonging to the American aviator Amelia Earhart crashed, even though their recent expedition failed to find any conclusive evidence supporting that.
Nikumaroro, or Gardner Island, is part of the Phoenix Islands, Kiribati, in the western Pacific Ocean. It is a remote, elongated, triangular coral atoll with profuse vegetation and a large central marine lagoon. Nikumaroro is about 7.5 km long by 2.5 km wide.
Ms Earhart and her co-pilot Fred Noonan disappeared while attempting to circumnavigate the world in 1937 after they took off from Lae in what’s now Papua New Guinea.
Tiiroa Roneti of the Phoenix Islands Protection Area, which administers Nikumaroro, told Pacific Beat their long-term plan is to develop a micro-tourism site that capitalises on the link to the Earhart mystery. The uninhabited island is one of eight that make up Phoenix Group, which’s been declared a World Heritage site.
An expedition in August, funded by the National Geographic television network and led by the man who found the Titanic shipwreck, did not find any conclusive evidence of Amelia Earhart’s plane. The local government is waiting for evidence that could prove that Earhart crashed near Nikumaroro.
“We are waiting for the outcome of the expedition that can link Nikumaroro as one of the potential last disappearing sites for Amelia Earhart,” Mr. Roneti said.
The island of Nikumaroro is now uninhabited but had been used as a re-settlement site by the British colonial government in the 1940s. Nikumaroro was abandoned in the 1950s because of a lack of water and the population re-settled to the Solomon Islands.
Kiribati became independent from the United Kingdom in 1979. The capital, South Tarawa, which is now the most populated area, consists of a number of islets, connected by a series of causeways. These comprise about half the area of Tarawa Atoll.
Kiribati is a member of the Pacific Community (SPC), Commonwealth of Nations, the IMF, and the World Bank, and became a full member of the United Nations in 1999.
Kiribati consists of 32 atolls and one solitary island (Banaba), extending into the eastern and western hemispheres, as well as the northern and southern hemispheres. It is the only country that is situated within all four hemispheres. The groups of islands are:
- Banaba: an isolated island between Nauru and the Gilbert Islands
- Gilbert Islands: 16 atolls located some 1,500 kilometers (932 mi) north of Fiji
- Phoenix Islands: 8 atolls and coral islands located some 1,800 kilometres (1,118 mi) southeast of the Gilberts
- Line Islands: 8 atolls and one reef, located about 3,300 kilometers (2,051 mi) east of the Gilberts
The Kiribati National Tourism Office (KNTO) is responsible for working with our partners to encourage travelers to come to Kiribati and spend time exploring our country. We are guided by the principles of sustainability, economic development, and cultural preservation and expression. We would like to see our industry as vibrant as the blues, greens, and whites that reflect the beauty of the country.
Kiribati is not a holiday destination for everyone. The serious and committed traveler or fisherman will be rewarded for their visit with the experience of welcoming and wonderful people, extraordinary numbers of fish and the challenge of catching them, and lifestyle that is as far away from your every day as you can get. Tourists who are looking for swim-up bars, cocktail lounges, and fluffy towels need not apply.
In Pacific Island legend, the origin of man is accounted for by a creation myth, with the Turtle and Spider gods creating the universe. Some myths recognise these as land gods, who were invaded and overtaken by the Eel and Stingray gods, who then created the universe.
Traditional legend tells of the spirits moving from Samoa to the Gilbert Islands. The spirits became half human and half spirit, and then a long time later changed into human beings. Many people in Kiribati believe their ancestors to be spirits, some from Samoa, and some from the Gilberts.
Known indigenously as “Tungaru”, the modern history of Kiribati is thought to begin with the arrival of Micronesians in the South Pacific, which took place between 200 and 500 AD. However, some evidence points to migration from Southeast Asia/Indonesia area prior to this, moving into the Pacific around 3000 years ago.
Within these islands a Micronesia culture developed (though not called Micronesian until the Europeans later introduced this name), it was also infused with elements from Polynesian and Melanesian culture from invasions by neighboring nations such as Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji. The culture was also influenced through inter-marriages between theses countries, and later mainly from the influence of ‘Polynesian’ pastors.
There are many adventures to be had on and around the islands that make up the nation of Kiribati. In a nation with the biggest water to the land ratio in the world, water is a dominant feature in the lives of the I-Kiribati, and for all visitors.
Fishing is world-class – centered on Kiritimati (Christmas) Island, one of the few places in the world you can saltwater fly fish, for the mighty fighting bonefish! The deeper waters around Kiritimati and the Gilbert Islands are also great places for record-breaking game fishing.
For those looking for some culture, there is plenty to see and do around the island. Culture in Kiribati is still very uncommodified – the best way to experience a relatively untouched culture is to take a domestic flight or ferry across to an outer island and meet the ever-friendly local people. If you come at the right time of year you may also be able to witness local celebrations, in religious holidays such as Easter or Christmas; or national celebrations such as Kiribati Independence. If you would like to take a bit of the culture home with you, their amazing handicrafts for sale, still made the traditional way.
The Gilbert group of islands hosts a number of World War II historical sites. Tarawa, Makin (now called Butaritari), Abemama (also the ocean island of Banaba) were invaded by the Japanese in 1941, just after they bombed Pearl Harbour. After the Japanese fortified the atolls, In 1942 and 1943 US Marines conducted a number of large scale raids to remove the Japanese presence. Today, relics of the battles and forts can be visited.
Kiribati is also host to the Phoenix group of islands – including the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), the world’s largest marine protected area. For bird lovers, this area hosts nesting and feeding grounds for 19 species of wild sea birds. For those that like it underwater, a vast playground hosting a rich diversity of fish (509 identified species) and other marine life (mammals, sharks, invertebrates, plant life) in plentiful numbers in windward, leeward and lagoon habitats.
Kiritimati (Christmas Island)
Kiritimati is host to a golden five-kilometer stretch of points, reefs, and channels between London village and Paris points. This stretch is reputed to have 24 surfable waves – with surf season October through to March. The swell hits Kiritimati about a day or two after it hits Hawaii – an 8′ to 12′ swell at Sunset Beach in Hawaii will result in 6′ to 10′ clean faces in Kiritimati one to two days later. Of the 24 breaks, two-third are user-friendly with deep channels and sand of soft reef bottom. The other third has rough coral bottoms and is for experienced surfers only.
Hotels are available between $25 and $75 a night. It makes Kiribati an affordable holiday destination.
Flight connection to Kiribati is available from Nadi, Fiji and Honolulu, Hawaii. USA.