The Case for Kiribati


Its name pronounced “Kiribass,” this nation comprised of 33 atolls and reef islands (population around 121,000) is spread over more than a million square miles out in the central Pacific Ocean midway between Hawaii and Australia (some 3,107 miles southeast), as well as 2,175 north of Fiji (in fact, it´s served internationally by Fiji Airways and Qantas, and its currency is the Aussie dollar). Kiribati is known for its laid-back vibe, stunning waters and marine life, as well as the culture of its friendly, welcoming Micronesian peoples. It´s also fairly easy to island hop, thanks to the network of Air Kiribati. Sadly, however, this country is also one of the world´s most threatened by climate change and sea level rise, so if you´re curious, come visit before it´s too late. And here´s a taste of the country´s main highlights:




Tarawa Atoll

This is where the national capital South Tarawa (pop a bit over 63,000) is located. Plus during World War II it was the site of the bloody Battle of Tarawa in late 1943, and there are a number of sites you can visit, with for example the remnants of tanks, bunkers, and gun emplacements (local tour operators will also take you there and put it all in context). In addition, Tarawa´s Ambo Island Lagoon Marine Reserve offers excellent snorkeling.

Kiritimati (Christmas Island)

The world's largest coral atoll is famous for birding (with several endemic species and large sea bird colonies), some of the world´s best bone fishing, superb surfing, and spectacular snorkeling and diving. There are a half dozen places to stay, as well.


Tabuaeran (Fanning Island)

Known for its beautiful lagoons and beaches, Tabuaeran offers a laid-back atmosphere that´s perfect for relaxation, and it’s also great for getting a feel of traditional Kiribati life. Thatch-roofed maneaba (meeting houses) are often open to visitors, and you can observe or even partake in community events or ceremonies. The beaches here are castaway dreams and its large crystalline lagoons are fantastic for snorkeling and diving, as they´re home to a plethora of marine life, including numerous fish species, rays, and even sharks.

 12258620662?profile=RESIZE_930xRafael Avila Coya

Arorae Island

Nearly 400 miles southeast of Tarawa, with just two small villages, the delightfully barefoot vibe is strong here, and apart from great swimming, snorkeling, and surfing, visitors have the opportunity to experience local culture by interacting with the community, learning handicrafts and even the island´s taubati dance, which uses claps, slaps, and stomps to accompany songs. Another point of interest, at the island´s southern tip, is a set of navigational stones dating back to 1000-1500 CE, traditionally used to aid travelers in setting a course for neighboring islands. Also at the southern tip, another curious claim to fame is a stone marker indicating the Equator, a popular spot for visitors to take selfies of themselves standing in both hemispheres simultaneously.


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