Aranuka, formerly known as Ananuka (the middle of it), is an island in Kiribati. It is unique for its natural beauty as well as being the only island in Kiribati and quite possibly the Pacific region to have tall mangrove trees with heights of more than 15 meters. Evidence of this can still be seen when visiting Aranuka. Aranuka was also known to many as the island in the middle of Kiribati and for the formation and separation of all the islands of Kiribati which was first started by the God of our Ancestors, Nareau. That is why Aranuka was formerly named and known as Ananuka – the middle of it.
The uninhabited islets of the island also provide the world class swimming and snorkeling spots for visitors. Its white unspoiled sandy beaches and sparkling blue waters also offers a soothing and relaxing atmosphere. Its greenish surroundings and the smiling faces of the people also bring safety and harmless environment for first time visitors.
The island is located in the central Gilbert Islands just north of the equator with an area of 15.5 square kilometers and a population of 1158 (Census 2005).
This triangular shaped atoll is formed by three islets called Buariki, Takaeang and Baurua. Buariki and Baurua are the largest and form the base of the triangle while Takaeang being the smallest forms the top corner. The islets are connected by sandbacks especially on the northern side and an underwater reef crest on the southern side. There is also a wide pass to the lagoon in the center.
The main administrative center is located at Buariki. A Junior Secondary School and the main clinic center are also located here. Two other clinics are located in Takaeang and Baurua.
History and culture
The island of Aranuka has only two villages since its first establishment. In 1978, Baurua village was established with only few inhabitants, less than 10 houses, making a total of 3 recognized villages now for Aranuka.
In its modern history, it was known by many that Aranuka Island was first sighted by two Europeans namely Thomas Gilbert and John Marshall in 1788. Later between 1860 and late 1880s, the island was conquered by Karotu, the King of Abemama, and then the ruling power was passed on to Binoka (Karotu’s nephew) who was also a ruler of Abemama and Kuria and was recognized as paramount. It was also understood that the customary law still survived in some contexts and so did the traditional authority. On Aranuka, the hegemony of a high chief and families was also recognized and remained a formidable force in island politics.
However, since the introduction of colonization, the ruling system changed and chiefs no longer have power to control, regulate and impose decisions regarding the community.
Nowadays, the Mayor (formerly known as Chief Councilor) and the elderly men are working in collaboration with each other as key decision makers of the island.
With respects to clothing, it is mostly preferable that men and women should use casual wear. Particularly, women are not allowed to walk around with bikinis, mini skirts or shorts. A skirt/short covered down to your knees or wrapped around sulus and T-Shirts are preferable.
- Firstly, leave gifts or mweaka at a kainga (clan) of Ababoou or Atin Tabuariki.
- Tour around Aranuka is opened to everyone.
- Escorted around the island in any manner or any ways that visitors feel comfortable with.
- Visit Maungan Te Tongo to see tall mangrove trees
- Visit remaining well, bathroom and toilet of Riiki and his sons at Kauake
- Escorting of visitors after leaving mweaka at Ababoou or Atin Tabuariki
- Trip around the island
- Boat trips to islets (be ready to bear extra cost for boat trips to islets. (Prior arrangement is required with Island Council)
- Snorkeling (please provide your own gears)
- Swimming (only done at islets)
- Beach games (only done at islets)
- Demonstration of traditional skills (requires prior arrangement with Island Council when there is a need from visitors)
- Local dances or entertainment (requires prior arrangement with Island Council)
- Nature walking
Visitors should aware when traveling to Aranuka Island that facilities and services are limited and the island is remote in nature. You will need flexibility in your plans to allow for instances where there may be transport delays. Accommodation is basic and food will be what is available locally. It is highly recommended that you take additional supplies of drinking water. Medical facilities are limited on the islands to a local clinic and village nurse. Pharmaceuticals are not available and you will to ensure you have any medications you may require and basic medical supplies. Please also ensure you have advised family and friends of your travel plans and when you expect to return. Communications while on the island may be limited, however most villages will have a public phone. It is also important to note that as a sign of respect you will need to leave offerings at a number of the shines you visit. Tobacco/cigarettes are the traditional offering. If you are interested in participating in any cultural activity please have it arranged prior your travel or you can ask around the local people and they are usually most obliging.