Exploring Kiribati: A Pacific Island Nation


The Republic of Kiribati, a sovereign state in the central Pacific Ocean, embodies a unique blend of natural beauty, culture, and environmental challenges. Comprising 32 coral atolls and one raised coral island, Kiribati is dispersed over a vast area, with its geography straddling the Equator. This positioning places it about midway between Hawaii and Australia, making the country a significant point of interest in Oceania.

Geography and Environment

Kiribati’s total surface area spans approximately 811 square kilometers, exclusively consisting of land with no accounted area for water within its borders, given its atoll structure. These atolls present a picturesque yet fragile environment, surrounded by extensive reefs that are both a defense against and a risk from the rising ocean levels. The coastline stretches around 1,143 kilometers, offering breathtaking views and abundant marine life.

Climate and Terrain

The country experiences a tropical marine climate, characterized by hot, humid conditions year-round, albeit moderated by the trade winds. Its terrain is predominantly low-lying, with the highest elevation point reaching only 81 meters on Banaba, one of its islands. This elevation starkly contrasts the vast Pacific Ocean’s depths surrounding it, marking the nation’s lowest elevation point at sea level.

Natural Resources and Land Use

Historically reliant on phosphate mining, which ceased in 1979, Kiribati’s economy now primarily benefits from its natural bounty of coconuts, copra, and fish. Approximately 42% of the land is devoted to agriculture, with a significant portion also covered by forests, accounting for 15% of the land use. Despite this natural wealth, the islands face challenges, notably in freshwater availability, as there is no irrigated land.

Population and Culture

As of July 2020, an estimated 111,796 people call Kiribati home, identifying themselves as I-Kiribati. This population is spread across three archipelagos, with the Gilbert Islands being notably dense in settlement. The capital, Tarawa, has a density comparable to major urban centers like Tokyo or Hong Kong, highlighting the unique juxtaposition of dense populations within small landmasses.

Language and Urbanization

English serves as an official language, facilitating international communication. However, the local language and culture remain vibrant and integral to the community’s identity. Urbanization trends have been notable, with 55.60% of the population residing in urban areas as of 2020, emphasizing a shift from rural to urban living, particularly in and around Tarawa.

Economy and Resources

The economy of Kiribati is modest, with a GDP per capita of $2,000 in 2017. Its economic framework is underpinned by fishing and handicrafts, reflecting the nation’s rich marine resources and cultural heritage. Agricultural products such as copra and breadfruit, along with fish, form the backbone of both domestic sustenance and export revenues.

Trade and Industry

Kiribati maintains trade relationships with various countries, exporting primarily to the Philippines, Malaysia, the United States, Bangladesh, and Fiji. Fish and coconut products are the main exports, showcasing the reliance on natural resources. Conversely, imports from Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, China, and other countries provide the islands with essential goods like food, machinery, manufactured items, and fuel.

Challenges and Sustainability

Despite its beauty and rich culture, Kiribati faces significant challenges related to climate change, including rising sea levels and the increasing frequency of extreme weather events. These environmental threats pose existential risks, pressing the nation to explore sustainable solutions and international cooperation to secure a resilient future for its people and environment.


Kiribati, with its remote, low-lying islands, offers a glimpse into a way of life that is intrinsically linked to the environment. Balancing modern development with the preservation of its unique culture and ecosystems, Kiribati continues to navigate the challenges of the 21st century, striving for sustainability, resilience, and the well-being of its people in the face of global change.

Country data

Country Code KR
Region Australia – Oceania
Surface 811 sq km
Land Surface 811 sq km
Water Surface 0 sq km
Agricultural Surface 42.00%
Forest Surface 15.00%
Lowest Elevation Point Pacific Ocean 0 m
Highest Elevation Point unnamed elevation on Banaba 81 m m
GDP / capita $2,000 (2017 est.)