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kiritimati island, Republic of Kiribati
Kiritimati Island (Christmas Island)

Kiritimati Island 

Also known as Christmas Island (Captain Cook arrived on 24 December 1777, in ‘naming’ mood). The world's largest coral atoll extends to a substantial 640 sq km and makes up 70 per cent of the land area in the scattered island republic of Kiribati. Its villages are London, Tabwakea, Banana, Poland and Paris (now sadly in ruins). And no, you don’t have to take a Geiger counter — the radiation from Britain’s 1950s H-bomb tests on Maiden Island, 320 km south of Kiritimati, has long dissipated on the four winds.

Many place names on Kiritimati date from the tenure of Emmanuel Rougier, a French priest who leased the island between the two World Wars, planting nearly a million coconut trees as his contribution to the islanders’ future. London is the main village and has a modern port facility handling exports like coconuts, copra, seaweed and tropical saltwater aquarium fish. There is little tourism, because the island is a long way from anywhere and — despite some good beaches and a splendid lagoon — doesn’t have much to offer that’s worth going that far for, other than sport fishing and the opportunity to observe millions of Nesting seabirds.

There is a hotel, but most of the Micronesian inhabitants live without electricity, running water or sanitation. This is one of the most primitive places on earth, but the people are very friendly and live traditional community life, sheltered by thatched huts skillfully Constructed from coconut palms and pandanus trees, subsisting on coconut products and the fruits of the sea.