|These guys just landed some yellow fin tuna.|
"Welcome to Tarawa. We don't have much, but enjoy our warmth and hospitality."
The Twitter message from David Lambourne, a lawyer here, reached me before I managed to check in to my hotel. Lobby Wifi access is always welcome, especially in countries where your telecom operator from home cannot be bothered to arrange for roaming agreements. Shameful, Netcom / Telia Sonera!
|There are many abandoned war relics from WWII around|
the island. Not to forget a lot of underwater wrecks.
These kids happily volunteered to be photo models.
The underwater worldFor even clearer water and more aquatic life, go to the outer islands. If diving is your passion, you will find yourself in eden, heaven and paradise all at once. Even the water temperature is on your side. There are not a lot of diving companies, though. Ocean Flower Underwater World Sight Seeing was the only one I found. Expect more to pop up if tourism increases. And the locals I spoke to claim it is already happening. That wouldn't take much though, Kiribati is currently the fourth least visited country in the world. That in itself is an attraction to many, but it doesn't really help if you don't even know that the country exists.
Had you heard about Kiribati before? Yes? How do you pronounce its name? I bet you a beer that you do it wrong. 'Kiribati' is not correct. Neither is 'Keereebatee' or anything similarly creative you might come up with through any over creative brainstorming session.
Who needs S?
|Local civilians and allied WWII victims|
share this idyllic cemetary. The Michelin Man
seems to be buried in the background.
- Of course, there is no 'h' either, Kaure told me.
He is the only registered taxi driver in Kiribati. He sometomes carries individual passengers, but usually operates as a shared taxi. In that case, a trip will set you back between a few Australian cents and a couple of dollars, depending on the distance.
- No 'h?' What do you do about hotels, I asked.
- We don't have any. We have guesthouses, a lodge, an inn, a couple of motels, a pension and some flats.
Of course there is an 'h' in guesthouse, but why let a little detail ruin a good story.
The question is why they have excluded certain characters? Legend here has it that Hirham Bingham Jr., the missionary who first came here, lost his typewriter in the ocean. When he eventually got it back up, the 's' was missing. The nearest typewriter repair shop was back in England, so he had to think outside the typewriter box. It sounds like a urban legend story, but I heard it from locals. They wouldn't bet their house on its accuracy, but it made for a good laugh. Another one.
Are you sinking, too?
|Life's a beach.|
I asked two locals in The Captains Bar, the bar with the best location in Betio (pronounced Besio), the biggest town in the country.
|...or an island.|
They went on to explain that some of the country's politicians use what they call a myth as a way of getting world publicity and ultimately money. Which can't be all bad. The infrastructure in Kiribati can do with some improvements. Just remember the cry wolf story, Kiribati. If you really start 'sinking' one day, no one will believe you.
Highway from hell
|A country doesn't get much more narrow than this.|
The state of the road at this particular spot is way
The locals are very much looking forward to this, judging by how much it is discussed. Then again, who can blame them. They have been promised the new road for years, but work is apparently finally about to start in April. Or May. This year. Allegedly.
AccommodationThere are plenty of options for accommodation, especially on Tawara. The government's tourism site gives a good overview, and you can even check availability, comapre prices and book from there. Utirerei Guesthouse is the preferred bed choice for most NGOs, although there are several good options. Betio Lodge is for instance expanding by building 12 new brand new flats and a swimming pool. Expect to pay between 60 and 90 Australian dollars per night in most 'otels.'
|Presumably made for forgetful bar guests.|
|Kaure runs the only registered taxi in the country.|
|The airport is not frequently used. When it is, a lot of|
locals come to witness who is about to enter their country.
Your option is Our Airline of Nauru which flies from Nauru to Kiribati and on to Majuro, Marshall Islands and back. It is cheaper, but supposedly less reliable (they only have one old 737) and it only visits Kiribati every other week. The good thing is that Our Airline provides the only link between the southern Pacific countries with the northern ones (Palau, Federated Sates of Micronesia and Marshall Islands), so you can visit all the countries in the Pacific without having to revisit Fiji between most countries. Just plan well.
Kiribati is yet another place I have to revisit and spend more time in. Being one of very few tourists in paradise certainly makes you feel special. And even if the tourist number will increase when word gets around, there is plenty of space for many more than the 4,800 tourists that currently visit every year.