Kiribati (bizarrely pronounced Kiribas) is a scattering ill-connected islands in the heart of the South Pacific, spread across swathes of ocean between The Cook Islands, Fiji and The Marshall Islands, and split in half by the International Date Line. It’s a place where, at least on the outer islands, the 20th and 21st century seem to have entirely passed by; and you’ll find a genuine subsistence-based, desert-island lifestyle. Most locals live in raised thatched huts hovering over the water, with only coconuts, fish and prawns to eat.
Not that fishing causes a problem: the waters of Kiribati are abundant and vivid, with coral reefs and ancient world war II wrecks to be found just below the surface, teeming with life. Most of the 33 islands barely poke their head out of water, while some guard turquoise lagoons that look like they’re straight from the movie ‘The Beach’. Sipping on sour toddy (an unfortunately named coconut palm liquor) and snacking on sweet potatoes whilst watching grass-skirted girls give a traditional dance in the central ‘Maneaba’ meeting hall is the quintessential I-Kiribati experience.
On South Tarawa you’ll find gargantuan guns and other World War II relics, remnants of a bloody battle back in 1943, while the North’s aqua lagoon is the perfect place to hunt down a tropical bar on gravity-defying stilts. If you want an intense insight into the culture, Tarawa offers seductively hands-on homestays, where you can join your host in salting the clams or weaving a new thatch roof. On Christmas Island, the chief tourist pastimes – beaches aside – are catching narrow, wriggling Bonefish or staring wide eyed at the abundant bird population.
If you’ve got a few weeks to kill, though, the outer islands are definitely the way to go. You’ll find next to nothing in the way of infrastructure, or bustle, and can drift into the simple, laid back way of life the locals enjoy. It’s like your own desert island, with a population of locals just to make sure you don’t go hungry, where it’s easy to lose track of the days altogether. Just don’t miss the plane home.