Kiribati Facts: 41 Facts about Kiribati

Last updated on June 12th, 2017 at 04:13 am

Kiribati, officially the Republic of Kiribati, is an island nation in the central Pacific Ocean. The country has a limited population and is facing critical issue regarding its existence due to climate change. With these 41 facts about Kiribati, let’s learn more about its people, climate, culture, history, independence and much more…

1. The locals of Kiribati are called I-Kiribati. They pronounce ‘ti’ as ‘s’. Therefore, they pronounce ‘Kiribati’ as ‘Kiribas’.

2. Kiribati became a full member of the United Nations in 1999. The country is also a member of the IMF, the World Bank and the Commonwealth of Nations.

3. Kiribati is roughly the four-time of Washington, DC.

4. The Australian dollar is the national currency of Kiribati.

5. Kiribati’s capital city, Tarawa, itself is an island. The capital lies halfway between Hawaii and Australia.

6. Kiribati is made up of 33 coral islands divided among three groups of islands: the Line Islands, the Phoenix Islands, and the Gilbert Islands. Most of these islands are coral atolls. According to Britannica – “Atolls form when corals build a colony, or reef, around the top of a volcanic island. Eventually, the reef reaches the surface of the water and becomes land.”

7. Of the 33 islands of Kiribati, 21 are inhabited. The Banaba Island in the Gilbert Islands is a raised limestone island while all of the remaining 32 islands are atolls meaning they are ring shaped with central lagoons.

8. Cultivation of crops on the island nation is very difficult due to poor soil and variation in rainfalls. However, there is plenty of seafood available in the island country.

9. Kiribati is susceptible to experience a rise in sea level due to global warming and such a rise in the water level of the sea will cause contamination of fresh water with salt water making it unsuitable for drinking. Moreover, the island will become uninhabitable.

10. There is a lot of solid waste which is produced in the country and sadly the country does not have a suitable waste disposal or waste management system in place to take care of this issue.

Flag of Kiribati

Flag of Kiribati
Flag of Kiribati. Source – CIA

11. According to a UN report, the wildlife in the area has been described as “among the most critically threatened in the world.” Pollution from various sources plays a significant role in deteriorating the quality of life of the inhabitants of this island nation.

12. The majority of the population of Kiribati is Christian. Freedom of religion is a fundamental right and this right is well respected in the country.

13. Due to the lack of natural resources, Kiribati is amongst the world’s poorest countries. The country supports its economy with the help of tourism, which constitutes almost 20% of its GDP.

14. Kiribati is the only nation in the world that lies in all four hemispheres (North, South, east and West) of the world.

15. The New Year arrives first in Kiribati and then in any other country in the world. This is because Kiribati is furthest ahead of Greenwich meantime at GMT+14.

16. More than 90% of the nation’s population lives on the Gilbert Islands. And the majority of it lives on Tarawa.

17. The highest point of the country is just 81 m above sea level.

18. Due to the rise in sea level, two small uninhabited islands disappeared below the sea in 1999.

Kiribati on Map

Kiribati on Map
Kiribati on Map

19. The nation is under threat of being engulfed by the sea in the coming 50 years or more.

20. The country has bought 6000 acres of land from Fiji to relocate its people at a safer place. Fiji is more than 1000 miles away from Kiribati. (However, there will always be a chance that human race will survive once again and adjust with the changes coming its way. The human race is apt at surviving and this we know for sure. J)

21. “Gilbertese”, which is an oceanic language, is popular and widely used by the people of the island nation. English is also an official language but it is mostly used in the capital city of Tarawa.

22. Kiribati was once a nuclear weapon test site.

23. Population growth rate of the island nation is high and the government is concerned about it. Family planning methods are distributed by the government for free.

24. Rural houses are open-sided rectangular structures that have raised floors and thatched roofs. In the towns, concrete and corrugated iron are used for building houses.

25. A meeting house is a common place where a representative of each house in the village gather for formal discussions and decision-making on important issues. These meeting houses are called “maneaba.“

facts about Kiribati - A traditional meeting house called Maneaba
Maneaba – a traditional meeting house in Kiribati.

26. Churches in the villages are the largest structures and are mostly architectured in European style.

27. Subsistence agriculture and fishing are the means of survival of up to 80% of the population of the country.

28. Kiribati has one abundant natural resource that is fish. The country has established an exclusive economic zone surrounding 200 nautical miles around the island. The export of fish from the country brings in substantial revenue.

29. Brides have to undergo virginity tests in Kiribati. The test aims to identify whether the bride to be is a virgin or has had sexual intercourse already. However, there is no concrete evidence to support the notion that these tests can accurately determine the virginity status of a bride.

30. Kiribati has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world and the cause of these deaths is the respiratory infection and diarrheal disease.

31. Education is valued in the country and hence schooling is made compulsory from age six. At least 20% of the children receive higher education.

32. Causes of deaths in the country include tuberculosis, liver cancer, hepatitis B, and AIDS.

33. Culture plays a significant role in the life of the people of Kiribati. They respect elders and parents do their best to nurture their children with their values and traditions.

34. Early settlers of the island nation were the Austronesian-speaking people who settled in the region long before the 1st century A.D.

35. The 33 islands in Kiribati are spread over a whopping area of 3.5 million kilometers of ocean. And surprisingly, the population of the entire nation is under 120,000.

36. Kiribati is also famous for Kiritimati which is also known as Christmas Island. With about 388 square kilometers, Kiritimati or Christmas Island has the greatest land area of any coral atoll in the world. The population of the island in 2015 was estimated to be around 6,447.

Giant trevally
A Giant trevally. The giant trevally is distinguished by its steep head profile, strong tail scutes, and a variety of other more detailed anatomical features. Image credit – Wikipedia

37. The island is famous for fishing because of the availability of a variety of fish including sailfish, marlin, wahoo, barracuda, and tuna. Giant Trevally or GT is one of the most sought after fish of the island. It has distinct features and can weigh up to 80 kg.

38. The island is also famous for bird watching. Some of the species of the birds that can be seen on the island include pacific long-tailed cuckoo, Kuhl’s lorikeet, and the endemic Christmas Island warbler. Some beautiful seabirds also flourish on the island nation.

39. Scuba divers also have an opportunity to see over 200 species of coral. These species include a variety of marine animals like turtles, dolphins, sharks and reef fish.

40. The islands were named the Gilbert Islands after the British explorer Thomas Gilbert who discovered the island in 1788. The name “Kiribati” is the local pronunciation of “Gilberts”.

41. Tourism in the country is flourishing to support the country’s economy. The government is also taking active measures to attract tourists from all over the world.

Quick facts about Kiribati

Independence12 July 1979 (from the UK)
Capital CityTarawa
(1°28′N 173°2′E)
Largest CityTarawa
(1°28′N 173°2′E)
Area811 sq km
Population106,925 (July 2016 est.)
Official LanguageEnglish
National Anthem"Teirake kaini Kiribati" (Stand Up, Kiribati)
National colorsred, white, blue, yellow
CurrencyKiribati dollar
Australian dollar (AUD)
Industriesfishing, handicrafts
Exportsfish, coconut products
Importsfood, machinery and equipment, miscellaneous manufactured goods, fuel
GDP - per capita (PPP)$1,800 (2016 est.)
Birth rate21.3 births/1,000 population (2016 est.)
Death rate7.1 deaths/1,000 population (2016 est.)
Sex ratio1.05 male(s)/female
Government typepresidential republic
National symbolfrigatebird
Terrainmostly low-lying coral atolls surrounded by extensive reefs
Climatetropical; marine, hot and humid, moderated by trade winds
Agricultural land42%
Natural resourcesphosphate (production discontinued in 1979), coconuts (copra), fish
Time Zone(UTC+12, +13, +14)
Internet country
Calling Code+686
Drives on theLeft