Kiribati

Driving Directions Kiribati

KIRIBATI is a republic in Micronesia that comprises three coral atolls, and one isolated volcanic island spread over a vast expanse of the central Pacific. The group includes the former Gilbert Islands, the Phoenix Islands (now Rawaki), and the southern Line Islands. Until independence from Great Britain in 1979, it was named the Gilbert and Ellice Islands.

The capital, Bairiki, is located on an atoll, Tarawa, and the most significant island is Kiritimati, formerly known as Christmas Island.

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The climate is maritime equatorial with a rainy season from October to March.

Ocean Island (Banaba) was a rich source of phosphate deposits (guano), but the reserves’ exhaustion has left severe environmental damage causing most Banabans to resettle elsewhere.

Agriculture and fishing are the leading employers, while coconuts and copra form the major commercial crops. Tourism is becoming increasingly essential, but overseas aid remains a vital part of the economy.

As with the other states of Micronesia, Kiribati has significant strategic importance.

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Kiribati comprises three island groups of thirty-three low atolls or coral islands. The three island groups are dispersed over the mid-Pacific: the Gilbert Islands on the equator, the Phoenix Islands to the east, and the Line Islands to the equator’s north.

The Gilbert group consists of Abaiang, Abemama, Aranuka, Arorae, Banaba (formerly Ocean Island), Beru, Butaritari, Kuria, Maiana, Makin, Marakei, Nikunau, Nonouti, Onotoa, Tabiteuea, Tamana, and Tarawa.

The Phoenix group is composed of Birnie, Kanton (Abariringa), Enderbury, Gardner (Nikumaroro), Hull (Orona), McKean, Phoenix (Rawaki), and Sydney (Manra).

The Line Group encompasses Christmas (Kiritimati), Fanning (Tabuaeran), Malden, Starbuck, Vostock, Washington (Teraina), Caroline, and Flint; the last two are leased to commercial interests on Tahiti. Only some of the islands are inhabited. With 481 square kilometers (186 square miles), Christmas Island (Kiritimati) is the largest atoll in the world.

As almost all of the islands are coral atolls (except for Banaba), they are built on a submerged volcanic chain and are low-lying.

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Most Kiribatians live in small villages of 10 to 150 houses. They build their own homes from local materials.

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