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Wed 8 May 2019 11:16 AM

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Heard of Kiribati? All you need to know about the UAE's latest transport partner

The Pacific Island, located 4,000 km southwest of Hawaii, has signed an air transport services agreement with the UAE

Heard of Kiribati? All you need to know about the UAE's latest transport partner
Pronounced Kiribas, Kiribati is an independent republic located in the central Pacific Ocean, about 4,000 km southwest of Hawaii. Image: Kiribati Tourism.

Dig deep into the minutes of the UAE Cabinet’s latest meeting this week and you will find a rather unusual entry in the international relations section: The latest country to sign an air transport services agreement with the UAE is the rather remote island nation of Kiribati.

Never heard of Kiribati? Well, here’s a few quick things you need to know before you go booking your flights:

Pronounced Kiribas, Kiribati is an independent republic located in the central Pacific Ocean, about 4,000 km southwest of Hawaii. It is part of the division of the Pacific islands known as Micronesia. It is made up of 33 coral islands, 21 of which are inhabited.

One of the islands is called Christmas Island, named so because British explorer Captain James Cook landed there on Christmas Eve in 1777. Lonely Planet said the island “shimmers in a haze of white sand, silver shallows and deep-blue lagoon”.

Kiribati is also home to the world’s largest coral atoll and, as a result, is popular with divers.


South Tarawa. Image: Kiribati Tourism.

Located on the equator, it was previously under British rule and has been an official colony since 1915. It is also part of the Commonwealth of Nations and, as a result, English is the main language. There is even a settlement called London. The island was granted independence in 1979.

Roughly four times the size of Washington DC, Kiribati has a total area of 811 square kilometres, 1,143 kilometres of coastline and a population of 109,367.

According to the CIA World Fact Book, the country’s economic development is constrained by a shortage of skilled workers, weak infrastructure and remoteness from international markets and it dependent on foreign aid, which is estimated to account for around a third of government finances.

Flights

Currently, there are no direct flights between the UAE and Kiribati. If you wish to visit you need to fly to Sydney and then take a Fiji Airways flight to the main airport in the capital South Tarawa.

One of the main luxury hotels in the country is the Lagoon View Resort. A recent Tripadvisor review gave it five stars but warned travellers to Kiribati that the country is “not a fancy destination… [but] a humble island atoll”.

We will be watching closely what happens to this latest air transport agreement and whether we will soon see direct flights between Kiribati and the UAE. Time to get your scuba gear ready?

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