Republic of Kiribati
The Republic of Kiribati is a remote Pacific Ocean region located just five degrees south of the Equator and composed of 32 coral atolls in three major groups – the Gilbert, Phoenix, and Line Islands – as well as one isolated island, Banaba. Kiribati is the only country in the world that falls in all four hemispheres. Twenty-one of its islands are inhabited, with a total population of about 100,000 people. One of the least developed Pacific Island countries, the country has few natural resources and benefits from international aid. Fishing licenses also form an important part of the economy.
With SEA Semester, you will have the opportunity to sail throughout and investigate this last coral wilderness on Earth and develop insight to help preserve its future.
Phoenix Islands Protected Area
Previous port stops have included: Birnie, Enderbury, Kanton, Nikumaroro, Orona
At 157,626 square miles in size, the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) is one the largest marine protected areas in the world. PIPA is one of Earth’s last intact oceanic coral archipelago ecosystems due to its remoteness and lack of a permanent human presence, and was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2010.
The biological density in this area is nothing short of extraordinary. Despite rather limited exploration, more than 500 fish species are already known here, and species like surgeonfish and parrotfish, rarely seen elsewhere in huge numbers, are found in enormous aggregations.
PIPA’s reefs include at least 120 types of coral. Dolphins are among the 18 marine mammal species found in these waters—where large whales were once hunted with regularity. The site also sits astride key migration routes used by turtles and some aquatic species. Uninhabited islands are mobbed by dense flocks of seabirds.
The Line Islands comprise 11 coral atolls and low islands in the central Pacific Ocean and, at 2,350 kilometers in length, represent one of the world’s longest island chains. Formerly colonized by the United Kingdom or claimed by the United States, eight of the Line Islands became part of the independent Republic of Kirabati in 1979, while three remain U.S. territories.
Some SEA Semester voyages visit Kiritimati, also known as Christmas Island, in the Northern Line Island. At about 100 miles in circumference, it has largest land area of any coral atoll in the world and composes about 70% of the total land mass of Kiribati. Both the United States and Britain used the island for nuclear weapons testing in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and controversy remains over the health implications of their failure to evacuate residents while doing so. The entire island was designated a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1975, with limited permits available for research and ecotourism. Today, the island houses about 5,500 permanent residents, port facilities, a small airport, and a large government-owned plantation for processing coconut meat.
Some SEA Semester voyages also anchor offshore of Caroline Island, sometimes known as Millennium Island because it was among the first places in the world to witness the first sunrise of the year 2000. Located in the Southern Line Islands, it is the easternmost uninhabited island of Kiribati and is considered one of the few remaining pristine tropical islands on the planet. Covering only about 1.5 square miles, Caroline Island consists of nearly 40 highly vegetated islets with coral beaches surrounding a long, narrow lagoon. It is an important breeding site for many seabirds, most notably the sooty tern, and hosts one of the world’s largest coconut crab populations on Earth.
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