Five Things First Time Travellers To Kiribati Should Know
- English is the official language of Kiribati. As a former British colony, many of the locals speak English as well as the native language of Gilbertese. Keep in mind, that the further you move away from the capital, the less English you'll hear and knowing some Gilbertese will come in handy.
- The water quality isn't great. Due to only 30% of the population having access to flush toilets, most of the locals use nearby lagoons. This means there is a high chance that if you go swimming in one, it won't be clean.
- Pack mosquito repellent and sunscreen. Neither of these items are sold on the islands so you'll need to have your own or risk the consequences.
- The internet connection and availability isn't great. If you need to get online, it might have to wait until the end of your holiday. Only the more expensive hotels will have a connection on the main island, while the outer islands won't have anything at all.
- There are no taxis on Kiribati. The best way to get around is with the local minivans. However, there are no timetables, and the drivers decide when to start and end the trip.
Best Time To Visit Kiribati
The best time to visit Kiribati is during the dry season. From May to October, you'll have idyllic island weather without a rain cloud in sight. It's perfect for days lounging on the beach or exploring Kiribati's pristine coral reefs.
While the island doesn't see that many tourists, you'll find it busier over this period. Hotels and flights will also be more expensive, and you'll need to book in advance to lock in lower prices.
If you want to save as much money as possible, the cheapest time to visit Kiribati is during the wet season. From December to April, rain storms will be frequent and dive sites will have reduced visibility.
But if you don't mind the less than ideal weather, it's an authentic time to travel through the region and experience life as a local. December is also a great time of year for bird watchers on the Phoenix Islands group as many start nesting.
But there is the risk of cyclones during this time. Do your research beforehand and try to plan your trip around any possible bad weather patterns.
Tarawa is an island and the capital city of Kiribati. It's where all the major government buildings are situated and is surrounded by beautiful coral reefs.
Nearby, you'll find the Beito and Bonriki islands which are home to remnants of shipwrecks and World World II. Tarawa's other attractions include its churches, beaches and modern architecture.
Abaiang lies next door to Tarawa and is the first destination for island hoppers. It boasts two of Kiribati's most luxurious resorts, Ouba Islet and Teirio Reach and is famous for its untouched beaches and blue lagoon.
The island also has plenty to offer history buffs. Make your way to the first church built in Kiribati, visit landmarks left by the colonisers and learn about the cannibal who came to call the island home.
For World War II junkies, a visit to Butaritari island is a must. The small island is littered with relics from American and Japanese forces.
It's also the epicentre of Kiribati's black magic. Many believe the islanders here create the best spiritual weapons and use them to heal the sick, paralysed and to ward off the dead.
Butaritari also boasts a number of pristine reefs and is an excellent choice if you want to spend your days exploring Kiribati's depths.
Top Attractions in Kiribati
Christmas Island, also called Kiritimati, deserves a spot on any Kiribati itinerary. It's one of the largest land masses in the island group and is a nature lovers' paradise.
You'll find beautiful lakes, pristine white sand beaches and some of Kiribati's largest colonies of birds. Keep an eye out for the rare warbler as well as terns, shearwaters and petrels.
Its beaches are also breeding grounds for the endangered green turtle. Time your visit right and you might even see the hatchlings making their way into the ocean.
Outer Gilbert Islands
If you want to get away from the crowds and pretend you're living on a deserted island paradise, head to the Outer Gilbert Islands.
Most tourists don't travel this way, and you'll be able to experience the traditional culture of the locals. The only thing to keep in mind is that the islands aren't developed, and you won't find any modern facilities.
Instead, you'll have pristine nature all around you, stunning views and a chance to discover what life is like in this remote region of the world.
Butaritari is a must-visit for any history buffs. It's another underdeveloped outer island, but it's full of World War II history.
Here you can dive to the underwater wrecks and visit the relics littered around the island. There are also beautiful coral reefs that you can snorkel in or explore with a traditional canoe.
Butaritari is known for its abundance of fruit trees and black magic. Spend some time with the locals and learn about their spiritual weapons that are revered among the islanders of Kiribati.
Tabuaeran is one of Kiribati's most popular cruise destinations. Its name means heavenly footprint and the island has a ring of coral reefs fringing its coastline.
The island boasts great surfing conditions and the water is calm enough to go on snorkelling or swimming. If you're not feeling active, you can enjoy Tabuaeran's pristine beaches and relax under the swaying palm trees.
There's also an opportunity to visit the local villages. You can learn about their way of life that has remained virtually unchanged through the centuries.
If you're a bird lover, Kiribati is your mecca. The island is a major breeding ground for many of the Pacific birds and supports 18 different species.
Each year, more than a million birds visit the region. Keep an eye out for the endemic Christmas Island Warbler as well as the endangered Phoenix Petrel and White Throated Storm Petrel.
The best time to visit is during the breeding season. Plan your trip for either June or December to maximise your chances of seeing these beautiful creatures.
Major International Airports in Kiribati
- Bonriki International Airport
- Cassidy International Airport