Reference Information



Official Language

Gilbertese / Kiribati

Primary Language

Gilbertese, English


Kiribati Dollar ($) and the Australian Dollar ($). US Dollars and Euros



Current Time in Tarawa, Kiribati

03:58:21, 09/17/2021


Kiribati is an independent nation that is located in the Pacific. It is comprised of 33 atolls, the majority of which are uninhabited.

The capital of Kiribati is South Tarawa. South Tarawa lies on the southern portion of the Tarawa atoll. South Tarawa actually consists of a string of villages, from Bonriki and Tanaea on the eastern side of the atoll to Betio on the western side. The population of South Tarawa is approximately 50,000 people, and is one of the most densely populated places on earth.


Brief History

Historians are not certain when Kiribati was originally inhabited by people, though estimates typically range from 3000 - 2000 BC. These earliest peoples were likely Micronesian explorers from Southeast Asia / Indonesia. Another migration from Samoa occurred approximately 500 years ago.

The first European explorers to locate the area were from Spain, and arrived in the late 1500s and early 1600s. English explorers arrived soon after. On Christmas Eve, 1777, Captain James Cook landed on an uninhabited atoll in Kiribati, which would later become known as Kiritimati. In 1788, British sailor Thomas Gilbert mapped Kiribati and in 1820, the atoll group was named the Gilbert Islands.

In 1892, the Gilbert Islands became a British Protectorate and in 1912, they became an official British Colony. They remained so through World War II and in 1979 they gained their independence from Britain. The island nation was then renamed Kiribati - the local pronunciation of the word "Gilberts".


When Kiribati gained its independence on July 12, 1979, it became a republic with an executive, legislative and judicial branch. Ieremia Tabai was elected the first president of the new nation, and remained so until 1991. The current president is Taneti Maamau.


The country's dry season, which runs from April through October, brings mild sunny days. Wind, rain, and sometimes powerful cyclones prevail from November through March, which is the wet season. The average annual high is 88 degrees Fahrenheit, and the average low is 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Because Kiribati's atolls lie on both sides of the equator, they have distinct climates. The northernmost islands receive about 120 inches of rain annually, while the southern islands average just 20 inches.


Kiribati's islands have few land mammals, but they do support a variety of plant life. In total, 140 species of native plants and over 500 introduced species live on Kiribati. Palm, coconut, and breadfruit trees are Kiribati's most numerous and commercially valuable plants. Seaweed, which grows in lagoons and offshore, is the dominant aquatic plant. Approximately 75 types of migratory birds comprise Kiribati's avian population. Roughly 200 varieties of coral form Kiribati's coral reefs, which are inhabited by 800 species of fish and over 1,000 different shellfish.


Kiribati's economy is developing. Most of its economic revenue comes from fishing and farming, which employ over 80 percent of the population. Flying fish, yellowfin tuna, and skipjack tuna are the most valuable species for commercial fishing. Kiribati's main cash crops are watermelon, cucumber, tomato, pumpkin, and cabbage, and its coconut tree farms enable copra production. The country also derives some revenue from tourism, which attracts about 4,450 visitors each year for diving, sport fishing, and bird-watching. Kiribati's economy is also stimulated by financial aid from the European Union, the World Health Organization, and individual countries.

Getting Around

Kiribati is located in the Pacific Ocean. The majority of the nation is beneath the equator. Caroline Island is the easternmost atoll as it reaches all the way to the International Date Line. An isolated island named Banaba Island is its westernmost point. The nation spans a distance of about 2,300 miles from east to west.

There are 2 international airports in Kirbati. The larger of the two is called Bonriki International Airport (TRW), located in South Tarawa. Four airlines fly into Bonriki, including Fiji Airways, Nauru Airlines, Solomon Airlines and Air Marshall Islands. Flight schedules for Bonriki are located here.

The second international airport is Cassidy International Airport (CXI), located on Kiritimati. The only airline that services international flights to Kiritimati is Fiji Airways, which flies direct from Honolulu, Fiji and Nadi.

If arriving at Bonriki, there are several methods of transportation to hotels on the main South Tarawa atoll, including shuttle and taxi. Ferries are available for inter-island travel within the Tarawa atoll and other more populated atolls, but it should be noted that a number of ferries have been involved in serious accidents over the past several years.

The best method for traveling within the separate major atolls is by airplane. The most prominent domestic airline is Air Kiribati. Air Kiribati flies two main routes - one major route for the Gilbert Islands and one major route for the Line Islands. There is no airline that currently flies direct from the Gilbert to the Line Islands; an indirect route is necessary for that. For more information on Air Kiribati visit their site here.