Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Enchanting Micronesia!


Kiribati is an island group in Micronesia straddling the equator and, until 1995, the International Date Line. Kiribati's 33 atolls, with a total area of only 811 km², are scattered over an area of 3.5 million km². Kiribati saw
some of the worst fighting of the Pacific theatre during the Second World War, including the infamous Battle of
Tarawa in November 1943.Kiribati is most emphatically not another Tahiti, Hawaii, etc. where you can go to relax and have nothing to worry  about. It has few visitors, and they have to be prepared to "rough it." That said, there aren't many countries where  the people are more friendly.South Tarawa is one of the most densely populated, severely poverty-stricken places in the world. Other islands have far fewer people, but getting to them can be difficult, and conditions are even more primitive. Most tourists, especially from the USA, go to Kiritimati (Christmas Island). It received some attention on January 1, 2000 as the first location in the world to experience the new millennium. Conditions there are somewhat better than in the rest of Kiribati.

Kiribati History

Kiribati was inhabited for 2000 years prior to European contact. Under British colonial rule, it was known as the Gilbert Islands. Kiribati was granted self-rule by the UK in 1971 and complete independence in 1979. The US relinquished all claims to the sparsely inhabited Phoenix and Line Island groups in a 1979 treaty of friendship with Kiribati. The name "Kiribati" is pronounced "Kiri-bass", which is the closest local equivalent to "Gilberts".
The Phoenix and Line Islands were generally held to be on the east side of the International Date Line and are in different time zones from the Gilbert Islands group, but on 1 January 1995, Kiribati proclaimed that all of its territory was on the same calendar day (skipping 31 December 1994 in those island groups), effectively extending the Date Line further eastward to accommodate this. This makes the Line Islands the farthest "ahead" of any territory on the planet.

In 1995 Kiribati suspended diplomatic relations with France to protest the latter's decision to resume nuclear testing on Muraroa Atoll. In 1999 the government claimed that two atolls had been lost due to sea level rise and subsequently, in 2002, joined with Tuvalu and the Maldives to take legal action against the US for refusing to sign the Kyoto Protocol.
The presence of gun emplacements and ship wrecks from WWII battles on South Tarawa makes shipwreck diving a common tourist activity.


Whoever coined the phrase, "It's not the heat, it's the humidity" may have had Kiribati in mind. Actually, the average high temperatures are quite reasonable compared to other well-known places in the tropics (such as Bangkok, Singapore, Manila, etc.). But the humidity more than makes up for this, making it feel very sauna-like. The wet season varies, but is usually December to March, give or take a month. Severe drought also occurs at times.

Phoenix Island

The Phoenix Islands Protected Area is the worlds largest Marine Protected Area. This isolated location has a vast array of undisturbed and pristine eco-systems. The coral reefs and bird populations are virtually untouched by man. The Phoenix Islands were awarded UNESO World Heritage Site status in 2010. The area covers 410 500 sq km of the Central Pacific.
The main island is this region is Kanton Island (Abariringa). While the island has the services of an airstrip and wharf this small number of people are government workers in caretaker mode.
Such is the isolation of the island that it is seldom visited and this is limited to sailing yachts and charters. The government supply ship visits a number of times a year. Immigration is possible on the island for those arriving by sea.
Other islands in the area include Orona, Enderbury, Nikumaroro, Birnie, Manra, McKean and Rawaki. These atolls are the tops of the Seamounts (or seas mountains) which are a feature of the marine protected area.


Nationals and citizens of the following countries are exempted from obtaining a visa before entering Kiribati where the intended duration of their stay is 30 days or less: Belize, Federated States of Micronesia, Macao (only in respect of holders of Macao Special Adminisirative Region Passports), Marshall Islands, Palau, Republic of China (Taiwan), Republic of South Korea.

Nationals and citizens of the following countries specified are exempted from obtaining a visa before entering Kiribati:
Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Austria, Barbados, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Cook Islands, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Grenada, Greece, Hong Kong (only in respect of holders of British Nationals Overseas passports and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passports), Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Lesotho, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malaysia, Malta,Mauritius, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niue, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Saint Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Bahamas, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Tuvalu, United Kingdom, United Kingdom Overseas Territories of (Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Montserrat and Turks and Caicos Islands), United States of America, Vanuatu, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
There are honorary consulates in Rose Bay (near Sydney), NSW, Australia; Honolulu, Hawaii; Suva, Fiji; Hamburg, Germany; Tokyo, Japan; Seoul, Korea; Auckland, New Zealand; and London, United Kingdom. Also, visas may be obtained by writing the Principal Immigration Officer, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, P.O. Box 68, Bairiki, Tarawa, KIRIBATI (Central Pacific). Caution: Do not apply directly to Tarawa within a couple months or so of your departure date, or when you need your passport elsewhere. Usually, it's best to inquire at the nearest consulate abroad. There's no requirement that you be a resident of the same country that the consulate is located in.

By plane

If through tickets are too expensive, get to Fiji anyway you can and go from there. On the other hand, if you've got thousands to spend and extra time, see how a Round the world fare on Oneworld or Star Alliance compares with the fare to Tarawa, and include this on your itinerary.
Air Pacific has two weekly non-stop flights (3 hrs) from Nadi, Fiji with connections from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, and the United States including Honolulu (with codeshares on American Airlines, and possibly other ONEWORLD members). If using another airline to get to Fiji, be certain it lands in Nadi and not Suva (unless you're staying a while and can get to other side of the island).
Our Airline and Air Kiribati Services (formerly Air Nauru) connect Tarawa in Kiribati with Nauru, Honiara and Nadi. This service provides an improved access to Tarawa and other Pacific Nations.
Air Pacific commences flights into Kiritimati Island (Christmas) on the 25th of May 2010. These weekly flights will connect Kiritimati with both Nadi (Fiji) and Honolulul (USA). Connects can be easily made with flights fron New Zealand, Australia, and Europe with Air Pacific.

Getting around

Domestic Flights and Airlines in Kiribati Air Kiribati has two turboprop aircraft for inter-island travel. Flights travel to all Outer Islands in the Gilbert group regularly.
A new domestic carrier has also been set up recently Coral Sun Airways. Coral Sun offers a scheduling alternative to Air Kiribati and can also be chartered for private use.
Reliability of internal flights in Kiribati is improving all the time and fares are relatively cheap. It is important to reconfirm your return flight on arrival at your destination. Each airline has different booking and confirmation conditions, you need to ensure you are familar with these to ensure a hassle free trip.


English is the offical language of Kiribati along with the native I-Kiribati. While English is used heavily in South Tarawa the further away from the capital you go the stronger the I-Kiribati tongue. Most people on Kiritimati Island have some English. Nearly all Kiribatians also speak the local language Gilbertese, derived from the name of the Gilbert Islands named after Thomas Gilbert, the first European to discover the islands.

South Tarawa

There are a wide number of local handicrafts available. These are generally made by the women groups from around the Gilbert group. Of special note are the colourful tops worn by the local ladies called Tibuta. The Catholic Womens association runs weekly classes in weaving and the making of these tops.
ATM's are located in Betio, Bairiki and Bikenebeu. There is also one located at the hospital. There is also a foreign exchange office at the Airport. ANZ operators in Kiribati.
Most shops will only accept cash and credit cards are used little with the exception of the 2 hotels.
Outer Gilbert Islands Cash only is used on the Outer Islands and banking services are not available.
Kiritimati Island An ATM and bank are both available on Kiritimati Island. The branch is located in London.
Most shops and stores will only accept cash. Credit cards are not widely used.

The variety of food on Kiribati is limited. If a shipment of imported food has just come in, buy it now, as it won't last long! The variety and amount is increasing and improving all the time as is the number of supply boats that arrive.
While Western style products will always be slightly limited you will find that the basics are genrally available. A lack of fruit and vegetables really being the major concern.
The staple diet of the I-Kiribati is fish and rice and this is reflected in many of the eating outlets on Tarawa. It is always worthwhile trying the local sashimi which is stright from the ocean to your plate.
Western style meals are best found at the two hotels Marys and the Otintaai.
There is also a variety of Chinese restaurants.

The local drink is toddy made from the sap of a coconut tree. This sweet toddy can then be fermented for a couple of days into the alcoholic sour toddy that is favoured by locals. The orginal sweet toddy can also be cooked into a syrup called Kamaimai. The Kamaimai can then be drizzled on sweet buns or ice cream.
Kava is also easily found throughout Kiribati with a large number of Kava bars appearing throughout Tarawa.
The two main bars in Tarawa are Captains Bar in Betio and the Lagoon Club in Ambo. Friday nights at the Otintaai is dance night. Supply of wine and spirits is limited, however there is a good supply of beer which is always cold.
There is a single night club in Tarawa called the Midtown which is open till late.
Alcohol is not sold on a number of Outer Island in the Gilbert group.

Get Chitika Premium

Follow verseilie on Twitter

No comments:

Post a Comment