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Introduction

Abemama (pronounced Apamama), the land of the moon-light, is known by many as the island where the Declaration of a British Protectorate was made by Captain Davis of ‘Royalist’ on 27 May 1892. For a while, it was a home to Robert Loius Stevenson. The island is well known for its pristine beach and crystal clear blue lagoon. In Abemama, you still can find physical evidence of American and Japanese WWII relics, cultural shrines and sites/monuments relating to their traditional spirits and famous King Binoka. History of King Binoka and his close allies, the early foreign traders, can still be heard through oratory that was passed from one generation to another and written in some history books of Kiribati. The island is considered one of the popular weekend hideaways for expatriate from Tarawa (capital) and usually visited by cruising yachts due to its very sheltered lagoon bay. It also has the potential to host fly fishermen due its abundance of bonefishes.

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History

Abemama is known as the island where the Declaration of a British Protectorate made by Captain Davis of Royalist on 27 May 1892. The first British Resident Commissioner was CR Swayne who was appointed in 1893. To rule such a scattered empire, which included Ellice Islands at a time of very poor shipping was a near impossibility. The Resident Commissioner therefore started to appoint Island officials. In Abemama, officials were automatically chosen from the chiefly family.

In 1889, it was also the home of Robert Louis Stevenson. Near Tabontebike is the tomb of a tyrant-chief Tem Binoka, who was immortalized by Stevenson in his novel “In the South Seas”. During WWII the American submarine USS Nautilus landed a force of 78 Marine Amphibious Reconnaissance Scouts to seize the island on 21 November 1943. On the morning of 25 November, a native reported to the Marines that the remaining Japanese committed suicide.

In most of the northern islands, there are several district leaders, each of whom led a group of Kainga. On Abemama – Kuria – Aranuka one chief was recognized as paramount. The chiefly dynasty of Abemama, Kuria and Aranuka was only consolidated after the arrival of Europeans. The heads of the Kainga were always consulted on matters affecting the community and could initiate action, but always they were obliged to seek the approval of the chief, who provided overall leadership and regulated relationships amongst the kainga. Strong evidence of these early activities can still be physically seen on the ground and stories related to them transcend from one generation to another. In Abemama, the chiefly family and its present generation are still highly regarded and respected status among the community is still intact and recognized.

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Geography

Abemama has an area of 16 square kilometers and an estimated population 3,608. The islets surround a deep lagoon. The eastern part of the atoll of Abemama is linked by causeways making automobile traffic possible between the different islets. The outlying islands of Abatiku and Bike are situated on the southwestern side of the atoll. The village of Kariatebike serves as the government center for the atoll which includes an administration building, the police station and a hospital. Next to Kariatebike on the eastern side is Chevalier College and the western side is the only government Junior Secondary School.

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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.

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Weather

Abemama 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

Air Kiribati flies to/from Tarawa.

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Eat/Drink

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Safety and Respect

Visitors should aware when traveling to Abemama that facilities and services are limited and the island is remote in nature. You will need flexibility in your plans to allow for instances where there may be transport delays. It is highly recommended that you take additional supplies of drinking water. Medical facilities are limited on the islands to a local clinic and village nurse. Pharmaceuticals are not available and you will to ensure you have any medications you may require and basic medical supplies. Please also ensure you have advised family and friends of your travel plans and when you expect to return.

It is also important to note that as a sign of respect you will need to leave offerings at a number of the shrines you visit. Tobacco/cigarettes are the traditional offering. If you are interested in participating in any cultural activity, have it arranged prior your travel or you can ask around the local people and they are usually most obliging.

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Keep Connected

Communications while on the island may be limited; however some villages will have a public phone.

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Abemama Travel Helpers

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This is version 3. Last edited at 8:19 on May 22, 19 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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