The Republic of Kiribati lies in the western Pacific Ocean and is one of the several island groups that make up the Micronesia region of Oceania. Kiribati consists of one raised coral island and 32 atolls that are spread out over more than 1,350,000 square miles. Kiribati is the only country that lies in both hemispheres.
The city of South Tarawa, which is situated on the Tarawa Atoll, is the country's capital and boasts both a University of the South Pacific campus and a teacher's college. The island nation of Kiribati is divided into four parts: the Gilbert, Phoenix and Line groups of islands and atolls and the isolated raised-coral Banaba Island. On the whole, the Kiribati atolls are elevated only a few feet above sea level and, for this reason, are not suitable for agriculture. Fish and copra - dried coconut kernels - are among Kiribati's most successful exports and the tourism industry, which got off to an extremely slow start, is only now picking up speed.
Kiribati declared its independence from the United Kingdom in 1979 and, although still a poor country, has since developed to such a degree that it is now a member of both the United Nations and the Commonwealth of Nations. The Australian Dollar is the Kiribati official currency and both i-Kiribati - Gilbertese - and English are the official languages. Kiribati boasts a total population of approximately 100,000 and has a total area of 280 square miles. Travel between the various islands takes place by boat although there are several airstrips available.
Although tourism in Kiribati is rough and ready, the fifteen Gilbert Islands are somewhat tourist-friendly and several feature hotels or seaside resorts. The most famous of the Gilbert Islands is the Tarawa Atoll, home to the country's capital and also the scene of the vicious World War II Battle of Tarawa. The Phoenix Islands comprise the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, which is the largest protected marine habitat in the world. Visitors are welcomed on individual islands within the group to observe the marine and land species as they interact in their natural habitats, and the most popular location for such excursions is Kanton Island.
Kiribati's Line Islands are separated into the Northern, Central and Southern Line Islands and consist of both inhabited and uninhabited isles. The most well known of the Northern Line Islands is Kiritimati, which is better known as Christmas Island and which features impressively named villages like London and Poland. Kiritimati is, at 248 square miles, the largest coral atoll in the world and was discovered by Captain Cook on Christmas Eve in 1777. The last of Kiribati's four regions, Banaba Island, is the only one that comprises a single island. Previously home to Kiribati's phosphate mining industry, this is also the only one of the Kiribati islands that is not immediately susceptible to the rising sea levels.
Untamed Kiribati is the ideal place for eco-tourists and those who delight in subjecting themselves to extreme adventure holiday packages.
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