Main attractions

Community of giant clams, Orona Lagoon in Kiribati
Community of giant clams, Orona Lagoon / Randi Rotjan, / CC BY-SA 3.0

The area of Kiribati exceeds the area of United States. But most of it is taken by ocean, the land area is only 811 km². This is an exciting land of extremes, with local people living in extreme powerty and at the same time leading such way of life which is mildly named "non-consumerist" way of life. In reality it means - most people in Kiribati don't care about "our" rules of economics, which keep the Western society in tight iron grip.

With the exception of Banaba Island, Kiribati consists of low lying corall atolls, rising just a few metres above the sea level.

Highlights of Kiribati are:

  • Unusual ecosystems. These scattered islands for most part are atolls. The diverse climatic conditions and remoteness of these islands have created very interesting ecosystems, sometimes without analogues in the world.
  • Archaeological monuments. The archaeological monuments of Kiribati are not spectacular. But it is very interesting and somewhat mysterious - how the ancient Polynesians and Micronesians managed to reach these islands, to survive the dry climate, hurricanes and lack of freshwater... and lack of nearly anything else.

Natural landmarks

Unique ecosystems

  • Caroline Island - Line Islands. An atoll with a group of islands covered with primeval tropical vegetation.
  • Kanton Lagoon and Orona Lagoon - Phoenix Islands. Spectacular communities of giant clams - the largest bivalve molluscs in the world. Such dense communities of these rare molluscs are unique in the world.
  • Kiritimati Flats - Line Islands. More than 500 hypersaline lagoons, covering some 140 km², located in the lagoon of Kiritimati Atoll. Unique environment for algal growth, algae have formed here thick mats.
  • McKean Island - Phoenix Islands. 85 000 lesser frigatebirds (Fregata ariel) live on this small (57 ha) island. This is the largest nesting population of these birds in the world. Island has a hypersaline lagoon.
  • Washington Lake, Teraina - Line Islands. Atoll of Teraina island has not a seawater lagoon but freshwater lake taking its central part. This is wery rare for atolls and thanks to this there is luxuriant coconut palm forest and peat bogs around it.

Man made landmarks

Archaeological monuments

Ruins of a prehistoric structure, Malden Island
Ruins of a prehistoric structure, Malden Island / Angela K. Kepler, / public domain
  • Arorae navigational stones - Gilbert Islands, Arorae. Eight of upright corall slabs, which long ago have been arranged in the northern tip of Arorae island and served as a navigational aid for seafarers.
  • Butaritari navigational stones - Gilbert Islands, Butaritari. Setting of corall slabs, which served as a navigational aid for seafarers.
  • Malden Island stone ruins - Line Islands. Remnants of stone structures left by ancient Polynesians who lived in this arid, currently uninhabited island. Most ruins are found along the beach, in north-western part and south-western part.
  • Manra Island prehistoric settlement - Phoenix Islands. Ruins of ancient stone structures located in the northeast and northwest of the island.
  • Nake Island marae - Line Islands, Caroline Island, west side of Nake Island. A temple platform - marae - built by Polynesians in ancient times.
  • Orona Island prehistoric settlement - Phoenix Islands. Ruins of ancient stone marae and other structures located on the eastern tip of the island.
  • Tabuaeran prehistoric settlement - Line Islands. Ruins of ancient Polynesian settlement in the north-western part of the island. Very impressive are ruins of marae (total estimated weight of stones - 17 tons), a pavement and burial platform where some perons of high status has been buried.
Koinava Cathedral, Kiribati
Koinava Cathedral / Tau'olunga, / CC BY-SA 2.5

Other man made landmarks

  • Atanikarawa mwaneaba, Burenneita Mwaneaba and other mwaneabas - Tabiteuea, Gilbert Islands, other islands as well. A giant structure - traditional meeting house. The structure is a single hall, 40 m long and 20 m wide, built without nails or bolts.
  • Bangabangas of Banaba Island - Banaba Island. These sacred limestone caves of the island are not man made but they have a special traditional value. Little is known about the number and extent of these caves - but it is known that there are rather many on this small island. Part of these caves is lost due to the mining activities. Caves often are adorned with scalactites and stalagmites, only women were allowed to enter them.
  • Koinava Cathedral - Gilbert Islands, Abaiang Atoll. Beautiful cathedral, built in 1907 in Neo-Gothic style with interesting details in local style.

List of described attractions

Kiribati unofficially can be divided into four island groups:

Gilbert Islands
ArrowArorae navigational stonesLighthouses, Megaliths
Phoenix Islands
Line Islands

Map of Kiribati

Featured: Arorae navigational stones

Unique monuments to the skills of Polynesian seafaring are the Arorae navigational stones.

It can said with certainty that ancient Polynesians erected these stones as a signs pointing towards the nearest islands. Locals now call them Te Atibu-ni-Borau - the stones for voyages.

Recommended books:

Pacifica: Myth, Magic and Traditional Wisdom from the South Sea Islands

A collection of stories that show how the myths and magic of ancient cultures are juxtaposed with modern life in the islands of the Pacific. The book contains 22 tales - some of ancient beliefs, others based on modern myths such as the cargo cult. Each story is illustrated with photographs.

The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific

At the age of twenty-six, Maarten Troost—who had been pushing the snooze button on the alarm clock of life by racking up useless graduate degrees and muddling through a series of temp jobs—decided to pack up his flip-flops and move to Tarawa, a remote South Pacific island in the Republic of Kiribati. He was restless and lacked direction, and the idea of dropping everything and moving to the ends of the earth was irresistibly romantic. He should have known better.

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