Line Islands of the northern group

June 26st, 2015 

During a trip to Kiritimati (Christmas Island), it is certainly a good idea to hire a boat with driver, to visit Motu Tapu and Cook Island, uninhabited islands and natural heritage site for the presence of important populations of rare birds. The lagoon is instead a good place to swim with manta rays, and there are usually many of them.

Manta ray Tapu Island
After a short boat ride from London port in Christmas Island (Kiritimati), you will find yourself in a huge lagoon not far from Motu Tapu (a small uninhabited island), where is possible to swim with lot of manta rays.
Motu Tapu bird reserve
Tapu Island (locally known as Motu Tapu) is a protected natural heritage site and landing is permitted only when accompanied by a ranger authorized to guide this kind of excursions. The sign next to the landing site is quite clear and explains very well who is the real owner of the island!
Flock of birds Birds of Line Islands
The excursion to Motu Tapu is particularly recommended for all bird watchers, as on this small remote island, belonging to Line Islands (northern group), you can see many rare birds and lot of terns.
Tropic bird Red-Tailed Tropicbird
Picture of a tropic bird. The Red-Tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon rubricauda) is a large bird that nests on the ground, characterized by a thin tail with a beautiful red and black pattern on the tail (right picture).
Tropic bird chick
Pictures of tropic bird chicks at various stages of development, in their ground nest.
Phoenix petrel
A Phoenix petrel (Pterodroma alba), a specie endemic to Line Islands, classified as endangered because of the very limited population.
Brown Noddy Anous stolidus
Instead the brown tern (Anous stolidus), also known as Brown Noddy, is not endangered like the Phoenix petrel, as this specie is diffused in many worldwide tropical islands.
Blue Noddy
Like its closest relative, even the blue tern (Blue Noddy) does not raise any particular concerns regarding the number of individuals, as their population is scattered among many tropical islands.
Motu Tapu Tapu motu
Bird reserve Line Islands

Motu Tapu photos. The beautiful landscape offered by Tapu island dominated by a colorful lagoon, a long beach and lot of birds.
There are of course other typical inhabitants of marine environments, like crabs and hermit crabs.
Noddy nests Noddy nest
Photos of terns (noddy) in their nests over a tree.
Red-footed bobby
This large bird is a red-footed booby (Sula sula), indigenous of whole Kiribati, including Line Islands, Phoenix and Gilbert islands.
White noddy Gygis alba
Widespread throughout Kiribati, is also the elegant white tern (Gygis alba), known also as White Noddy.
Sooty Tern
This tern is rather peculiar, because it nests on the ground. Known in English as the Sooty Tern (Onychoprion fuscatus), this species is widespread in all Kiribati including Line Islands, Phoenix and Gilbert Islands.
Line Islands Line Islands (northern group)
Photos Line Islands. The beautiful landscape around Motu Tapu, which opens onto an immense lagoon.
Kiritimati lagoon Christmas Island lagoon
Cook Island

The cruise discovering northern Line Islands in the immediate vicinity of Christmas Island (Kiritimati), continues moving from Motu Tapu to Cook Island (pictured below left).
Cook Island (Kiribati) Kiribati
Cook motu

Cook Island is so named because it is the site of the first landing by the famous explorer, when he arrived at Christmas Island. Cook Island is uninhabited, it is currently a protected area and the entire island is a national park, because of the bird population that include rare and endangered species.
Indeed, several species of noddy will soon arrive and fly around without any fear.
Line Islands group Northern Line Islands
The landscape of Cook Island, just a few minutes by boat from Kiritimati, is spectacular. Cook Island is an exclusive property of birds and is not allowed to construct buildings of any kind, or live there.
Noddy in flight
White noddy in flight.
Cook Island photos. The hinterland of Cook Island, a natural paradise for ornithologists or any other nature enthusiast, consists of a flat land without many trees. Although the northern Line Islands usually receive enough rainfall (except for some occasional years with drought), the heat causes an intense evaporation, while the very porous soil (originated from finely crushed coral) causes rainwater to drain away quickly. As result, the environment can be actually classified as arid, where the vegetation doesn't have easy life, also because of the salty environment.
Birds shadows
Shadows of terns on the beach.
Cook Island (Kiritimati)
Exploring Cook Island on foot, together with a mandatory licensed guide.
Abandoned agg
Eggs of terns, one of which layed in an unlikely place...
Noddy egg
Kiritimati's lagoon

After the excursion on Cook Island, the boat returns to Kiritimati, docking at the small port of London. The lagoon, under the strong sun of midday, takes fantastic colors.

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