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Introduction

Nonouti is an atoll and district of Kiribati. Nestled among the islands in the southern Gilbert group and the third largest island in the country, it is well known regionally and even world-wide for being the first island in Kiribati to have the Roman Catholic Church established in 1888. Catholicism is now the strongest religion in Kiribati. A monument, in commemoration of this, was erected in Taribo at Taboiaki village. A large traditional meeting house in Kiribati called ‘Te Aake maneaba’ is also found on Nonouti Island. This maneaba is built for members of the Roman Catholic religion only.

The northern part of the island is cut by several passages forming many islets and flats that can be reached during high tides by boat or on foot during low tide. A cleft near the middle only allows access to ships of less than a thousand tons. With these many islets and flats with less human intervention, Nonouti Island has excellent breeding ground for marine resources. Nonouti Island has excess number of bonefish compared to other islands in the Gilbert group and in January 2010, Nonouti Island has just been declared as another bone fishing game destination in the country in addition to Kiritimati Island in the Line Group. Nonouti Island has uninhabited islets with untouched nature and environment which are ideal for hideaways, picnics, relaxation, swimming, snorkeling and beach games with no-one to disturb you.

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History and Culture

The history of Nonouti started off with the arrival of the traders and whalers in the early 1800s. Later in the 1870s, a recruiting ship came about to recruit people to work in Tahiti. Betero and Tiroi from Nonouti were among these people. They stayed in Tahiti and became strong members of the Roman Catholic Church there.

In 1888, the Roman Catholic missionaries from France arrived in Nonouti. Close to where the first catholic missionaries arrived in 1888, just behind the apse of the Catholic Church in Taboiaki village, are the 6 graves of important foreign missionaries and people to the Catholic Church. Opposite this Catholic Church is the biggest meeting house in Kiribati known as the Aake Maneaba.

Nonouti Island was traditionally ruled by the elderly men (unimwane). Following independence of Kiribati from the British colony, the ruling system for the islands of Kiribati was restructured and then the Mayor (formerly known as Chief Councilor) was elected through a vote to work together in collaboration with the elderly men. These are the only people who can make and impose decision regarding the community. It is also part of the island’s culture that importance of family, respect of the elderly as well as guest hospitality are to be upheld. Participation in cultural practices as well as coming together under the maneaba to socialize and feast are also valuable elements of the island’s culture. The island’s economy is predominantly subsistence with copra and fisheries, the main source of islander’s earnings.

The islanders are very religious following the arrival of the churches on the islands. Predominantly, the Roman Catholic and the Protestant churches are the two major denominations on the island. Other religions include Church of Christ of Latter Day Saint (LDS) and Seventh Day Adventist.

The code of dressing is also another matter of concern on the island. It is culturally preferable that all women and men 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

Nonouti Island is located in the Southern Gilbert group and has an area of 29.2 square kilometres. The eastern side of the atoll is the primary permanent landmass. There is an islet on the northwest side of the atoll called Noumatong, which is uninhabited and is reserved as a bird sanctuary. The eastern area of the atoll consists of tiny islets and islands which form a continuous line.

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Villages

The government station on the island is located in the village of Matang. The island clerk is the highest ranking government official on the island. The former president, Ieremia Tabai, is from Nonouti. Nonuti hosts seven primary schools and one Junior Secondary School, and is home to George Eastman High School, run privately by the Kiribati Protestant Church.

Other villages include Abamakoro, Benuaroa, Teuabu, Temanoku, Rotuma, Autukia, Taboiaki and Temotu.

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Sights and Activities

  • Visit a monument, in Taboiaki village, which commemorates the first arrival of the Roman Catholic religion in Kiribati.
  • Get a glimpse of a biggest traditional meeting house in Kiribati, Te Aake maneaba, while driving slowly on a back of a truck.
  • Visit a shrine of Kaitu & Uakeia at Aubeangai.
  • Visit a shrine at Temwanoku village and leave mweaka there.
  • Island Tour on a back of a truck with free moimoto (coconut juice) drinks.
  • Nature walking and star gazing at night time.
  • Traditional canoeing and snorkeling (please provide your own gear).
  • Local dancing (need to be arranged).
  • Bone fishing (hired boats and guides are available).

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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

Nonouti 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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Eat/Drink

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Safety

Visitors should aware when travelling to Nonouti Island that facilities and services are limited and the island is remote. You will need to be flexible 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 need 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 2. Last edited at 8:27 on May 22, 19 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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