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Introduction

Kuria (pronounced Courier) forms the central point of the chain of islands in Kiribati. Being the widest island in Kiribati, this allows cooler temperature for Kuria making it a haven from hotter neighboring island. Evidence of this can be experienced during nighttime when cooler temperatures solidify coconut oil. Kuria is also well known as a hone for the first Resident Commissioner, George Mac Ghie Murdoch. His grave, which pays tribute to his service, can still be seen nowadays. Being a home as well of a pair of island, Buariki and Oneeke, Kuria is separated by a channel on a shallow water platform. Itintoa causeway, the best swimming spot on the island, has been constructed on this channel to allow people to walk through anytime. Beautiful fringing reefs can also be found surrounding Kuria, the largest on the eastern side of the islands. Astounding blue lagoons and sparkling white sands are also found here. A taste of true Kiribati culture including its peaceful and congenial setting can only be experienced on these unspoiled and remote coral atolls.

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History and Culture

Kuria was first sighted by Thomas Gilbert and John Marshall after leaving port Jackson in 1788. In the late 1800s, Kuria was conquered by King Karotu who was actually a King of Abemama. Later, it was then ruled by King Karotu’s nephew, Binoka. Kuria was unified with Aranuka and Abemama during this time and ruled by one person who was also a ruler of Abemama and Kuria. Unification started when a former ruler (Ten Temea) of Kuria and Aranuka gave up these two islands to King Karotu from Abemama and left for Maiana, another of the Gilbert group. In the past and during the time of the white men, animals in Kuria were not considered a welcome addition to the ecosystem. As a result, introduced animals were considered a subject of supernatural fears and were slaughtered and thrown into the lagoon.

Kuria has also been subject to a number of land grabs due to trading purposes.

The sense of community is very strong in Kuria. Islanders know their property very well, down to a single palm tree as well as hereditary land right. The islanders live to share not only for acquiring the blessing of their resources but for their sense of duty to family and friends who are in need.

The ruling system on Kuria came from one chief who was recognized as paramount. When matters arose from the community, the heads of the kaainga (clans) were consulted but were obliged to seek approval of the chief. The chief provided overall leadership and regulated relationship amongst the kaainga. Nowadays, the mayor and the elderly men are the only people who can provide overall leadership and make decisions regarding the people of Kuria.

Dress code is restricted on the island. Casual wear is preferable and women are not allowed to walk around with bikinis, mini skirts and shorts. A skirt/short covered down to your knees or wrapped around sulus and T-Shirts are preferable.

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Geography

Kuria is made up of two islets,which are reef islands as they do not have a lagoon. The main islet, Buariki, has five villages; Marenaua, Bouatoa, Buariki, Tabontebike and Norauea. These villages are connected to the smaller islet of Oneeke by a ten-metre bridge replacing the old causeway that ran across the former reef passage between the two islets. The two islets are relatively wide as compared to most islands in the Gilbert group. The widest portion measures 4.26 kilometres from lagoon to the ocean side and the length from north to south is 8.94 kilometres. There are two natural brackish-water ponds at east-southern tip of the main islet. The total land area of Kuria is of 15.48 km2, which is close to the average size for an island of Kiribati, but the population in 2010 was only 980 people, making Kuria one of the least densely populated islands in Kiribati.

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Villages

The main administration center is located at Buariki, and the airport, police headquarters, guest house and Junior Secondary School are also located here. Other villages include Oneeke, Manenaua, Tabontebike, Norauea and Bouatoa.

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Sights and Activities

  • Cemetery of George Mac Ghie Murdoch, first residential commissioner for the Central and Southern Kiribati.
  • Residence and Office of George Mac Ghie Murdoch.
  • Copra Sheds during trading periods. These sheds have hsitrocial significance to the community for having been used for over 100 years.
  • Snorkeling (provide your own gear).
  • Swimming at Itintoa Causeway (the only causeway connecting the two islets).
  • Island trip, either by motorbikes or trucks, to see Colonial relics (cemetery, residence and office of resident commissioner and copra sheds during the trading period).
  • Village walking (sense of community).

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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

Kuria 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 operates two flights per week from South Tarawa, linking with neighbouring Aranuka Airport.

By Boat

Boat charters are also available.

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Eat/Drink

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Sleep

The Island Council operates a guest house, where tourists are welcome, although it is advisable to be prepared as the island is very isolated.

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Safety

Visitors should aware when traveling to Kuria 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 for drinking water. Medical facilities are limited on the island to a local clinic and village nurse. Pharmaceuticals are not available and you will 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 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 shrines 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 ask around the local people and they are usually most obliging.

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This is version 3. Last edited at 8:25 on May 22, 19 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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