Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hidden Paradise - Kiribati


Unique ... little-known Kiribati is seeking more Australian visitors.

Looking for a secluded, remote and romantic getaway... One of the Pacific's least-known, least-visited islands wants more Australian tourists. The Age Traveller reveals the hidden paradise of Kiribati...

Okay travellers - how many of you have heard of Kiribati? How many know where it is?And how many know how to pronounce it?

The answers: it's probably the least-known, and one of the least visited, Pacific islands nations.

Uniquely, its islands lie both sides of both the Equator and the International Date line.

And you say it in its original Gilbertese language, "Kiri-bass".

Today, the former Gilbert Islands, which became independent Kiribati in 1979, has launched a campaign to attract more tourists - especially from Australia - than last year's 5,000 or so.

The target is at least 8,000 by 2014.

Recently, Kiribati's Director of Tourism Tarataake Teannaki and Australian adviser Danial (Danial) Rochford, working through Ausaid, paid Australia a promotional visit during which they went to the Brisbane Tinnie and Tackle Show spreading the word about the "fabulous fishing" in the islands - as well as surfing and cultural attractions.

They want you to enjoy experiencing an island lifestyle as it was around the Pacific before tour packages with luxury resorts with swimming pools hit many archipelagos further south.

Kiribati's best claim to fame came when its main island of Tarawa was one of the bloodiest battlegrounds between United States marines and Japanese troops in November 1943 during World War II.

Today, Tarawa is at peace but, large guns, other rusted relics and signs of battle remain as reminders of the violent past there and on neighbouring Betio, site of the Japanese headquarters, and on Butaritari and Abemama atolls.

Guided tours of the battle sites are available.

Apart from World War II buffs, Kiribati should appeal to anyone who'd simply like to get away from well-trodden tourist trails and explore some beautiful unspoiled islands.

"A visit to Kiribati is for those of adventurous spirit ... who are looking for a different side of the Pacific experience," says Kiribati Tourism.

"We're for travellers, not tourists.

"You won't see any fluffy towels and swim-up bars here, but if you're prepared to leave the comforts of home behind and go with it, you might get more than you bargained for on a visit to Kiribati."

Australians are made to feel at home: Kiribati's currency is the Australian dollar and English is widely spoken as well as Gilbertese.

On the social scene, visitors to Kiribati should enjoy traditional and exuberant singing and dancing.

But they should be wary of the local coconut toddy, a potent liquid made from fermented coconut sap - a warning given from hazy memories of a personal experience a few years back.

Accommodation is available at hotels, guest-houses and fishing lodges - modestly-furnished but clean - and you may also home-stay in a traditional "biwa" open-sided cottage.

Visit The Age Traveller to read the full article.

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