Geography of Kiribati

Kiribati Flag
The Kiribati flag has a red upper half with a yellow frigate bird flying over a yellow rising sun, and the lower half is blue with three horizontal wavy white stripes to represent the ocean.

CIA World Factbook, 2007

Population: 100,743 (July 2011 estimate)
Capital: Tarawa
Area: 313 square miles (811 sq km)
Coastline: 710 miles (1,143 km)
Highest Point: An unnamed point on the island of Banaba at 265 feet (81 m)
Kiribati is an island nation located Oceania in the Pacific Ocean. It is made up of 32 island atolls and one small coral island that are spread out over millions of miles or kilometers. The country itself however has only 313 square miles (811 sq km) of area. Kiribati is also along the International Date Line on its easternmost islands and it straddles the Earth's equator. Because it is on the International Date Line, the country had the line shifted in 1995 so that all of its islands could experience the same day at the same time.

History of Kiribati

The first people to settle Kiribati were the I-Kiribati when they settled what are the present-day Gilbert Islands around 1000-1300 B.C.E. In addition Fijians and Tongans later invaded the islands. Europeans did not reach the islands until the 16th century. By the 1800s, European whalers, traders and slave merchants began visiting the islands and causing social problems. As a result in 1892 the Gilbert and Ellice Islands agreed to become British protectorates. In 1900 Banaba was annexed after natural resources were found and in 1916 they all became a British colony (U.S. Department of State). The Line and Phoenix Islands were also later added to the colony.

During World War II, Japan seized some of the islands and in 1943 the Pacific portion of the war reached Kiribati when United States forces launched attacks on the Japanese forces on the islands. In the 1960s, Britain began giving Kiribati more freedom of self-government and in 1975 the Ellice Islands broke away from the British colony and declared their independence in 1978 (U.S. Department of State). In 1977 the Gilbert Islands were given more self-governing powers and on July 12, 1979 they became independent with the name Kiribati.

Government of Kiribati

Today Kiribati is considered a republic and it is officially called the Republic of Kiribati. The country's capital is Tarawa and its executive branch of government is made up of a chief of state and a head of government. Both of these positions are filled by Kiribati's president. Kiribati also has a unicameral House of Parliament for its legislative branch and Court of Appeal, High Court and 26 Magistrates' courts for its judicial branch. Kiribati is divided into three different units, the Gilbert Islands, the Line Islands and the Phoenix Islands, for local administration. There are also six different island districts and 21 island councils for Kiribati's islands.

Economics and Land Use in Kiribati

Because Kiribati is in a remote location and its area is spread over 33 small islands it is one of the least developed Pacific island nations (CIA World Factbook). It also has few natural resources so its economy is mainly dependent on fishing and small handicrafts. Agriculture is practiced throughout the country and the main products of that industry are copra, taro, breadfruit, sweet potatoes and assorted vegetables.

Geography and Climate of Kiribati

The islands making up Kiribati are located along the equator and International Date Line about halfway between Hawaii and Australia. The closest nearby islands are Nauru, the Marshall Islands and Tuvalu. It is made up of 32 very low lying coral atolls and one small island. Because of this, Kiribati's topography is relatively flat and its highest point is an unnamed point on the island of Banaba at 265 feet (81 m). The islands are also surrounded by large coral reefs.

The climate of Kiribati is tropical and as such it is mainly hot and humid but its temperatures can be somewhat moderated by the trade winds (CIA World Factbook).

To learn more about Kiribati, visit the Geography and Maps page on Kiribati on this website.

Central Intelligence Agency. (8 July 2011). CIA - The World Factbook - Kiribati. Retrieved from: (n.d.). Kiribati: History, Geography, Government, and Culture- Retrieved from:
United States Department of State. (3 February 2011). Kiribati. Retrieved from: (20 July 2011). Kiribati - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from: