The Country

Kiribati (pronounced Kiribas) consists of 33 low-lying coral atolls. It is sub-divided into three main groups known as the Gilbert Islands, the Phoenix and the Line Islands. With the Capital island being Tarawa.

Geographic Location

Kiribati is located in the Central Pacific between 173 and 177 East Longitude and 4 north and 3 South Latitude. From North to South, a distance of 800km, and the distance east to west from Tarawa to Christmas island is some 3,300 km.

Time Zones

Tarawa is 12 hours ahead of UTC that is, 2 hours ahead of Tokyo and 22 hours ahead of Honolulu, on the other side of the international dateline. Christmas island is 14hrs ahead of UTC.

Weather and Climate

Temperature varies between 25 and 33C and 50 to 63 percent of the annual possible sunshine of 4135 hours. The wet season extends from December to May. A gentle breeze from the easterly quarter is the prevailing wind.

A Brief History

Modern history of Kiribati begins with the arrival of Micronesians from the South Pacific which took place between 200 to 500 AD. Tarawa was the scene of one of the fiercest battles between the American and Japanese forces during the Second World War. Christmas Island was the base for early nuclear testing in the 1950's and is now a satellite-tracking base as well as a thriving adventure tourism resort. Internal self-government was attained in two stages until it finally became a fully independent Republic on 12 July, 1979.

Dress

Dress is normally very casual. The tropical climate and simple lifestyle of the islanders encourage cool, cotton, loosely fitting shirts and shorts for men. We like to retain our traditions and values and we would ask you to respect this. We would ask that women do not go out in shorts or short dresses especially on the outer islands. Bathing costumes for men and women should be modest, no bikinis, please. Traditional clothes of the island are available in local shops. They have been designed for comfort and practicality and make a pleasant change from suits and formal dresses. Attractive cotton materials are widely available. These make good lavalava, loose wrap around garments popular amongst local wome vn and men. A limited quantity of conventional clothing and footwear is available but visitors are advised to bring what they may require.

Government

Kiribati is a sovereign, democratic state and has a 41 member Maneaba ni Maungatabu (House of Parliament), elected every four years. The Beretitenti (President) is elected from among three or four candidates nominated by the Maneaba from its ranks. The Beretitenti chooses a twelve-member cabinet from the Maneaba. The country is a member of the commonwealth and adopts the Westminster model of government.

Economy

The country's economy is predominantly subsistence, with copra, seaweed and fisheries the main source of foreign exchange earnings. Revenue from the licensing of foreign vessels fishing in the Kiribati Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) contributes some $2-3 million per annum. Tourism plays a fairly modest role in the Gilbert but in the Northern Line Islands especially Christmas Island's tourism has a high priority.

Flora and Fauna

The coconut palm is the most common form of vegetation. Other vegetation includes pandanus, pawpaw and breadfruit. Fish are found in profusion in all the islands, especially in Christmas Island's lagoon and ocean waters and include bonefish, trevally, wahoo, yellowfin tuna, sailfish, grouper and sharks. Milkfish are raised locally in natural ponds. Extensive populations of birdlife are found on Christmas Island and include shearwater, petrel, tropic bird, frigate birds, terns, noddys and the Christmas Island warbler which is found only on Christmas Island.

Population

The 1995 census figures showed that the population of Kiribati was 77,658.

Languages

The main language is I-Kiribati. On the capital Tarawa, English is widely understood but less on the outer islands.