Kiritimati (Christmas Island)
June 24th - July 1st 2015
Are you looking for information on Kiritimati? Christmas Island (or Kiritimati) is an island in the Central Pacific Ocean belonging to Kiribati and to the group of Line Islands. Kiritimati is one of the most remote islands of the world, separated by over 5000km of water from any continent, and it's world's largest atoll.
How to get to Kiritimati?
At the date of this travelogue (2015), Christmas Island (known also as Kiritimati), is served once a week by a Boeing 737-700/800 of Air Fiji providing flights from both Nadi (Fiji) and Honolulu (Hawaii). The flight from Honolulu to Kiritimati takes about 3 hours, while the flight from Nadi needs a little more than 4 hours. Whether you choose to fly to Christmas Island from Honolulu or from Nadi, as the flight in just weekly, it is advisable to get to the gateway airport at least one day before, so you will not run any risk to miss the connection should something go wrong with your international flight. In the pictures above, the Boeing 737-700 of Air Fiji ready to depart from Honolulu to Kiritimati (left photo) and the same plane parked in the apron at Kiritimati soon after arrival. In the photo below, the airport terminal in Kiritimati, a very small structure missing of most modern facilities.
During a tour to Christmas Island, after arriving by plane, you will move around by car along the island's only paved road, which crosses the main towns. In this photo, a sign of welcome to Tabwakea, one of the villages on Kiritimati island.
Should we say Kiritimati or Christmas Island? You can use both names, because "Kiritimati" if pronounced correctly in Kiribati language, will just turn out as "Krismas" (in fact, T is pronounced S, while an I after a T is generally mute). However, among foreigners who still do not know this rule, it is certainly OK to pronounce Kiritimati as written. This Christmas Island is not to be confused with the other "Christmas Island", located in the Indian Ocean off Western Australia.
Some photos of Tabwakea
showing simple buildings, usually just more than small shacks, and the dirt roads bordered by lush vegetation. Tabwakea has just over 2,000 inhabitants: other villages on Christmas Island are London
(1900 inhabitants), Banana
(450), for a total population of approximately 5,500 people scattered throughout the island.
Photo of maneaba
. The maneaba is a structure consisting of a roof supported by columns, and is an important building that can have various functions, like to rest, to attend parties, to meet other people, to hold religious services, and more. All the villages have at least one maneaba.
The religion in Kiribati seems to be quite practiced, and the majority of the faithful are Protestant or Catholic. Churches are numerous and every village has at least three or four.
A store. The buildings in Kiritimati villages are quite simple and there are rarely signs or indications.
How to get around Kiritimati?
When planning an holiday on the island, do not forget that Kiritimati is the largest atoll in the world, meaning that the distance between sights, villages and beaches, can be very long (the paved road that crosses all the island from north to south is about 60 km long, not counting all the dirt branches towards the central lagoon and to Poland or Paris villages). Locals usually use trucks like buses, cars, motorbikes, bicycles and of course boats. To have maximum freedom during a tour to Kiritimati, we recommend to hire a car, preferably a 4x4, to be able to travel more easily onto most of the dirt roads.
In Kiritimati is quite common to walk completely barefoot.
The road system in Kiritimati
consists of a long main artery about 60 kilometers long that crosses the island from north to south (top photos) along the eastern shore, serving also the international airport. The conditions of such main road are good, although there are quite a lot of bumps. The southern and western regions of the island are to be considered "remote" and there aren't more than a few vehicles per day, therefore, you should go there with care, always informing someone about your itinerary and bring a satellite phone (there is no mobile service far away from the main towns). Most of the tracks serving such part of the island are unpaved and after heavy rainfalls they may have lot of pools (central pictures).
Schools in Kiritimati. On the left, a high school. In the right picture, a pre-school in Banana village
In Kiritimati, the locals do not have many ways to spend the free time, but in the villages there is always a football field.
Kiritimati photos: churches in London village
The people of Kiritimati are very spontaneous: walking among the streets no one denies a greeting or a smile, while children sometimes stop the few tourists because they want to be photographed.
In Christmas island there is no public aqueduct: each building has an its own tank which is regularly filled with water by a truck serving all the villages.
The most modern buildings have also a rainwater collection system, through a pipe that conveys it from the roof to a tank.
village in Christmas Island.
Sightseeing in London (not to be confused with London UK...), one of the main towns in Kiritimati.
Wandering among the streets on the villages of Christmas Island, it is not uncommon to find pigs that graze in the least likely places, such as near the entrance of an hospital.
The beautiful nature just outside the villages.
Where to stay in Christmas Island? If you are looking for luxury resort (or even a simple 3 stars) such as those existing in other tropical paradises, you'd better change your destination. All facilities in Kiritimati are quite simple, but comfortable, and this is certainly part of the fun! Sunset Horizon Motel provide a real house that can accommodate up to 4 people in 2 separate mini-apartments.
A bedroom at Sunset Horizon Hotel in Christmas Island
, equipped with twin beds (and maybe even double on request), bathroom with cold shower and air conditioning.
The Sunset Horizon Motel overlooks a nice beach along the ocean side of the island: although the area is not particularly good for swimming, the landscape is very nice. Meals are served under a veranda along the beach, illuminated at night.
The night before departure, a small party with traditional songs and clothes, is organized by the motel.
Among the other inhabitants of Christmas Island, you will find lot and lot of crabs and hermit crabs (often you will find them far away from the shore).
These cute crabs with a big red claw, live mainly along the beaches of the inner lagoon, sheltered in small burrows under the sand.
A curiosity in Christmas Island is the old runway, now clearly abandoned, used during World War II and later to support atomic experiments occurred until the '60s. In fact, on Christmas Island about 200 atomic bombs were let to explode on the ground, in the air and under water, all without evacuating local inhabitants who lived just few tens of kilometers to the north (the question about the damage done to people by atomic tests
remains a bit controversial).