Kiribati is 33 coral atolls (21 inhabited) in the Pacific Ocean, including three island groups – Gilbert Islands, Line Islands, Phoenix Islands, about half way between Hawaii and Australia. They are mostly low-lying coral atolls surrounded by extensive reefs. The highest point is 81 meters on Banaba, in the Gilbert Islands. In the 1950s and 1960s, both Britain and the United States engaged in above ground nuclear testing in the Line Islands, on Malden and Kiritimati (also called Christmas Island).
Other environmental issues include heavy pollution in lagoon of south Tarawa atoll due to heavy migration mixed with traditional practices such as lagoon latrines and open-pit dumping, which puts ground water at risk. The Ministry Of Environment Lands And Agricultural Development, Environment And Conservation Division is mandated to protect the environment. Such a low-lying country is extremely vulnerable to climate change; so, the office of the president also maintains a Climate Change portal. As a result of the Kiribati Adaptation Program, the president was negotiating with neighboring Fiji in 2012 to acquire land for potential relocation of the entire population of Kiribati, should the need arise.
The Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), listed as World Heritage in 2010, is primarily a marine protected area, covering a massive underwater mountain range. Part of PIPA, Birnie Island, McKean Island and Rawaki Island are designated wildlife sanctuaries, primarily for seabirds. In the Line Islands, Butaritari often called the “greenest island” in Kiribati, due to having the most vegetation, is also famous for the ancient art of “Te Binekua”, or the calling of the whales, practiced by the people of Kuma village. Also in the Line Islands, Vostok Island is protected as a wildlife sanctuary. In the northern Line Islands, Teraina is known for having the only permanent freshwater lake in all of Kiribati.
The original inhabitants of the Kiribati island groups were Micronesian, but with considerable influence from both Polynesia and Melanesia through the years. European contact began in the 16th century; but, spurred by the discovery of phosphate on Banaba at the beginning of the 20th century, the British gradually annexed and expanded the various colonial territories. During WWII, the Japanese seized part of the islands, which lead to the famous Battle of Tarawa in 1943. Full independence from Britain was not achieved until 1979. In 1995, Kiribati changed the International Date Line (IDL) to include the whole country, which had up to then been separated by the IDL, thus becoming one of the first countries to welcome in the New Year. Today, Kiribati is listed among the countries without armed forces.
Tabon te Keekee on north Tarawa bills itself as a true ecolodge. Kiribati Horizons operates Ouba Islet Resort in the Gilbert Islands. Ikari House is New Zealander Peter Harding’s seasonal surf camp on Kirimati, in the northern Line Islands. Air Kiribati serves the Gilbert Islands out of Brisbane, Australia.
- I-Kiribati Culture and Intersection with Tourism Development by GM Hornby, 2010
- The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific by JM Troost, 2004
- The Economic Impact of Tourism in Kiribati by S Milne, 1991
- Tourism Development in the Republic of Kiribati prepared by University of Hawaii at Manoa, School of Travel Industry Management, 1990