The area of Kiribati covers an expanse of ocean the equivalent size as the United States. Kiribati is mostly made up of 32 “atolls” or strings of small coral islands and reefs, located in between Hawaii and Australia, right around the equator. The three main islands are Gilbert Islands, Phoenix Islands and the Line Island. The most popular islands to visit are Kiritimati or Christmas Island, which is the largest coral island in the world, or Tarawa, the capital. Banaba or Ocean Island is one of the largest phosphate islands in the pacific. Except on Banaba there is little land in Kirimati that is above sea level. Most tourists come to visit Kiribati due to the impressive World War II war exhibits.  There are two large hotels on Tarawa and Kiribati, and several small guesthouses on the some of the smaller islands. However, this is not a luxury destination by any means and tourism is still beginning to grow.

 

The population of Kiribati is not as spread out as its atolls and islands. In fact, ninety percent of the population lives in the Gilbert island. Since recently, there has been significant overpopulation of certain islands like South Tarawa, there has been governmental impetus to resettle people to the Line islands, which are far less populated.  The Phoenix Islands meanwhile never had many inhabitants. Culturally the original settlers of these islands are Gilbertese, which are Micronesian.

Since Fijians and Tongans invaded these islands several times in history, there is evidence of Polynesian and Micronesian influences in the Kiribati culture. However, since this happened long ago, there is a consistent tradition and appearance on these islands, which can be considered Micronesian.

 

Since the per capita GNP of Kiribati is less than $1,000, it is one of the poorest countries in the world. One hot topic is the Banaba island’s populations want to secede from the islands and join Fiji. When Banaba was destroyed by intense phosphate mining, many of the Banabans moved to an island in Fiji, Rati, and received full protection from the government of Fiji.

 

Kiribati relies on fishing and tourism for its economy these days. Majority of goods need to be imported to Kiribati.