Kiribati, officially the Republic of Kiribati, is an island nation in the central Pacific Ocean. The islands are located roughly halfway between Hawaii and Australia. As an island nation, Kiribati shares no land borders. However, nearby islands include Fiji, Nauru, Marshall Islands, Samoa, French Polynesia, Cook Islands, and Tonga.
Why should you visit Kiribati? It has a beautiful marine life and you catch the first rays of the sun falling on Earth. But the main reason why you should visit this island nation asap is that it is not going to be around for a long time.
Interesting facts about Kiribati
1. Kiribati is the first country in the world to ring-in the New Year. The country is furthest ahead of Greenwich meantime at GMT+14. If you travel to this country, you’ll be able to see the first rays of the rising sun.
2. Kiribati is made up of 33 coral islands and 32 of them are atolls with the remaining one a raised coral island. Atolls form when corals build a colony, or reef, around the top of a volcanic island. Eventually, the reef reaches the surface of the water and becomes land.
Most of the islands and atolls are only 1-2 meters (3-6 feet) above sea level, with the highest point just 4381 m (266 ft) above sea level.
3. There is a serious danger looming over this pretty country. Kiribati is susceptible to experience a rise in sea level due to global warming and there is a high risk of the entire country disappearing beneath the waves within the next 50 years. Two small uninhabited islets, Tebua Tarawa and Abanuea have already disappeared below the sea in 1999.
To counter the risk, the country has bought 6000 acres of land from Fiji to relocate its people at a safer place. It’s sad to see how the climate change is affecting so many beautiful places. Strong steps must be taken to control the damage.
4. A UN report has described the wildlife of this island nation as one of the most critically threatened in the world. Kiribati has only a few land mammals and none of them are indigenous. They are mostly dogs and pigs brought in by the early settlers. The islands are also famous for bird watching and there are around 75 species of birds found here.
5. Agriculture is not practiced in the country as the bad quality of soil and variation in rainfalls hinder the cultivation of crops. The island is famous for fishing because of the availability of a variety of fish in the waters. Seafood is the main diet here.
6. Kiribati is amongst the world’s poorest countries due to the lack of natural resources. The economy of this country depends highly on tourism, which constitutes almost 20% of its GDP.
7. Kiribati is the only country in the world that lies in all four hemispheres. The islands are widespread and lie on both sides of the equator which is the northern and southern hemisphere. The country also lies along the Prime Meridian of the globe occupying the eastern and western hemispheres
8. Kiribati was once used as a nuclear weapon test site. In the late 1950s UK was using a couple of islands for its nuclear weapon testing. What’s insane is that during these tests the locals living on the islands were not evacuated. Thankfully it was stopped in 1963 when a treaty was signed to ban nuclear testing in the atmosphere, space, and underwater. But imagine the damage these tests must have done to the islands.
9. There is a scarcity of fresh water in the country. The rising sea levels, flooding, and coastal erosion are contaminating their groundwater. Getting water supply is a part of the daily struggle here.
Trip leader Sakshi’s Recommendations if you are visiting Kiribati:
Scuba diving is the most popular activity in the country because of the amazing marine life and plenty of corals. Kiritimati Island, commonly known as Christmas Island (don’t confuse it with the Christmas Island of Australia) has the largest coral atoll in the world, and is one of the best spot for diving. Then there are the outer islands of Kiribati which provide a lot of activities from fishing to snorkeling and scuba diving.
Christmas Island is famous for bird watching as well. In fact it is considered as one of the best bird watching destinations in the world. Many seabirds come here all throughout the year. The clear skies and the blue water make for the best backdrop.
During World War II, the island of Tarawa was captured by the Japanese and later by the US forces in a brutal battle. There are many remains from the battle on the island which people like to explore. You can also explore the shipwrecks around the island