Travel to Kiribati from Line Islands to Gilbert Islands

Kiritimati (Christmas Island) - Tarawa - Abemama - Abaiang

June / July 2015

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Travel itinerary to Kiribati
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| Pagina in Italiano

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Where is Kiribati and how to get there?

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Why go to Kiribati? This is probably the first question asked by people and made even by the local inhabitants, often surprised to see a tourist around their islands for three full weeks. So, what are actually the main reasons to go to Kiribati, instead of choosing more famous tropical paradises like French Polynesia or Fiji Islands? My curiosity about this unusual country started while "playing" with Google Earth, watching such small remote atolls in the middle Pacific ocean (Kiritimati is really in the middle of nothing, no less than 5000 kilometers from any "real" land) and asking to myself how the life could be there: what are the challenges faced daily by local people? How they move around, how they build their houses and how their economy works? The total surface of Kiribati is as big as that of Australia, however, the 99.97% of such "territory" is made of just water. Scattered onto an area of Pacific ocean that covers three time zones, Kiribati has three archipelagos as well: the Line islands (easternmost), the Phoenix islands (center) and the Gilbert islands (westernmost), each including a number of small atolls, sometimes inhabited. Seen from the air, the atolls resemble in most cases an oval strip of islands exposing one side onto a turquoise lagoon, and one side onto open waters. The landscapes is often dominated by paradisaical beaches in most cases deserted, sometimes alternated with barren expanses of salty land burned by hyper-evaporation, while the vegetation is represented by mangroves growing among tidal areas and huge palm trees living in the inner parts of the islands. A stroll among traditional villages lets to appreciate a simple kind life, with smiling people always very welcoming: the houses are mainly built with wood and twisted leaves, often without real walls, as in Kiribati it's never cold and you have to make a shelter only because of rain. As a diversion, for fans of World War II, Tarawa was the place for an important battle and among the beaches of Betio, visitors will see lot of historical artifacts.


Because of the isolation and for the low volume of traffic, you may probably wonder how to get to Kiribati, especially if you have limited time available and couldn't afford very long trips. First of all, it is necessary to say that Kiribati is not a easy destination if you have little time for your holidays: not only the journey may require to overnight somewhere halfway, but also moving in the country is usually not fast or simple. The main entry points for Kiribati, getting international flights, are Kiritimati for the Line Islands group and Tarawa for the Gilbert Islands group. If you would like to get to Christmas Island (Kiritimati), the island is served only by a weekly flight provided by Fiji Airways from Nadi (Fiji islands) and from Honolulu (Hawaii), with a flight time respectively of 4.5 and 3 hours. As the flight is available only one time per week, it is certainly a good idea to reach the gateway airport (either Nadi or Honolulu) at least one day before, to ensure a sufficient buffer for possible delays. Instead, if you would like to get to Tarawa, the island is served by two or three flights per week from Nadi (Fiji), yet provided by Fiji Airways (the flight time is about three hours): also in this case, getting to Nadi the day before is a good idea, and quite often the only choice due to the schedule usually not allowing same day connections. Flights to Tarawa are also seasonally provided by Nauru Airlines, usually once per week, from Nadi via Nauru and Majuro (Marshall Islands). Although belonging to the same country, moving between Kiritimati and Tarawa is challenging and may require one or more nights in Nadi, Fiji, as no direct (or same day) flights are provided between the 3200 kilometers distant islands (anyway, things change quite often, so it's always a good idea to check updated information with a travel agent or on-line). Starting from September 2017, the national carrier Air Kiribati offers a weekly flight onto Tarawa from Brisbane (Australia) via Honiara (solomon Islands).


As already said, Kiribati is a country with a huge extension, where the distances are long and challenged by isolation, therefore, if you want to visit more Kiribati islands, first make sure that you have sufficient time for your holiday, as the schedule is rarely optimized to ensure same day connections. If during your holiday to Kiribati you would like visit both Gilbert and Line Islands, you should know that there are no regional flights between them, but the islands are connected only by international flights through Nadi, requiring to stay at least one night in Fiji. This may look strange for two places belonging to the same country, but moving through Kiribati is part of the experience and, if you are open-minded, part of the fun! Travel between Gilbert Islands, at least among the most densely populated, is provided by the local airline Air Kiribati, through small prop planes usually having less than 20 seats. Most of the atolls are connected to Tarawa with dual or tri weekly flights, while Abaiang atoll has also a kind of fast boat that cover the distance from Tarawa in less than two hours. For transportation on the islands, Tarawa and Kiritimati offer the possibility to rent a car (driving is on the left) while in the less populated islands you can always count on someone renting a scooter or a bicycle (on Abemama there is a bus service, basically a truck where you travel in the back, in connection with Air Kiribati flights). Hiring a boat can be rather useful to visit both inhabited and deserted islands scattered in the lagoons.


As Kiribati is mainly a beach destination and you will want to stay outside for as long as possible, you are probably wondering what is the best time to visit Kiribati, ensuring better weather. First of all, it must be noted that in Kiribati there isn't a totally dry period, but some rain may be a possibility during every month of the year. However, if you would like get highest chances for sunny weather in Kiribati, the best season to go is probably between May and September, while November to March are usually the wettest months. The temperature in Kiribati is always around 25-32 degrees Celsius, you don't need a sweater in Kiribati, neither "just in case".


Many tourists choose sea destinations because they love snorkeling or diving, therefore, before planning a tour to Kiribati, one might ask the question whether the islands offer the opportunity to practice these interesting activities. Generally speaking, some snorkeling and diving is certainly possible in Kiribati, however, this can't compare with other destinations like Indonesia or south Pacific. The problem lies not so much in the geology or biology of the atolls, but rather in the local outfitters, usually not equipped to organize these excursions. The boats are often unsuitable, while no one knows the best places to dive to enjoy some snorkeling. Furthermore, the coral reefs along the ocean or lagoon side of the atolls are not linked to the island with appropriate docks, making impossible (and quite dangerous) to reach them by swimming from beach. An exception is perhaps Kiritimati (Christmas Island), in Line Islands archipelago, where some operator offer excursions to nearby coral reefs suitable for snorkeling, while a spot in the lagoon offers some good chances to swim with dozens of manta rays. Instead, if you are interested in fly fishing, Kiribati (especially Kiritimati) is certainly the place to go, definitely offering lot of fun. Other activities in Kiribati are hiking, biking, visits to traditional villages, excursions to deserted islands, sightseeing, island hopping: the islands have so much to offer, that the only limitation is how long you can stay there.


Generally speaking, a trip to Kiribati is not only beach and sea life, as there are so many things to see and to do all around. However, if you would like to enjoy some beautiful beach, perhaps after a day exploring by car, bike, boat or on foot, the best are located in Kiritimati (Christmas Island), in particular at Paris point and Poland. Talking about Gilbert islands, you will find fantastic beaches around the islets of western Abaiang and along the lagoon side of Abemama. South Tarawa's beaches, near Betio, are too dirty and polluted, so it is better to focus on Second World War remains when visiting this area. North Tarawa is instead much better, especially in low or middle tide. Most of the beaches in Kiribati are completely deserted and you may not see anyone else for hours: this means that you must behave with safety well in mind and always keep an eye open on the tide schedule.


Although visitors are slowly increasing, Kiribati isn't a country that depends on tourism, therefore the facilities are quite limited and in most cases they lack most international standards. Luckily, in Kiribati you will not find luxury resorts that have spoilt other tropical paradises, like French Polynesia or Fiji, and this is certainly part of the fun. In South Tarawa and Kiritimati (Christmas Island) you can find some motel which can be a kind of 3 stars, but in the smaller islands, there is almost nothing more than very simple houses built in Kiribati style, where you can experience real life (at least some nights in this kind of accommodation, for example in Abemama or in North Tarawa or in Abaiang, is definitely recommended to better enjoy local culture and traditions). Most of the accommodations, especially those offered by local families, usually can't be found or booked via web, but your travel consultant (see below) will help you in organizing the perfect experience suitable for you.


As said, Kiribati is a destination still unknown to mass tourism and organizing a trip through a travel agent who not specializes in this destination, may be quite difficult. It will not be easy also to find information in Internet, since transport companies, outfitters and accommodations, not always have a web site (indeed on most remote islands, the only way to communicate is via radio!) Therefore, we suggest to contact a local travel agency, communicating them the places that you would like to visit and your interests, so they can build a custom itinerary and organize everything. For this purpose, we recommend to contact Tobaraoi Travel, as they can safely book all the related services, including internal flights and accommodations, saving you lot of headaches in finding and contacting the various providers.


Below you will find more Kiribati travel tips and useful information about this country.

  • What language is spoken in Kiribati? The official language in Kiribati is the Gilbertese, however, English is spoken by everybody.

  • What is the currency in Kiribati? Does the credit cards work? Will I find ATM machines in Kiribati? The official currency in Kiribati is Australian Dollar (AUD) and is suggested to arrive in the country already with sufficient money, as there are few banks where to change foreign currency and fees may be higher than average. Credit cards are seldom used and ATM machines are only available in Kiritimati and Tarawa.

  • How are the power plugs in Kiribati? The power plugs in Kiribati are like in Australia and New Zealand, so with two flat pins at V. The electricity, where available, is usually 240V at 50Hz. In remote islands the electricity is produced only by solar panels and available for a few hours per day through inverters (it is suggested to bring sufficient pre-charged batteries for your camera, laptop and other gadgets)

  • How many inhabitants there are in Kiribati? At 2015, there are about 100.000 inhabitants in Kiribati, scattered over a surface similar to that of Australia (although about an half of the population live in South Tarawa)

  • Will my mobile phone work in Kiribati? The mobile network in Kiribati is surprising good in Kiritimati and in South Tarawa, but is either very poor or unavailable in remote islands. You will have to check with your operator if roaming in Kiribati is available and at what price. Probably, it will be a better idea to buy a prepaid SIM locally to be used in a portable router or in your phone, instead, if you need guaranteed communication from everywhere, the only way is to bring a satellite phone (for example Iridium) which may be very useful during excursions in the middle of nothing.

  • Is wifi available in Kiribati? Most accommodation in Tarawa and Kiritimati offer free wifi, however the speed is very low in most cases (I have found that, usually, the connection provided by mobile network is faster and better). A pair of comfortable, well worn, sandals will do the rest (you will not need closed shoes or hiking boots in Kiribati).

  • How to dress in Kiribati? In Kiribati will never be cold, so all that you need are just light cloths. To protect from sun, but also from mosquito, using long cloths is usually advised (especially from dusk to dawn for the second case), while an hat and good sunglasses will be very important during the day.

  • Are there mosquitoes in Kiribati? Although not very aggressive, mosquitoes in Kiribati are of some annoyance from dusk to dawn, when is suggested to use long clothes and repellents. Most accommodations have full size mosquito nets over the bed and provide mosquito coils or insecticide for free.

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Tabwakea Kiritimati (Christmas Island) towns and life on the island <<-- GO
Isolated by at least 5000 km of water in all directions, Kiritimati (Christmas Island) belongs to the Line islands group of Kiribati and offers authentic experiences among tiny villages and beautiful landscapes.
Kiritimati beaches and sea Sea and beaches in Kiritimati (Christmas Island) <<-- GO
With its immense lagoon, Kiritimati is the largest atoll in the world and also the most isolated. It offers stunning tropical scenery and fantastic deserted beaches all around an emerald green turquoise blue sea.
Birds of Line Islands Excursions from Kiritimati to other Line Islands <<-- GO
Kiribati's Line islands are scattered in a vast area of the central Pacific, but some are just a short boat ride from Kiritimati. Declared as National Park, these islands offer unique opportunities to observe thousands of terns, tropic birds and other rare birds.
South Tarawa atoll Landscape and towns of South Tarawa around Kiribati capital <<-- GO
South Tarawa atoll, belonging to Gilbert Islands group, is the home to Kiribati capital and to the majority of the country population, which is distributed between the towns of Betio, Bonriki, Bairiki and other smaller towns.
World War II findings Findings and remains from World War II in Tarawa near Betio <<-- GO
Tarawa is well known for one of the battles that have decided the course of World War II: The Battle of Tarawa, between Japan (who had occupied Gilbert Islands for strategic reasons) and America. A series of findings testify the historical events that took place in 1943.
Abemama island Abemama atoll: living on remote Gilbert Islands <<-- GO
The most remote Gilbert Islands, far away from the capital in Tarawa, offer a unique travel experience, where fantastic tropical landscapes merge with an authentic culture and traditional villages.
Excursions from Abemama Excursions from Abemama to the small islands in the lagoon <<-- GO
If Abemama is already perceived as a remote and isolated place, you should know that there is a community which has chosen to live on a further smaller island off Abemama, like an "island inside an island" surrounded by a spectacular lagoon.
Teirio Island (Abaiang) Teirio Island and Abaiang atoll: some beach life in Kiribati <<-- GO
If to your trip to Kiribati you would like to add more beach life, the islet of Teirio in Abaiang atoll, may be a great choice. Beautiful beach, great sea and possible day trips to deserted islands, as well as to remote villages.
North Tarawa atoll Exploring North Tarawa among local traditions and tropical landscapes <<-- GO
Away from the hustle and bustle of South Tarawa, the northern part of the atoll offers good sea, kilometric beaches and traditional villages where you can learn something more about the culture of Kiribati and the traditions of its inhabitants.

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