I wrote this little guidebook just before the introduction of the Covid19-related travel restrictions. One year later, Kiribati remains one of the last Covid-free places on the planet, but travelling there has not become an option again. Now I decided to publish the entry nevertheless – lest it invite to some armchair travelling to the remotest place I have ever been!
This is a guidebook for visitors to Abaiang, composed after my visit in autumn 2019.
Travelling to countries like Kiribati, Tuvalu or Micronesia is great and exotic, indeed – but the real deal are their “Outer Islands”. Most Oceanian nations are composed of one or two islands with an international airport, sometimes called “Mainland”. They are exotic, but there is electricity, hotels, restaurants and even limited touristic infrastructure. Not so the Outer Islands: Travelling there requires patience, connections and some creativity.
This is why tourists usually don’t go to Outer Islands – a foreigner usually cannot simply pop up and do sightseeing like elsewhere. The only foreigners going there are usually Mormon missionaries and from time to time a development worker. Therefore, most Outer Islands remain uncharted territory for tourism. And that is also very likely to remain like this. However, there are a few Outer Islands which are more or less accessible. Abaiang in Kiribati is one of them.
ABAIANG is an atoll just north of Tarawa, the “mainland” of Kiribati, with 5.500 inhabitants. Teirio, the main island, is about 30 km long. There is no running water, no electricity, no restaurants; and the airfield is just a gravel strip in the forest. There are 18 villages in Abaiang, 16 of which on Teiro, Abaiang’s 30 km long main island. Here is what you can see and experience on Teiro island, from North to South:
Getting there (in non-pandemic times): Air Kiribati has two weekly flights from Bonriki International Airport to Abaiang Airfield – a gravel strip in the forest. The flight (ca. 80 AUD) takes 20 minutes and is quite an experience – see the video below. There are also two ‘ferries’ for Betio on Tarawa Atoll, the main harbour of Kiribati. The ‘ferries’ are slightly bigger than normal fishing boats, leave several times per week around noon and cost about 20 AUD for the three-hour ride. Transport: A gravel road goes along all of Teiro. The only vehicles are four or five flatbed trucks, which apparently also serve as a kind of public transport. And there are plenty of Chinese motorbikes, also available for rent (about 20 AUD/day). But watch out – they are quite tricky to ride. Luckily, the locals always helped me out when I had a problem, as everyone owns the same bike. Accommodation: I stayed at Terau Beach Bungalows, a row of traditional wooden beach houses for rent. Terau is a unique place with a helpful host close to the airport on the lagoon side. Very basic, but I loved it. There are two more resorts on the little islets of Ouba and Teirio (see map), which are however further away from the settled part of the atoll. A Swiss expat once als run a guesthouse, but according to this newspaper report, it is not operating at the moment. Food and Drink: There are no restaurants or bars in Abaiang. Guesthouses prepare food for their guests. There are kiosk-like shops in the bigger villages which sell a very basic range of conserves and other imperishable food. Beer and Coca Cola is sometimes available at one of those kiosks at the airfield, depending on supply. I had heard that they sold traditional beer there and was very curious. Disappointingly, it was just a Chinese beer brand called ‘Traditional’.