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The Beautiful Kiribati You Have to Visit to Appreciate

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The 33 atolls that make up Kiribati – the former Gilbert Islands – occupy a vast area in the equatorial Pacific – nearly 4,000 km from east to west and more than 2,000 km from north to south.

Kiribati – pronounced Kiribas – won independence from the United Kingdom in 1979. Home to the South Pacific’s largest marine reserve, many of the atolls are inhabited; most of them are very low-lying and at risk from rising sea levels as a result of global warming.

With the Fijian government’s permission, Kiribati has bought land in Fiji for food security and as a possible refuge.

Kiribati’s economy is weak and is largely dependent on exports of copra and coconuts. Fishing licences, foreign aid and remittances from workers abroad also contribute, as does a trust fund set up with revenues from phosphate mines on the island of Banaba, whose depletion in 1980 hit Kiribati hard.

  • Kiribati
  • Capital: Tarawa Atoll
  • Population 103,000 (UN, 2011)
  • Area 810 sq km (313 sq miles)
  • Major language English, Gilbertese
  • Major religion Christianity
  • Life expectancy 59 years (men), 63 years (women) (UN)
  • Currency Australian dollar