The history of the settlement of the islands that are now part of Kiribati is one of the biggest mysteries in the development of modern civilization. Presumably, the first inhabitants of the islands were Australoid tribes that settled this territory more than 2500 years ago. However, in the 14th century AD, Tongans and Fijians invaded the Gilbert Islands, and, apparently, they did not find any indigenous tribes here. Numerous mixed marriages between these ethnic groups and fairly frequent closely related ties led to the fact that by the 19th century the population of the islands had become quite homogeneous.
Butaritari, discovered by the Spanish navigator Pedro Fernandez de Kiro in 1606 and named Bueno Vieja, became the first island of the group that came to the attention of Europeans. He opens Makin and, presumably, Beru (1606 g), and since then European ships have become frequent guests in the waters of modern Kiribati. The famous Russian hydrograph I.F. Kruzenshtern applies the last of the Gilbert and Line islands to the penalty. By the middle of the 19th century, British and American whalers had become the most frequent visitors to these waters. At the same time, Christian missionaries appeared on the islands, building churches and "saving the souls of savages from their indecent lifestyle." In 1892, Great Britain declared the Gilbert Islands group a British protectorate, and in 1896 founded the island administration on Tarawa. In 1900, phosphates were discovered on Banaba (Ocean), and by the beginning of 1916, the British completely subordinated the islands of Hilbert and Ellis (now Tuvalu). The Phoenix Archipelago, the two islands from which were jointly managed with the United States, joined the protectorate in 1937. Other Kiribati islands were barbarously exploited by foreign companies as phosphate deposits, but they eventually became part of the ownership.
With the outbreak of war in the Pacific, in 1941, Kiribati was inevitably drawn into hostilities. The Japanese bombed Banaba, Tarawa and Butaritari shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, many islands were captured by the expeditionary force of the Land of the Rising Sun, but by November 1943 the US Marines had freed most of them. But the suffering of the islanders did not end there - in 1957 and 1962. the British choose the Kiritimati Atoll as a testing ground for nuclear weapons. It was only in 1963 that the islanders were given a “consultative” role in their own government. On July 12, 1979, after a long struggle, Kiribati gained complete independence, and two months later the United States abandoned all its claims to the Line and Phoenix islands.
In 1975, residents of Banaba, an almost completely destroyed mining industry, began a lawsuit in the British High Court for compensation for damage to their homeland, and ultimately won the case, suing just $ 9.04 million and gaining several seats in the Kiribati parliament .
As a result, the country finally found the opportunity to decide its own affairs, but remained tied to international grants and subsidies. Due to their extreme isolation from civilization, the islands live the same leisurely life as hundreds of years ago. This is a real "lost world" where there is no television, the main entertainment is songs and dances, food, like hundreds of years ago, is provided by the ocean, and the only radio station works from time to time.
Tarava Island (Cook or Knox Island) lies in the center of the northern part of the Gilbert Islands group. With a total area of about 490 square meters. km atoll consists of 22 "large" islands, of which 8 are inhabited, and 17 small reefs with a total area of 21 square meters. km, forming an almost triangular ring around a shallow central lagoon. The largest island of the atoll - South Tarava, extends along the entire southern side of the "triangle". South Tarava, by local standards, is heavily urbanized, if you can call this word a cluster of houses in the traditional Polynesian style, many of which stand on stilts directly in the water. Three urban centers of Tarawa, almost completely merged with each other - Betio, Bairiki and Bikenibeu, form a single conglomerate. Here is the capital of the state - Bairiki and the only international airport of Bonrica. This is one of the most populated areas in the Pacific Ocean - about 30% of the country's population lives here.
Bairiki arose after the merger of several villages in the south of Tarawa and is connected to neighboring islands by a chain of bridges with a total length of about 32 km. In Bairiki, there are government offices, the office and residence of the president, the Parliament building, the Central Post Office, offices of almost a dozen banks, the State Library and Archive, the National Trusteeship Fund, the Tourism Office of Kiribati, the largest “maneaba” (communal house) in the country and various official institutions . Nearby, on Bonriki, there is an international airport, and Temaku is the new Central Hospital and fish tanks. The community center of Tarawa, and with it the whole of Kiribati, is a football field. Its covered tribune is the largest building in the country. Nearby, in her shadow, is a modest presidential palace, the buildings of the old residence of the colonial authorities and the same ancient prison.
In Bikenibeu, there is the old Central Hospital, the Ministry of Education and Agriculture, the headquarters of Air Kiribati Airlines, the Pedagogical School, the Oriental Hotel and the new Cultural Center, which contains an extensive collection of local crafts.
Betio Island - the most densely populated place of Kiribati and one of the main industrial centers of the country - there is a port, a shipyard and the main power station. This is a completely flat and almost bare island, almost the entire central part of which is occupied by a wide strip of Hawkins airfield. This is probably one of the most significant monuments of the Pacific War - a huge number of military relics from the period of the famous "Battle of Tarawa" are concentrated here. On November 20, 1943, after almost seven days of fire training for the fleet and naval forces, parts of the US Marine Corps landed on Tarawa. The main base of the Japanese army was located on Betio, so bloody battles unfolded here, during which both sides lost almost 5,000 people. On November 24, 1943, Betio, and with him the whole of Tarawa, fell.
There is a lot of evidence of those battles on the island, they are found here on almost every corner. Today, after more than 60 years, on the ocean side of Betio you can see the remains of four eight-inch coastal defense guns and anti-airborne installations. The same positions were preserved in Temakin and Takorong at the western and eastern ends of the island, as well as at the Protestant cemetery. A whole series of dilapidated bunkers stretches along almost the entire external contour of Betio. You can still find broken planes and landing bots on the seabed, and weapons and ammunition are found on the island almost weekly. Monuments to the fierce battle on Tarawa are the Memorial Chapel in the village of Abaokoro and the Memorial to the Heroes of the Outpost, erected in memory of 22 British employees brutally murdered by the Japanese on October 15, 1942. On this small island, which is only 3 km long, more than 5500 war victims are buried. Therefore, well-groomed military cemeteries with rows of wooden tombstones are considered the most impressive feature of Betio.
Life is in full swing on the small islands of Tarawa - on Eita there is a Moroni secondary school, a church and a small fish market, on Amvon - a golf club with 9 fields and fish tanks, on Theaorerek - the headquarters of the Catholic Church and Saint-Louis College, on Antebuka - Kiribati supermarket and Tarava Motors car dealership, and on the tiny reefs of the northern part there are numerous pile houses that many tourists enjoy using for living. Numerous islands are connected by a single street running either on land or along bridges through passages in the reef. On one side of Main Street are the turquoise and milky white waters of the lagoon, and on the other is the open ocean. And stormy weather, ocean shafts freely roll through small islands.
The largest of the outer atolls of the southern group of Gilbert, Tabiteuea or Bishop Island (400 km south of Tarava) consists of two large islands - Meank (north) and Maiaki (south) with a total area of 38 sq. M. km The atoll is considered one of the most beautiful places in Kiribati and the largest atoll of the Gilbert group - an extensive turquoise lagoon with a length of almost 65 km is surrounded by a necklace of small islands, forming a maze of reefs and passages with a total area of about 38 square meters. km The climate here is hotter and drier than on Tarawa, therefore the land is poorer and yields are scarce, but, nevertheless, it is the most densely populated atoll of the southern Gilbert group (about 4.5 thousand inhabitants).
The inhabitants of Tabiteuea claim that their island was the very first island from which all the "peoples of the sea" in the Pacific Ocean went. The "Place of Creation" is located on the island of Maiaki, where the mythical "Tree of Kings" supposedly grew, one of whose roots sprouted on Samoa in the form of the sacred tree of Te-Kain-Tikuaba. It was from here, according to local residents, that the settlement of Tarawa, Samoa, and Fiji began. Whether it is true or not, of course, no one knows, but the first missionaries noted some evidence of the central place of Tabiteuea in the mythology system of the Micronesians, even a simple translation of the name of the island (“no leaders”) indicates its important place in the mythology of the islanders. Local residents have always been considered the most warlike tribe in the region, more than once or twice engaged in open confrontation with Europeans. In 1879-1881 Christian missionaries led by Hiram Bingham more than once provoked a real massacre between the Christian north and the traditional faith south, during which more than a thousand people were killed on both sides.
The traditional culture is still strong here, folk dances, singing and magic still play a significant role in local life. The locals even earned the nickname "Sicilians of the Pacific Ocean", which is caused by the complex rituals and heightened self-esteem inherent in the islanders. But this is the only island in the Gilbert group that had its own prison, as well as as many as two airports, one in the north, the other in the south - the confrontation between northerners and southerners has not yet been eradicated.
Beru Island lies 96 km east of Tabiteuea and 426 km southeast of Tarava. This is perhaps the only island, not the atoll, in the southern group of Gilbert. The first European to be credited with discovering Beru in 1826 was the captain of the English whaling ship John Clerk. The island is 14 km long with a width of 4 km in the widest part, occupies the eastern side of the young reef, which expands in the western part, forming a small shallow lagoon Nuka. The lagoon is surrounded by fish tanks, and the free coast is occupied by mangroves with a total length of almost 3 km.
Like Tabiteuea, Beru is considered one of the cradles of local culture. In traditional mythology, the creator Nareo created a race of people on Beru, and the first of them, Taburimai and Riki, saw the light here. They and their descendants became residents of these islands, and the most influential clans of the country lead their genealogy from them. Here Nareo also built the first "maneaba" or "maneaba" (public house of worship) of Tabontebike. And the island itself was made of a thorn of a Na-Atibu tree or Te-Kaintykuaba ("Tree of Life"). It was with Beru in the middle of the 16th century that the fleet of the leader Kaitu, a colossal by local standards, set sail, capturing almost all the islands of the Gilbert group, Banaba, and even part of Tuvalu. And nowadays, the islanders catch fish and birds, grow root crops and are happy to teach the few tourists so far the complicated craft of fishing in the open ocean.
Butaritari Atoll ("the smell of the sea") or Makin lies 100 km northwest of Tarava and is considered one of the largest atolls in the Gilbert Islands - its size is about 30 by 15 km with an area of about 13.6 square meters. km The almost square atoll consists of a continuous and very narrow strip of land (no more than 350 m wide). The deep lagoon of Butaritari is open into the ocean with a wide passage in which several small islands rise, forming a rather complicated fairway. Mangrove swamps stretch along the southern coast of the lagoon, and on the north side the reef significantly decreases, forming an underwater elevation cut by canyons. This is one of the wettest places in the country - from 1.5 to 4 meters of precipitation falls annually, therefore it is also one of the greenest islands of Kiribati.
Butaritari was glorified by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), who lived here at the end of the 19th century. It is also one of the best harbors in the Hilbert group. The main village of the island has the same name and is the second largest settlement in the country (population of about 2,200 people), and about 4,000 people live on the island in total. But, perhaps, the main attraction of Butaritari is the breadfruit growing only here, whose fruits are fried in a special way, receiving the most famous local delicacy - “bikiraro” or “motin-ue”. You can hire a canoe and head to the nearby Makin Island via a stunningly beautiful reef. Or you can visit the battlefields that broke out on the island in 1942, when a group of US Marines took a detour to the rear of the Japanese positions in order to divert the enemy’s attention from the planned landing on the Solomon Islands. Until now, the wreckage of about two dozen aircraft has survived on Butaritari, including a Japanese seaplane lying at a shallow depth near the village of Butaritari, and other military relics.
Abemama Island is located in central Kiribati, 80 km southwest of Tarawa. The central atoll has an area of 16 square meters. km, a population of 3,700 people, and consists of a deep central lagoon surrounded by islands in the north and east, which gives it a total area of 28 sq. km. km
The island is known as the place of proclamation of the Declaration of the Protectorate of the British Crown over the Gilbert Islands (May 27, 1892), as well as the "Stevenson Island", although the writer and his wife lived here only 1 year - in 1889. In 1911, Abemama was declared the “Crown Colony” and for a long time was considered the postal and military capital of the Gilbert Islands, since its favorable geographical position provided it with some advantages in these aspects. The main attractions of the island are the numerous traces of the battles of World War II, several patriarchal fishing villages and an endemic species of a tiny yellow barking frog.
Arorae or Hope Island is the southernmost island in the Hilbert group. This is a low and flat coral massif of elongated shape, approximately 9 km in length and 1 km in width with an area of 9.5 square meters. km
The island's calling card is the famous Arorae Nautical Stones or Te Atibu ni Borau. Nine vertically placed flat coral slabs located on a promontory protruding into the ocean are so ancient that even the locals have no legends explaining their origin. It is believed that their location repeats the traditional route vector of the Micronesian sailors, and therefore they are nothing more than a benchmark navigation system of the ancient conquerors of the Great Ocean. By the way, many other flat stones are scattered throughout the island, but for the most part they are distinguishing marks of land or coconut groves, however, on other islands groups of customs to put such signs are not found.
Nonouti Atoll (Dog Island or Nomutch Island) lies 38 km northwest of Tabiteuea, and is an almost continuous line of islands on three sides of the atoll and the only large Noumalang island in the passage on the west side. Nonouti is the third largest atoll among the Gilbert Islands - its dimensions are about 35 km long and up to 15 km wide with an average land strip width of 700 m (atoll area of about 29.2 sq. Km). Nonouti Lagoon is 15 km across and is replete with stones, which provide shelter for all kinds of marine life. The northern part of the island is torn by several narrow passages, forming a number of islands, which are quite inaccessible, and therefore serve as nests for seabirds.
The Line Islands are a long group of extremely remote islands, atolls and reefs, stretching from north to south between the equator in the central Pacific Ocean for more than 2000 km (and taking into account the Johnstoll atoll - even 4000 km). Only eleven low-lying islands with a total area of 425 square meters. km occupy a stretch of water the size of the whole of Europe. The Line Islands are one of the most remote island chains on Earth, located 2,800 km west of the Hawaiian Islands and 1,600 km north of the Marquesas Islands, and their closest "neighbor", Penrin Island (Cook Islands) lies 610 km northwest from the island of East. From Tarava, the nearest island of the Line group is approximately 2600 km distant.
The eight islands of the Line group - Flint, Kiritimati (Christmas Island), Malden (Independence Island), Caroline (Millennium Island), Tabuaeran (Fanning Island), Teraina (Arapata), Starbuck (Barren) and the East are part of Kiribati. The Jarvis, Kingman Reef, and Palmyra Islands are uninhabited and are under US control as part of the Pacific Islands National Wildlife Refuge complex (USFWS / PI also includes the Hawaiian National Wildlife Refuge, the Baker, Howland and Jarvis Islands, and Johnson Atoll National Wildlife Refuge).
The geological history of the Line Islands is complex and poorly understood. Volcanic islands by their origin were the product of an extensive fault zone. But active volcanism stopped about 37 million years ago, and since then the lowering of the seabed and erosion processes have greatly changed the once-high volcanic peaks, and today only 11 of them rise above the surface of the ocean, and even then by no more than a few meters. But the waters around the islands are one of the most saturated marine life in the Pacific Ocean, and the islands themselves serve as the most important nesting sites for seabirds (their colony here is considered one of the largest in the world). Tabuaran and Teraina are inhabited, and the more isolated and arid islands of the central and southern groups are uninhabited and are protected as conservation areas.
Tabuaran (Fanning Island) is one of the most beautiful atolls in Kiribati and a popular yacht marina for ships traveling between Hawaii and Tahiti. The island lies 3,130 km northeast of Tarava and it is almost impossible to get here without a ship or plane. When Europeans discovered this island, it was uninhabited. But the numerous archaeological finds made on its territory in the 20th century clearly indicate its importance in the system of migration of Tongans, who probably visited these places in the VI-IX centuries. n e. In the nineteenth century, The Fanning Island Plantations Ltd turned the island into one large coconut plantation, and now about 1300 people live on Tabuaran. The island is also popular with scuba divers who consider its external contour to be one of the best diving sites in the region.
Kiritimati (Christmas Island) is located approximately 3,300 km northeast of Tarawa and 285 km northwest of Tabuaeran. This is the largest atoll in the Line group and in the world - its length is about 70 km, width - 36 km, and area - about 321 square meters. km This ancient atoll consists of a large and flat island with a shallow lagoon opening to the northwest. At the inner (eastern) end of the lagoon there are several hundred small lagoons that do not have access to the sea (the total area of all lagoons is about 160 sq. Km). The narrow reef plate framing the entire island is up to 120 m wide, and is widest off the northern coast. The height of the island does not exceed 12 meters.
The island was discovered by James Cook on December 24, 1777. Cook and his team stayed here all the Christmas holidays, which determined the European name of the island. Dr. E. Christofensen of the Cook team then recorded 24 species of plants and 36 species of bird living here. Since then, almost nothing has changed - Kiritimati is still the home and habitat of seabirds, of which there are up to 20 species, and their total number is estimated at 6 million. Although their numbers have declined markedly in recent years, Kiritimati still has a greater species diversity and bird density than any other oceanic island in the world. The vegetation is represented by several types of shrubs, a dozen types of herbs and coconut palms. Some of the lakes have fish, and the marine life around the reef and in the lagoon is simply magnificent.
Jarvis Island is located 350 km southwest of Kiritimati, and its vast reef borders a shallow inner lagoon, home to one of the largest populations of dark tern in the world. The endemic vegetation of Palmyra is lush, one of the last coastal forests of Pisonia (Pisonia) in the Pacific Ocean, as well as extensive thickets of ferns, are preserved here. The sandy tidal zone of Palmyra provides recreation and food for thousands and thousands of migratory seabirds. Kingman Reef is an almost atoll triangular in plan, and its reserve guards approximately 1957 square meters. km of shelf and 105 square meters. km of coral reefs.
The extremely remote and isolated island of Banaba lies 430 km west of the Gilbert Group. The drop-shaped atoll, unlike most of the country's islands, rises above the water by 81 m (the highest island of the country) and is almost bare limestone rock with an area of 5.7 square meters. km The island was almost destroyed by the mining industry, since phosphate layers 2 meters thick covered it almost completely, and by 1979, when Kiribati gained independence, it was fully developed. To ensure production, almost all the inhabitants of Banaba were resettled on the island of Rabi (Fiji), where they mostly live today. And only 280 people live on Banaba, who are trying to restore their homeland. But before the invasion of the Europeans, it was one of the most interesting islands in the region, with its own unique traditions and complex culture. Until now, Banaba dancers (even in exile, they continue to consider themselves residents of this island) are considered one of the best in the Pacific Ocean, and the elders are respected by all tribal groups in Kiribati. Until now, visiting the island requires the approval of the Council of Elders, and an environmental experiment undertaken here to assess the possibility of recovering natural complexes affected by human influences can have far-reaching consequences.
The Phoenix or Ravaki archipelago consists of eight islands - Abariring (Canton), Enderbury, Ravaki (Phoenix), Manra (Sydney), Byrne, Mackin, Nikumaroro (Gardner) and Orona (Hull). The islands are located in the central part of the Pacific Ocean, 640 km north of American Samoa, and cover an area of 11 square meters. km The archipelago was opened in 1828 during the voyage of the American research ship of the same name, and on June 29, 1889 the British flag was hoisted over the islands. On March 18, 1937, the islands became part of the Ellis and Gilbert Islands Colonies; since 1939, Great Britain and the United States operated the archipelago together. Due to the overpopulation of the central islands, in 1938-1940. the government of the protectorate decided to populate then uninhabited islands with people from the Gilbert Islands. However, by 1952 it became clear that this campaign was a fiasco, and by 1963 almost all the colonists had left for the Solomon Islands. Now the Phoenix archipelago has virtually no permanent population.
The easternmost of the islands of the archipelago, Ravaki lies 180 km southeast of Abariring and 350 km south of the equator. The size of the island is small - an area of only 0.5 square meters. km with a size of 1.2 to 0.8 km. A small island (the maximum rise in the eastern part is only 5.4 m high), covered with grasses and low shrubs, like many islands in the central Pacific Ocean, it is a central depression surrounded by a raised crest of the beach. It stretches a salt lake with an area of approximately 20 hectares and many small fresh water reservoirs, which are the only fresh water sites in the entire archipelago. The island is surrounded by a narrow reef no more than 100 m wide from the coast.
Ravaki serves as an important habitat for seabirds, which in some years gather in huge colonies, which are among the largest in the central part of the Pacific Ocean. Here the dark tern (Sterna fuscata), the small frigate (Fregata ariel), the Odabon petrel (Puffinus l'herminieri) and the wedge-tailed petrel (Puffinus pacificus) nest here. Each of the half-dozen native plant species dominates its region, which makes the island a natural reserve and evolutionary laboratory.
Abariringa or Canton Island is the largest (9 sq. Km.) And the most northern of the Phoenix group. A low atoll with a narrow strip of land surrounds a shallow lagoon 6 times the size of the island itself. A lagoon measuring 5 by 11 km has a depth of only 6 m and contains numerous coral massifs and a whole network of reefs - coral growth is especially active on the western side of the lagoon, opposite the only passage in the reef wall. The ocean beach, stretching along the entire perimeter of the island, is composed of alternately white sand and coral debris, and the elevated (up to 2 m) middle part of the atoll is covered with low grasses. The southern coast is occupied by low bushes of sevolium and surian, the largest plants on the island are kou trees (up to 9 m), as well as coconut palms, of which there are exactly 10. There are 23 species of bird, as well as the ubiquitous Polynesian rat, lizards and hermit crabs. The waters around the reef are rich in marine life, among which the most interesting are sea turtles laying their eggs on the sandy shores of Abariring.
The tiny island of Birni, located 90 km east of Ravaki, was discovered by Captain Emment in 1823. The area of this tiny piece of coral is only 0.2 square meters. km, and the size is 1.2 by 0.5 km. The eastern side of the rock (1.8 m high) is covered with fragments of coral, and the northern flat and lowland is covered with low grasses. In the center of Birni lies a tiny lagoon, whose waters are shallow and very salty. Reefs surround the northern, eastern and southern coasts, and on the coral plates of the southern cape, as they say, one can find the writings of the former inhabitants of the island.
Enderbury Island lies northwest of Ravaki, 50 km from Abariring. A low (up to 4 m) coral massif of almost rectangular shape, Enderbury has an area of 5.1 square meters. km and is surrounded by a narrow coral reef that does not form a lagoon. Most of the surface is covered with a carpet of herbs, bush cereals and seed (Sida). There are even a few tiny palm groves that somehow miraculously survived during the development of phosphates (their reserves turned out to be more than modest, which in general saved the nature of this island). Enderbury is an important nesting site for seabirds and the largest breeding area for green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) within the Phoenix archipelago. And the most amazing inhabitant of the island is a tiny bug hiding among the roots of grass. His closest relative is the bark beetle that lives in Hawaii, Samoa and Fiji, and how he got to Enderbury is completely unclear.
Atoll Manra (Sydney), located southwest of Ravaki, was discovered in 1823 by the same captain Emment. The British flag was hoisted over the island on June 26, 1889. It is the most southeastern island of the Phoenix archipelago, and one of the three atolls of the group lying south of the equator. Almost triangular atoll with an area of 4.4 square meters. km consists of a relatively wide reef surrounding a small and very salty lagoon that has no connection with the ocean. In the southeastern corner of the atoll, on the site of the former phosphate quarries, there are several brackish reservoirs that are filled with water only during rains and storms. The western side is overgrown with a fairly significant coconut forest by local standards, and on the northeastern side there is a very dense forest of thorny shrubs and low trees of tournefortia, pisonia, morinda and stsevoliya. The fauna of Manra is similar to the nearby islands, but less abundant. The wide variety of marine life near Manra Reef is widely known, but some fish are poisonous here.
The most interesting feature of the island is the ancient ruins left over from the settlements of the Polynesian tribes. Hidden among the thickets of the northwestern and northeastern shores of the atoll, numerous coral platforms and plates clearly indicate the presence here of both Polynesians and the inhabitants of Micronesia.
Nikumaroro (Gardner Atoll) - the most southwestern of the Ravaki Islands, is located 125 km southwest of the island of Mackin. About 6 km long and up to 2 km wide, this beautiful oval atoll is 4.1 square meters. km forms a narrow lagoon. Like all the islands of the Ravaki group, the northern, southern and eastern shores of the atoll are constantly affected by the surf and are subject to storms, therefore the only village is in the western part, at the only wide passage to the lagoon.
Most of the shores are covered with dense thickets of low shrubs, even trees that grow only in the northwestern part of the atoll and along the shores of the passage to the lagoon do not reach a height of more than 12 m. The animal world is also common for such islands - numerous birds, Polynesian rats, hermit crabs and coconut crabs. The reef and lagoon have excellent ichthyofauna, and the beauty of the atoll attracts many extreme divers. And the main secret of the island is the disappearance in these parts of the famous American aviator Emilia Earhart, who mysteriously disappeared on her way to the Howland Island in 1937, and possibly landed and died on Nikumaroro.
The only entertainment on the Ravaki Islands, besides lying on the beach, are excellent sea fishing and diving. There is no service for this, but the ocean around the atolls is saturated with various forms of underwater flora and fauna, and the coral slopes of the atolls, pierced by underwater caves, create a unique underwater landscape. Fish and other marine life here are not at all afraid of humans, and modern fishing gears are unknown, so fabulous catches are guaranteed.
Popular resorts in Kiribati
Kiribati consists of islands, each of which is unique in nature. Some are the embodiment of civilization, others, on the contrary.
- Island East. Who at least once did not dream of finding himself on a desert island ?! East is exactly that place. Boundless coral reefs and the sea beckoning with its beauty are the dream of any romantic. Luxurious sandy beaches are replaced by dense forests.
- Nake Islands - one of the most virgin and beautiful atolls of Kiribati. Untouched forests attract many species of birds, which can be watched for hours.
- Danger Island. This island lives up to its name, it is dangerous because there are a large number of the most dangerous sharks in the world. There are practically no land animals, but underwater life is very rich.
- Christmas Island is a protected area. There are five protected areas. Basically, seabird colonies live on the island.
Planning your vacation in Kiribati
It is worth noting that the Republic of Kiribati is not intended for a comfortable stay. A vacation will be unforgettable for those travelers who crave for something unknown and clean. Of course, there are hotels and services on the islands, but this is far from being everyone’s favorite “all inclusive”.
Kiribati is a fairly safe republic. Being here, you will not need to worry about your life. You are given a chance to visit the lap of nature, to feel a sense of freedom.
The main attraction is nature itself, which appears in all its glory to the guests of the country.
Kiribati is a fairly hot republic, but there are rainy seasons. In the dry season, you should not go here either, since in the heat it is very difficult to enjoy all the beauty surrounding you. The most suitable time to relax in the republic is the period from April to October.
Having decided to rest in Kiribati, you will certainly get a lot of impressions, the main thing is to plan your vacation correctly, which implies maximum activity.
The main attractions of Kiribati
- There are no museums and monuments in Kiribati. The main attractions are the islands.
- Tabueran. The island is attractive for tourists because it is very difficult to get here. Few manage to negotiate with local yacht owners. But, once on the island, you will find yourself in paradise! Crystal clear sea water will allow you to examine the underwater world in detail, for this you do not need to dive to great depths.
- Butaritari is an island with a military history. There is even a military plane chained to the ground. Only here you can taste the fried breadfruit. You will also be offered a canoe ride through the reef passage.
- Tabito is considered the most beautiful place in Kiribati. The island is the embodiment of national culture. Here you can see firsthand the life of a local people who are madly in love with singing and dancing. In addition, you will be offered to participate in some kind of ritual or magic session.
- Banaba The island is unique in its landscape. For a long time, phosphate mining was carried out here, after which the island completely lost its original appearance. It is surrounded by white cliffs and corals.
Traditional Kiribati Cuisine
It is impossible to imagine the kitchen of Kiribati without coconuts - they are almost everywhere here! But, despite this, the main dishes are fried fish, and on big holidays - pork and chicken.
Sauces and seasonings are made from local plants and added to most dishes.
In the largest hotels in the capital, tourists can be offered dishes from different countries. But local recipes are superior to any of them.
There is no shortage of drinks, many imported delicacies are available, but there is nothing better than the local kaokioka. The drink is a fermented coconut milk, resulting in a sweet low-alcohol drink.
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The Republic of Kiribati is located in Polynesia and Micronesia. In the northwest, it borders the territorial waters of two states, namely the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands. In the south-west and west, Kiribati has maritime borders with Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands and Nauru.
In the southeast and south - with waters belonging to Tokelau, the Cook Islands, as well as French Polynesia. In the northeast and north, the republic borders on the Outer Small Islands, which are part of the United States, as well as Pacific neutral waters. The coastal strip of Kiribati has a length of 1143 km.
As mentioned above, the Republic of Kiribati is located on the atolls, one of which, Banaba, is elevated. According to the theory put forward by Charles Darwin, the formation of such formations was facilitated by the sinking of volcanic islands and the gradual fouling of their surface with corals. This process led to the emergence of first bordering, and after barrier reefs. Thus, land appeared in this part of the Pacific Ocean.
The total area of the atolls of the Republic of Kiribati is 726.34 square kilometers. The distance from the easternmost to the westernmost island of the state is 4 thousand kilometers. All atolls are divided into 4 groups. They include:
Gilbert Atolls are located in the southeast of Micronesia. Their area is about 279 square kilometers. All atolls of the archipelago are conditionally divided into three groups, in each of which a different amount of precipitation is noted. This includes the North, Central, and South Islands. In this archipelago on the territory of the Tarawa Atoll is the capital of Kiribati - South Tarawa.
East of Gilbert, 1480 km from it, are the Phoenix Islands. This archipelago includes 9 uninhabited islands and one inhabited (Canton), which is located in Polynesia.
Further east on the map you can find Central Polynesian Sporades. This is the Line archipelago. On its territory is the island of Christmas (aka Kiritimati), which is the largest atoll on our planet. Located in this archipelago and the easternmost section of Kiribati. This is Caroline Island.
All islands of the Line archipelago, besides Terain, Tabuaeran and Kirimati, are uninhabited. Of the 9 atolls of the Phoenix, people live only in Canton.
Each of the small land plots that make up Kiribati is divided by a large number of narrow straits and has a shape somewhat elongated from south to north. Almost all of the atolls of Kiribati have small in size salted lagoons. They are surrounded by land, either in full or in part.
The highest point of the country is anonymous area. It is located on the island of Banaba and has a mark of 81 m.
Most of the atolls of the Gilbert archipelago, as well as a small part of the group of Phoenix and Line islands, are located in the dry belt of the oceanic equatorial zone.
The main feature of the climate of Kiribati is its uniformity. In this island state, the air temperature does not fall below +22 degrees. In different parts of the country, its range is +28. +32.
For a long time, the local inhabitants of Kiribati distinguish two seasons throughout the year. One of them begins in October and lasts until March, and the second lasts from April to September. The first one is more rainy.
From December to May, winds prevail in the country of Kiribati that blow northeast and east. From April to November, air flows enter the territory of the atolls from the east and from the southeast. And from December to May, the winds are stronger.
The climate in Kiribati is dependent on the inter-tropical convergence zone, which determines the level of precipitation on atolls located in the northern part of the country, as well as the South Pacific, on which the level of precipitation in the south depends. These sections, on which the air flows converge, are directly connected with the El Niño currents, as well as with La Niña. In the first of these, the convergence zone moves north to the equator, and in the second - south of it. With the latter, the islands of Kiribati are prone to severe drought. In the first case, significant rainfall occurs in their territory.
The driest months of the year are May and June. The rainy season in the Republic begins in October and lasts until April.
The soil on the islands of Kiribati due to their coral origin is very poor and highly alkaline. Most of them are porous and poorly retain moisture. There are very few mineral and organic substances in the soils of the country of Kiribati. The only exceptions are magnesium, sodium and calcium.
Phosphate soils are widespread throughout the republic. There are brown-red soils on the islands formed from guano, which is a decomposed litter of seabirds, as well as bats.
Interestingly, it is impossible to see the river on any of the atolls of Kiribati. The absence of water bodies on the islands is explained by their small area, low altitude, and also soil porosity. The only source of fresh water on the atolls is the so-called lenses formed by rainwater that has seeped through the soil. You can get to the moisture by digging a well. Such lenses on most atolls in Kiribati are the only source of fresh water. After rains, locals also extract moisture from the leaves of coconut palms.
Freshwater lakes can be found only on two islands of the state. This is the atoll of Christmas and Theraine (Washington). In total, there are about one hundred small salt lakes in the land area of the Republic of Kiribati. Some of them reach a diameter of several kilometers.
The relatively young geological age of the atolls, their remoteness from the continent, as well as adverse weather conditions contributed to the fact that only 83 species of local plants in Kiribati. And not one of them is endemic. In addition, it is believed that several plant species were introduced into these territories by natives. Among them are:
Plants such as coconut palm and pandanus roofing are most likely of dual origin. On some atolls they were introduced by man, and on others they are indigenous representatives of the flora.
Four species of plants, namely pandanus, breadfruit, coconut palm and taro, played in the old days and continue to play a leading role today in the nutrition of the inhabitants of this island country.
The main representatives of marine fauna are pearl mussel, holothurians (sea cucumbers), cones, tridacs, palm thieves and lobsters. In the ocean near the islands there are a lot of fish, of which there are from 600 to 800 species. The coastal waters of Kiribati and corals are rich.
As for fish, it has always been the main food for local residents. In coastal waters reef perch, albul, khanos, large-headed mullet, sultanok and horse mackerel are caught. Several species of sea turtles are found near the islands.
The animal world of the atolls is rather poor. During the American scientific expedition in the early 19th century. the researchers found here only the only representative of terrestrial mammals - the Polynesian rat. Today, island residents raise pigs and poultry.
But the world of avifauna in Kiribati is very diverse. The country has 75 species of birds, one of which is endemic. This is a reed bird. She lives on Christmas Island.
On most land areas of the Phoenix and Line archipelagos there are large-scale bird markets. That is why the islands of Starbuck and Malden, as well as part of the Christmas Atoll, are declared the zone of marine reserves.
Little is known about how the islands of Kiribati were populated. There is an assumption that the ancestors of modern local residents moved to the atolls of Gilbert in the 1st millennium A.D. from eastern Melanesia. But the Phoenix and Line archipelagos remained uninhabited by the time they were discovered by the Americans and Europeans. Nevertheless, traces of the presence of a person who lived here in the distant past can be found on these atolls. A similar fact allowed scientists to assume that the local population for some reason left these archipelagos. One of the most popular versions explains this by its small land areas, remoteness from other islands, an arid climate, and a constant shortage of fresh water. In connection with all these factors, living on these atolls was difficult. Most likely, the people who settled the islands soon left them.
The discoverers of archipelagos located in the western part of the Pacific Ocean are American and British expeditions. Their ships visited these places from the end of the 17th century. to the beginning of the 19th century Atolls were originally called the Gilbert Islands. It happened in 1820. The name was given to the islands by a Russian traveler and Admiral Kruzenshtern in honor of the British captain T. Gilberg, who discovered these lands in 1788. By the way, “Kiribati” is a local pronunciation of English gilberts.
The first settlers from Britain arrived on the islands in 1837. In 1892, these territories became a protectorate of England. Christmas Island joined the colony in 1919, and the Phoenix became part of it in 1937.
During the Second World War, Japanese troops came to these territories. They occupied most of the Gilbert Archipelago and Banaba Island. One of the most bloody battles in the Pacific Ocean took place on the atoll of Tarawa. Here in November 1943, battles were fought between the American and Japanese armies.
In 1963, the colonial authorities carried out the first significant reforms on the islands, leading to the formation of the Consultative and Executive Councils. The first of them included representatives of the local population, appointed by the resident commissioner operating in these territories. In 1967, the Executive Council was transformed into the Government. And the Advisory delegated its authority to the House of Representatives. The latter included officials of the colonial administration, as well as 24 members elected by the indigenous population. In 1975, the territories of the archipelago were divided into two independent colonies. One of them included the Ellis Islands, and the other - Gilbert. In 1978, the first of them achieved independence and became a separate state. Its modern name is Tuvalu.
July 12, 1979, Gilbert Islands became independent. Today we know them as the Republic of Kiribati. The territories of this state were enlarged in 1983. This happened after the entry into force of the friendship treaty between Kiribati and the United States. According to this document, America abandoned its claims to 14 islands located in the Phoenix and Line archipelagos, recognizing that they are part of the Republic.
The main problem of this state has always consisted and consists in the overpopulation of the atolls belonging to it. In 1988, part of the inhabitants of Tarawa were resettled to other islands with fewer people.
In 1994, the country elected its president. They became Teburro Tito.We re-elected him in 1998.
In 1999, the republic became a member of the UN. In 2002, a law was passed in the island state of Kiribati that allowed the government to decide to close newspapers. This happened after the appearance of the opposition publication.
In 2003, President Tito was re-elected. However, in March of that year he was removed from his post. In July 2003, Anote Tong, who led the opposition party, became the head of the country. Today, the post of head of state is held by Taneti Maamau.
An interesting, but at the same time, a sad fact in the history of Kiribati: in the 20th century. the atolls of Kiritimati and the United States of America used to test their atomic weapons. In 1957, England detonated a hydrogen bomb off the coast of Christmas Island.
The development of the national economy of the state of Kiribati was proceeding at a rather slow pace. An exception is only the period from 1994 to 1998. At this time, the country was experiencing rapid economic growth thanks to measures taken by the government.
But in 1999, GNP growth was only 1.7%. The combination of a slow economic growth rate and low level of services led to the fact that out of all 12 Pacific countries included in the Asian Development Bank, Kiribati was in 8th place. The comparison was carried out when calculating the human development index.
The formation of this small country is hindered not only by the fact that it owns only a small part of the land. A negative role in the development of the economy is played by geographic and environmental factors, including significant remoteness from the main markets for goods, the great distance of the islands from each other, restrictions on domestic sales and vulnerability to natural disasters.
How is the development of the economy of the state of Kiribati possible? This will happen only if:
However, with such a development model, it is necessary to maintain a high level of domestic consumption.
Until 1979, that is, until independence, the country exported phosphates. Their deposits were actively developed on the island of Banaba. Export of this mineral reached 85% of the total volume of products sold abroad, and the money earned for it amounted to 50% of the state budget and 45% of GNP. In 1979, the deposits were fully developed. Since then, the country began exporting fish products and copra (dried pulp of coconut fruit). Another source of income for Kiribati is the issuance of licenses for fishing in its waters.
The main employer in this island republic is the state. However, it is also not able to solve the problems of youth employment, which for the most part does not have the necessary education.
An additional source of income for Kiribati in recent years has been the issuance of licenses for fishing rights in the special economic zone.
Judging by the data available as of July 2011, 101 998 people lived in the republic. 33.9% of the population of Kiribati were children under 14 years old. The largest group of local residents, whose age ranged from 15 to 64 years, included 62.4%. People over 65 years old are residents of the islands, the number of which reached 3.7% of the total. The average age of state citizens is 22.5 years. According to 2004 data, population growth was 1.228%.
The inhabitants of the Gilbert Islands are Kiribati and Malaysians. All of them speak a language belonging to the East Austronesian group. It is called "Kiribeti." On the atolls of the Line and Phoenix archipelagos, most of the locals are Polynesian Tuvalu. The official languages here are English and Kiribati.
What religion is dominant in Kiribati? 52% of believers adhere to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Congregational Protestants on the Islands 40%. The remaining inhabitants of the country are Muslims and Seventh-day Adventists, Mormons and Baha'is, followers of the Church of God, etc.
This state symbol of the country was approved in 1979 after the island state gained independence. The coat of arms of Kiribati is an image of a yellow frigate bird that flies over the blue-white waves (symbol of the Pacific Ocean) and over the sun. At the bottom of this state sign is a yellow ribbon. The national motto of the country is written on it. This is the phrase “Health, Peace, and Prosperity” in Kiribati.
The rays of the sun symbolize the islands of the state. And the luminary itself indicates the location of Kiribati near the equator. The flying bird is a symbol of freedom, power, and indicates the national dance of the people of the country.
For payments in the Republic of Kiribati, the Australian dollar is used. But besides him, since 1979, the country has its own banknotes. These are Kiribat dollars. Their ratio to the Australian is 1: 1.
There are coins in Kiribati. Their face value is 1 and 2, 5 and 10, 20 and 50 cents. In the form of coins, 1 and 2 dollars are used in Kiribati.
All metal money is made in the same sizes as the Australian ones. The exception is only a coin in denominations of 50 cents, as well as 1 dollar. Interestingly, the first of these coins is round, and the second is in the shape of a dodecagon.
The Pacific state is located immediately in 3 time zones. So, on the atolls of the Line archipelago, time in Kiribati is ahead of Moscow by 11 hours. On the Phoenix Islands, by ten hours. On the Gilbert Atolls - for 9 hours
One of the interesting facts about Kiribati concerns the passage through the countries of the “date line”. The Phoenix and Line archipelagos lie east of it, already in the western hemisphere. However, they are conditionally considered to be located in the east. This avoids a temporary paradox when it is still Sunday in one part of the country and Monday is on the islands of the other.
On 01.01.1995, the Government of Kiribati decided to consider that the country is in the same time zone. Nevertheless, based on the vast extent of its territory, in practice this is not at all observed. Most often, the time on the islands is indicated exactly as it is based on its time zone.
The bulk of the population of the republic lives on the Gilbert Islands. Moreover, most of them are located on the atoll of Tarava. Here is the capital of Kiribati - the city of South Tarava. It registered about 50 thousand inhabitants. In addition to the capital, the city of Kiribati is another 9 settlements, the number of which exceeds 1.5 thousand people.
The residential areas of the capital of Kiribati (photo can be seen below) are located on several small islands, interconnected by bridges and dams.
South Tarava has four municipalities. Their names are Betio and Bairiki, Bikinibeu and Bonriqui. All these municipalities are located on the islands of the same name, being part of the capital of the state of Kiribati. It is in their territories that all the main commercial, government and educational institutions of the country are located. So, in Betio there is a power station operating for the entire atoll, the Maritime Institute and the port. Interestingly, this island is almost flat and devoid of vegetation. All its central part is occupied by a wide strip of Hawkins airfield. It is in this place that the sights of Kiribati are located, which are military relics of the period when the famous battle for Tarawa took place. Among the monuments reminiscent of the fierce battle on Tarawa are the Memorial Chapel built in the village of Abaroko, as well as the Memorial to the Heroes of the Outpost, which commemorates the 22 English servants killed by the Japanese in October 1942.
The most important feature of Betio is the military cemeteries, which can impress anyone with their numerous rows consisting of wooden tombstones, because on the island, whose length is only 3 km, more than 5.5 thousand victims of the war are buried.
The president lives in Bairiki and the parliament sits. Here is the city market and the National Court of Kiribati, as well as some ministries. Bonriki is considered the tourist center of South Tarawa. This is where the largest hotel, designed for 60 residents, the Ministry of Education and the National Hospital is located. Bikibibeu has an airport.
Boils life on the small islands that make up Tarava. So, on Eita is a high school. On Moroni there is a small fish market and a church, on Amvon there is a golf club with nine fields, on Theaorerek there is Saint-Louis College and the headquarters of the Catholics. A supermarket and a car dealership of Tarava Motors company were built on the islet of Antebuk. Tiny reefs in the northern part of the capital of Kiribati attract the attention of tourists. It is here that a large number of pile houses are located that are rented to travelers for living.
On the numerous islands is the only Main Street. It goes on land, then through passages in the reef, then along the bridges.
The capital of Kiribati (photo below) is located only three meters above sea level. In this regard, any natural disasters can have a devastating effect on all objects of the atoll. In addition, the island does not stop the process of soil salting. This negatively affects the supply of fresh water, which is clearly not enough here.
Many locals earn their living by collecting coconuts and catching pearls.
South Tarava is located in the equatorial climate zone. Year round, the capital of Kiribati is warm and rather humid due to the high average rainfall. Air temperature averages 25-30 degrees above zero.
The Republic of Kiribati is the only state in the world that is located simultaneously in all hemispheres - in the East and West, in the South and in the North.
As part of the country is the largest atoll on our planet (388.39 sq. Km). This is the island of Christmas, occupying 48% of the land of the republic.
At Caroline Atoll, located in the Line archipelago, people are the first to celebrate the New Year (outside of Eurasia and Antarctica). This is due to the fact that this island is the most eastern part of the land, located in the zone of the 12th time zone.
Since January 28, 2008, the Phoenix island group is the largest marine reserve on the planet. Its area is 410.5 thousand square meters. km
There is so clear coastal water that you can see the bottom and all its inhabitants. The island is considered one of the most beautiful and attractive for relaxation and diving. Tourists from the USA, New Zealand, Australia come here for diving.
This island was visited by James Cook on December 24, 1777. The seafarer's team spent all the Christmas holidays on the island, so the atoll got this name in European maps. This island has a rich diverse fauna of birds. This untouched reserve attracts scientists studying the life and habits of birds.
The approximate number of birds here is 6 million. Despite a decrease in population in recent years, the number of birds here is significantly higher than on any other island in Oceania. This atoll is the largest in the country, occupying almost half of the entire land territory of the republic.
This atoll is known for being a protectorate of Great Britain. Here, for a short time, only one year, the famous English writer Robert Lewis Stevenson, author of the adventure novel Treasure Island, lived with his family. The main attractions of the island are traces of World War II, villages untouched by civilization, as well as a unique, located only on this island, view of a yellow little frog called a “barking frog”.
This atoll is the southernmost in the archipelago. Known for its nine navigational stones, in a local dialect called Te-Atibu-ni-Borau. They are nine vertically placed coral plates located on the cape of the island.
Scientists had an assumption about the appointment of these ancient structures, supposedly they served as a guide for sailors. The aborigines themselves do not know what the meaning of stones is, and even in myths there is no explanation for this phenomenon.
The most populated island. There is little vegetation on the atoll, but there is an airport, a seaport, and a power station. Military operations unfolded here during World War II.
Japanese troops were in large numbers on the atoll, so there were bloody battles. And today on the island you can see the remains of artillery pieces and anti-airborne structures. Downed planes lie on the seabed, ammunition is constantly found in the ground.
There are also traces of the battles of World War II. In the village of Abaocoro, there is a memorial chapel and a Memorial to the Heroes of the Outpost, erected in honor of twenty-two British soldiers killed by Japanese soldiers on October 15, 1942.
On this small island, more than five and a half thousand soldiers are buried. Therefore, well-groomed cemeteries with rows of wooden tombstones are the main distinguishing feature of the atoll.
This atoll is one of the most populous, atoll sizes 38 sq. Km. Locals believe that all the peoples of Oceania began their development from here. A beautiful blue lagoon is surrounded by a chain of small reef islands.
Jarvis, Kingman Reef and Palmyra Islands are US protected areas. People do not live here, but you can visit the islands to admire the impressive diversity of flora and fauna.
The capital of the state of Bairiki
Here is the international airport, administration building, the residence of the president, office, library, travel agencies. The buildings are made in the colonial style. There is also a football stadium. The city has a Cultural Center where local crafts are presented.
Standard of living
Local residents are engaged in fishing and livestock. The soil of the islands for farming is practically unsuitable. The islanders adhere to the traditional way of life and try to independently provide themselves with everything necessary. There is still the highest level of leprosy disease. Health care is one of the most important problems of the country today.
South Tarava is the capital. A quarter of the population of the whole country lives here. The city consists of four districts in which government offices and buildings of national importance are located. Maneaba plays an important role - a public building like our recreation center. The capital is more like a big village. The central square here is a small parking lot at the supermarket.