Fanning Island, Kiribati Cruise Port
In the central Pacific Ocean is one of the closest landfalls to the Hawaiian Islands, although “close” in this context means 900 miles away: the cruise port of Fanning Island (also called Tabuaeran or Fanning Atoll), Kiribati. Early settlers were most likely people from Polynesia, some of whom were on their way to Hawaii and decided to stay put. Like many islands, Fanning is named after the first person to spot it; here, it was American sea captain Henry Fanning, who arrived on his ship Betsy in 1798. Eventually annexed by the British, the island gained independence in 1979. With a small population, some major exports include locally handcrafted items such as cowrie shell and shark tooth knives, along with copra (dried coconut meat used to extract coconut oil). For an island adventure off the beaten path, here are some of our favorite experiences when cruising to Fanning Island, Kiribati:
- For swimming and snorkeling, visit Napili Beach. With its powdery white sands overlooking clear, shallow waters, you might be able to spot various types of fish, like parrot fish and angelfish. Since Fanning Island is only a couple hundred miles north of the Equator, it's a great place to cool off.
- Stock up on local souvenirs at the handicraft market. Goods made by the creative islanders include woven baskets and grass skirts, wood carvings, shell jewelry, and the like. The prices are reasonable; another way to give to the community here is to bring small gifts for the children instead of giving them dollars. They're especially appreciative of school supplies and toys. Sugary sweets aren't recommended as gifts, although toothbrushes are.
- It's easy enough to tour the island by walking or renting a bike. There are also small truck tours that give a picture of a land relatively untouched by time.
- There’s a compound near the pier at English Harbour where you can get your passport validated with a Kiribati stamp, then enjoy the shade in a beach chair while sipping on a cold drink from the bar. The all-day barbeque nicely complements the local singers and dancers performing traditional pieces.