Kiribati is a nation of water. The country is an independent Republic within the Commonwealth Nations, located in the central Pacific Ocean, about 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii. It is part of the division of the Pacific islands that is known as Micronesia. Kiribati consists of 33 coral islands divided among three island groups: the Gilbert Islands, the Phoenix Islands, and the Line Islands.
The Gilbert Islands group lying in the west of Kiribati is made up of 16 atolls and it is the home of the capital of Kiribati, Tarawa Atoll. Tarawa is divided into South Tarawa and North Tarawa. The southern part, South Tarawa is the urban and business center with the capital city situated in Bairiki. It is also home to the majority of the population of Kiribati. The island of Betio on South Tarawa was also the scene of one of the bloodiest battle of WWII “Battle of Tarawa.” Hence, here lies on Betio the aftermath of rusting relics of the battle where you can explore. South Tarawa serves as the international port and domestic hub between North Tarawa and the other 15 other islands in the Gilbert Group. The northern part, North Tarawa is referred as one of the outer islands due its rural and tranquil context where traditional and subsistence cultural lifestyle can be experienced. In addition, adventures in the North Tarawa and on the outer islands offer aqua picturesque lagoons, fishing, snorkelling and enjoyment the natural beauties of these atoll environments where sun, sea, sand and coconut palms are an added bonus. Nevertheless, travellers are encouraged to explore beyond South Tarawa to get a real picture of what Kiribati is all about.
Moving east from the Gilbert Islands group, in the middle of Kiribati, is the Phoenix Islands group known today as the Phoenix Islands Protected Area or PIPA. PIPA is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the world’s largest and the world’s deepest Marine Protected Area. Here we have Kanton Island (Canton) as the only inhabited island and destination port. Kanton can be accessed by charter flight, charter boat and or expedition cruise. You will also require a permit to enter PIPA to experience it. The PIPA Islands is for those anglers who are keen to experience and explore fishing (catch and release only) in rarely fished areas where there is no such thing as a bad days fishing; It is for those diving and research enthusiasts who are eager to dive and to study pristine untouched marine rich waters where marine life flourishes; It is for those travellers who love and appreciate nature. Overall PIPA is for activities and experiences that support eco-friendly and sustainable future for conservation of this World Heritage Site.
To the East end of Kiribati we have the Line Islands group, home to the world’s largest coral atoll and world class salt water fly fishing destination, Kiritimati Island (aka Christmas Is.); the heavenly foot print and world class surfing destination, Fanning Island (Tabuaeran); and then there is Washington Island (Teraina) home of the only fresh water lake in Kiribati; these islands make up the Northern Line Group. Among the group, Kiritimati Island is the main international destination port served by international flights out of Fiji and Hawaii, and is the main hub to Fanning Island and Washington Island served by domestic flights. If you’re looking for world class fishing holiday, surfing, diving, birdwatching and fresh water lake boat tour (on Washington Island), then the Northern Line Islands would be the perfect destination for you. In the South of the group or the Southern Line Islands we have Millennium Island (aka Caroline Island), Malden Island, Starbuck Island, Vostok Island, and Flint Island. These islands are one of the most remote and isolated places on Earth; uninhabited and rarely visited, and remain largely untouched by man offering spectacular underwater experiences of the untouched marine life and exploration of the wildlife that inhabit these islands. As quoted by National Geographic explorer, Enric Sala: “these islands have one of most unspoiled reef systems in the world “ and “If an alien had just one day on Earth and wanted to see a coral reef” “I would show him Millennium Atoll.” The only opportunity of visiting these untouched islands is by live aboard boat charter. Expedition cruises such as Lindblad Expeditions offer an opportunity of a once in a life time expedition cruise to explore and experience these pristine islands, nevertheless you can become one of those few travellers who has set foot on Millennium Atoll the first place to witness the dawn of the new millennium in the year 2000. Extensive populations of birdlife inhabit the Line Islands, including shearwater, petrel, tropicbirds, frigate birds, terns, noddies and the Christmas Island Warbler, which is endemic to Christmas Island.
All of the islands are atolls (ring-shaped islands with central lagoons) except for the island of Banaba in the Gilbert Islands which is a raised limestone island. Some of these islands are still uninhabited today, especially those islands in the Phoenix Islands group (known today as the Phoenix Islands Protected Area) and Kiritimati (also called Christmas Island), one of the Line Islands, which has the largest land area of any atoll in the world. The capital of Kiribati is Tarawa, an atoll in the Gilbert Islands. Bairiki, an islet of Tarawa, serves as an administrative center.