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Introduction

Aranuka, formerly known as Ananuka (the middle of it), is an island in Kiribati. It is unique for its natural beauty as well as being the only island in Kiribati and quite possibly the Pacific region to have tall mangrove trees with heights of more than 15 metres. Evidence of this can still be seen when visiting Aranuka. Aranuka was also known to many as the island in the middle of Kiribati and for the formation and separation of all the islands of Kiribati which was first started by the God of our Ancestors, Nareau. That is why Aranuka was formerly named and known as Ananuka – the middle of it.

The uninhabited islets of the island also provide the world class swimming and snorkeling spots for visitors. Its white unspoiled sandy beaches and sparkling blue waters also offers a soothing and relaxing atmosphere. Its greenish surroundings and the smiling faces of the people also bring safety and harmless environment for first time visitors.

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History and Culture

The island of Aranuka has only two villages since its first establishment. In 1978, Baurua village was established with only few inhabitants, less than 10 houses, making a total of 3 recognized villages now for Aranuka.

In its modern history, it was known by many that Aranuka Island was first sighted by two Europeans namely Thomas Gilbert and John Marshall in 1788. Later between 1860 and late 1880s, the island was conquered by Karotu, the King of Abemama, and then the ruling power was passed on to Binoka (Karotu’s nephew) who was also a ruler of Abemama and Kuria and was recognized as paramount. It was also understood that the customary law still survived in some contexts and so did the traditional authority. On Aranuka, the hegemony of a high chief and families was also recognized and remained a formidable force in island politics.

However, since the introduction of colonization, the ruling system changed and chiefs no longer have power to control, regulate and impose decisions regarding the community.

Nowadays, the Mayor (formerly known as Chief Councilor) and the elderly men are working in collaboration with each other as key decision makers of the island.

With respects to clothing, it is mostly preferable that men and women should use casual wear. Particularly, women are not allowed to walk around with bikinis, mini skirts or shorts. A skirt/short covered down to your knees or wrapped around sulus and T-Shirts are preferable.

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Geography

Aranuka is an atoll with a triangular shape, predominantly formed by two large islands, Buariki and Takaeang, which is the other inhabited islet that lies 12.36 kilometres west of mainland Aranuka. Both islets are unusually large for an atoll of this size. These islands are connected by long sandbanks on the northern side and an underwater reef crest on the southern side which also has a wide pass to the lagoon in the centre.

There is only one road that runs alongside the lagoon-side of the island where villages are located and a network of access and feeder roads running from the main road to other parts of the island. These pathways generally are wide enough to accommodate pushbikes and motorbikes but not big trucks. All villages are located on the lagoon side on both sides of the main road, easily accessed by walking, with bicycles, motorbikes and trucks.

Aranuka has a lagoon, but this is not so rich in shellfish. There is a passage into the lagoon, available for the boats in moderate weather, through the middle of the reef on the southwestern side of the atoll. There are several dangerous points in the passage where tidal streams can be very strong. Aranuka is known for its old stand of Rhyzophora stylosa mangroves that have grown as tall as coconut trees and are now a breeding site for birds. These mangroves can be found towards the northern end of mainland Aranuka.

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Villages

The island of Aranuka had only three villages since its first establishment. In 1978, Baurua village was established with only a few inhabitants, less than 10 houses, making a total of 4 recognized villages now for Aranuka: Takaeang, Buariki, Kauake and Baurua.

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Sights and Activities

Aranuka is an island of unique natural beauty, with white unspoiled sandy beaches and sparkling blue waters as well as being the only island in Kiribati to have tall mangrove trees with heights of more than 15 m (49 ft). The uninhabited islets of the island also provide the world class swimming and snorkeling spots for visitors.

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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

Aranuka 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

Aranuka Airport is served twice a week by Air Kiribati from Kuria Airport on Kuria. From there, the aircraft continues twenty minutes after having landed to Bonriki International Airport, Tarawa.

By Boat

Charter boat services are also available.

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Eat/Drink

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Sleep

Accommodation is provided by the Island Council guesthouse.

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Safety

Visitors should aware when traveling to Aranuka Island 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. Accommodation is basic and food will be what is available locally. 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. Communications while on the island may be limited, however most villages will have a public phone. It is also important to note that as a sign of respect you will need to leave offerings at a number of the shines you visit. Tobacco/cigarettes are the traditional offering. If you are interested in participating in any cultural activity please have it arranged prior your travel or you can ask around the local people and they are usually most obliging.

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This is version 3. Last edited at 8:22 on May 22, 19 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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