Photographer's Note

This really is as crowded as the beaches get in Kiribati – mainly because tourists are few and far between.

The reason there are so few tourists in Kiribati (and probably why this is the first picture of Kiribati to be posted on TrekEarth) is that it is so far off the beaten track. The Republic of Kiribati (pronounced ‘keer-ree-bahs’) stretches nearly 4,000 kms east to west and just over 2,000 km north to south, but is right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, straddling the equator. Within this vast area of the Pacific Ocean, there are 33 coral atolls which make up Kiribati’s 810 sq km of land area. In the west there are the Gilbert Islands, which includes Tarawa – a reverse ‘L’ shaped atoll which is the administrative centre; in the middle there are the Phoenix Islands (sparsely inhabited); and in the east there are the Line Islands which includes Christmas Island (not to be confused with the Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean).

About a third of Kiribati’s 90,000 population lives on Tarawa, in two small towns – Betio and Bairiki – near the south western end of the atoll. The rest of Tarawa’s population live in open huts thatched with palm fronds, very basic concrete block and fibro houses (similar to what you see in Aboriginal communities in Australia or Fijian communities in Fiji), or crude shelters made out of corrugated iron, spread out in villages along the atoll.

There are only two flights a week to Tarawa – one from Nadi (Fiji) south of the equator which connects to flights to Australia, and one to Majuro (Marshall Islands) north of the equator which connects to flights to the US. As there is virtually no tourism on Tarawa, accommodation for visitors is limited.
Despite this, and the fact that there are no special facilities for tourists in Kiribati, it is still a fabulous place to visit because it is so unspoilt and peaceful. The only other westerners I saw during my four days in Kiribati were some church missionaries from the US (and they seem to be everywhere these days, except for Iraq!) I will post a few more pictures from Kiribati in the coming days.

This shot was taken from the Tanaea bridge looking across to the islet of Buota, which is the last islet in South Tarawa accessible by road. To reach the islets of North Tarawa you have to wade between the islets at low tide (as in this picture) or take a canoe at high tide.

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Additional Photos by David Astley (banyanman) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1231 W: 108 N: 2568] (7797)
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