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Kiribati doesn’t just offer one island idyll; in fact, it is a string of 33 coral atolls scattered nearly 4,000 km across the Pacific.

Formerly known as the Gilbert Islands, these tropical isles are truly remote; the capital Tarawa lies about halfway between Hawaii and Australia. It’s one of the poorest countries in the world and the locals eke out a living by selling coconuts and relying on the ocean for food.

While Tarawa is busy, life on many of the 21 inhabited islands is slow – villagers work the copra plantations or go fishing before retiring to huts fashioned out of coconut and pandanus trees.

Food is fresh and simple and folk music and dance (involving chanting and body percussion) has evolved into an art form.

Visitors can wander World War Two relics, enjoy fishing and diving on the endless reefs or take in some traditional entertainment. Other than that there’s not a lot to do, apart from soaking up the sun on the ubiquitous Robinson Crusoe-esque beaches of course.

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When to go to Kiribati

The islands hug the equator making the weather hot and humid, with year round temperatures of between 26 – 32ºC.

The rainy seasons are February – May and September – November. Typhoons can occur any time, but they usually happen between November and March.

International airports

Bonriki (TRW), 22 km from Bairiki.

Getting around in Kiribati

With three island groups (the Gilbert Islands, Line Islands and Phoenix Islands) stretching such long distances across the Pacific, getting around can prove tricky. Certain islands are very hard to reach.

Two airlines, Air Kiribati Ltd and Coral Sun Airways, fly between the islands.

Supercat, a fast, privately-run boat service based in Betio operates an inter-island service. Most months Kiribati Shipping Services Ltd sends passenger ships to the outer islands.

There are regular minibus services on Tarawa although these can get crowded. Self drive car hire is an option but roads are poor.

Kiribati accommodation

Commandeering your own private island is a distinct possibility as Kiribati boasts no fewer than 12 uninhabited isles. You will have to rough it though.

Failing that, there are a range of accommodation options from hotels and homestays to council guesthouses and traditional kia kia or buia dwellings.

Throughout Tarawa accommodation is readily available and you can choose from air conditioned hotels with attached restaurants to a village based kia kia.

The outer islands have at least one council guesthouse on each although standards vary and many are poorly equipped. You may need to take your own water.

Kiribati food & drink

As you would expect, seafood dominates local cuisine, particularly fresh fish, shrimps, crabs and shellfish.

Most meals are accompanied by rice. Dishes are livened up with an array of spices and sauces.

Fruits include coconuts, bananas and breadfruit. Coconuts are used in both main meals and desserts such as macapuno (jam) and bibingka (rice and coconut milk pudding).

Chinese restaurants can be found in some areas.

Health & safety in Kiribati

Kiribati is generally very safe. The high level of poverty may make tourists attractive to thieves so take the usual precautions and don’t roam around after dark in Beito or along the beach in South Tarawa, especially if you are a lone female.

Tuberculosis, hepatitis A and dengue fever pose a risk.

Be cautious when swimming – Tarawa Lagoon is heavily polluted and ocean-side reefs can be dangerous.

Locally caught fish can cause food poisoning (ciguatera) even if they have been cooked or frozen. When travelling on the roads be extra careful as the mixture of pigs, buses, cars, dogs and people can cause accidents.