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Introduction

Kiritimati is one of the northern Line Islands in the Republic of Kiribati. The island is also known as Christmas Island, but it not to be confused with the Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, which is one of the Australian Overseas Territories.

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Geography

Kiritimati's roughly 320 km2 lagoon opens to the sea in the northwest; Burgle Channel (the entrance to the lagoon) is divided into the northern Cook Island Passage and the southern South Passage. The southeastern part of the lagoon is partially dried out today; essentially, progressing SE from Burgle Channel, the 160 km2 main lagoon gradually turns into a network of subsidiary lagoons, tidal flats, partially hypersaline brine ponds and salt pans, which as a whole has about the same area again as the main lagoon. Thus, the land and lagoon areas can only be given approximately, as no firm boundary exists between the main island body and the salt flats. Vaskess Bay is a large bay which extends along the southwest coast of Kiritimati Island.

In addition to the main island, there are several smaller ones. Cook Island is part of the atoll proper but unconnected to the Kiritimati mainland. It is a sand/coral island of 19 ha dividing Burgle Channel into the northern and the southern entrance, and has a large seabird colony. Islets (motus) in the lagoon include Motu Tabu (3.5 ha) with its Pisonia forest and the shrub-covered Motu Upua (also called Motu Upou or Motu Upoa, 19 ha) at the northern side, and Ngaontetaake (2.7 ha) at the eastern side.

Joe's Hill (originally La colline de Joe) near Artemia Corners on the southeastern peninsula is the highest point on the atoll, at about 13 metres above sea level. On the northwestern peninsula for example, the land raises only to some 7 metres, which is still considerable for an atoll.

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Cities

On the island there are 4 inhabited towns. London and Tabwakea are the biggest ones, with both a population of over 1,800. Banana (also called Banana Wells) has around 1,200 inhabitants, and the smallest place is Poland with around 250. There is also one abandoned town, called Paris.

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Events and Festivals

New Year’s Day

Kiribati is the first country in the world to welcome in the New Year, albeit at the Line Islands, and events go off nationwide. All bars and guesthouses have something going on, along with traditional celebrations at the local maneaba (meeting house).

Independence Day

This is the main event on the Kiribati social calendar, celebrating the day the Gilbert Islands gained independence from Great Britain in July of 1979. Though the holiday officially takes place on July 12, the festivities last for several days, starting around the 9th. South Tarawa sees most of the action, including obligatory canoe races, kite-flying and traditional dance, along with wrestling, rugby and other sports ventures.

Youth Day

August 4 sees the forward-thinking government focus its energy on the Kiribati youth, with the promise of better opportunities through various workshops and programs. Churches and meeting houses see most activity.

Christmas

Locals attend church followed by much eating, gift-giving and merriment, just like they do back home. In Kiribati, however, there’s also choir singing, dancing, canoe racing, and a myriad of other sports right up until New Year. Locals also go camping in Taiwan Park and visit nearby islands.

New Year’s Eve

A huge event in Kiribati due to its position in the world, this island nation is the first place to countdown the New Year. There are low-key parties on the beaches and in the towns, while all expat bars and guesthouses put on special events.

Betio Game Fishing Competition

This is a popular event among expats in South Tarawa, with a monthly competition and weight-ins at Captains Bar in Betio to see the biggest catches.

Kiribati Music and Dance

Kiribati folk music and dance is unique to the region, with chanting accompanied by body percussion and guitar, while dance is typically bird-like with costumed performers. Maneaba have music and dance nightly in-season.

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Weather

Kiritimati enjoys a pleasantly warm, but humid tropical climate. Daytime temperatures hoover around 30 °C yearround with little variation throughout the year. Nights are still pleasantly warm and generally above 20 °C. The wetter period lasts from December to May and concentrates more on the northern part of the island chain. Trade winds blow from March to October. The most pleasant time, weatherwise, is from May to September. Tropical storms can hit the islands during the wet season, but are rarely a reason not to visit the islands during this time, although the humidity and heath combined with the absence of tradewinds from December to March makes this a slightly less pleasant time to visit.

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Getting There

By Plane

Internationally, from Kiritimati's Cassidy Airport, there are flights with Fiji Airways to/from Honolulu and Nadi.

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Getting Around

There is only one main road that goes from the airport through London, the main village, there is public transportation through that route.

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Eat/Drink

It's common to have the meals included in the vacation packages, but if you decide to "eat out" there are two chinese restaurants in the island; the one closer to the petrol station is relatively better. For the remoteness of the island most of the things you can buy are very inexpensive. You can bring up to 1 litre of spirits and they also make a local alcoholic drink made out of coconut palm tree.

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Sleep

There are around 4 hotels in the island, the most common one is operated by the government (Captain Cook) and its located a few miles from the largest village, London; most of the hotels offer all-inclusive services.

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Contributors

as well as Herr Bert (9%)

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This is version 7. Last edited at 8:46 on Jul 17, 17 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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