Have you been to Kiribati? Wait, where’s that?

First things first, Kiribati is pronounced as KEE-ree-buhss, not KEE-ree-ba-tee. I was surprised when I found out about this and was told that in Kiribati language, “ti” is actually pronounced “ss”. As for its location, Kiribati is located in the heart of the Pacific Ocean, straddling the equator and comprises of 32 atolls. In short, it’s rather isolated.

The government tourism website of Kiribati introduces Kiribati as such:

“Kiribati is for travellers – those who have a passion for exploring and discovering, people who like an adventure off the tourist trail to places where few have been before, and people who want to understand a country – not just see it. Kiribati will challenge your view of how life should be and show you a less complicated way of living where family and community come first.” (http://www.kiribatitourism.gov.ki/)

Some of my first impressions of Kiribati when I arrived after a flight from Suva, Fiji. There are very few flights to South Tarawa, the capital of Kiribati and for my trip, I had to take three flights and stay one night in Fiji before finally arriving in Kiribati.

Most houses in Kiribati are made of materials obtained from coconut and pandanus trees. The trunks are used for the structure, coconut fibre is used as strings to bind the wood together while palm leaves are used for roofing.

This was the reception desk at the hotel I stayed in. Otintaai Hotel is the only hotel in Tarawa though there are some motels and bed-and-breakfast set-ups.

Bairiki was once the capital of Kiribati.

One of the bloodiest battles of World War II, the Battle of Tarawa, took place in Kiribati. Evidence of the battle still remains.

Clear blue water. One advantage of being isolated perhaps. Less pollution and more evidence of nature’s beauty.

So how do you get across from South Tarawa to North Tarawa? Basically, one can cross the channel on foot during low tide!

In North Tarawa, tourists can choose to stay in a traditional style buia at the Tabon te Keekee, a family run property.

Time your return trip before the tide rises. When I was walking back to South Tarawa, the water reached up to mid-thigh!

The variety of food on Kiribati is limited as it depends on whether the shipments of food arrive.  There is a general shortage of fruits and I remember being told when I was there that oranges were in short supply as it did not arrive in the last shipment.  The diet of I-Kiribati, the native people of Kiribati, consists mainly of locally available products (coconut, breadfruit, fish, chicken, pork, and occasionally eggs) and imported rice.

Some shots of the kids on the island.

I was as foreign to them as they were foreign to me.

To end off, here’s one of my favourite pictures from my stay in Kiribati. Carefree children and their innocent smiles and poses.  If only we all had a child’s innocence.

4 thoughts on “Have you been to Kiribati? Wait, where’s that?

  1. Nice introduction of Kiribati 🙂 It’s interesting how the island and people exude the same feeling as any other Southeast Asian islands.

  2. It took a great deal of effort for you to arrive at Kiribati, but the rewards were worth it. How fortunate to be able to experience the unique life, culture, food and lifestyle of Kiribati. Thank you for introducing us to this shan-gra-la.

    • Kiribati is really isolated and sadly often forgotten. Tourism industry isn’t developed there and hence as the Kirbati government tourism website stated, it’s “an adventure off the tourist trail”.

      Not sure if you read about Kirbati’s possible plans to purchase land/island from Fiji to move its people as it’s slowly sinking due to climate change. That’s rather sad…

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