Nauru

Capital government offices in Yaren District
Currency Australian dollar (AUD)
Population 9,378 (July 2013 est.)
Electricity 240V/50Hz (Australian plug)
Country code +674
Time zone UTC +12

Nauru is a small island in the South Pacific Ocean south of the Marshall Islands and is the world's third-smallest country — only Monaco and the Vatican City are smaller. An off-the-beaten-track destination if there ever was one, Nauru is also the least visited country in the world. The remoteness, and the fact that much of the island is a charmless open phosphate mine, are two strong reasons for this.

Understand

History

In the local language the island is known as Naoero, though the name is of unknown origin. Nauru is a simplification of the name by the English colonizers. The island has also been known by the names Pleasant Island, Island Gambo, Nawodo and Onawero.

Nauru was first settled around 3,000 years ago by twelve Micronesian and Polynesian peoples. Those twelve tribes divided the island into twelve parts; today this is symbolized by the twelve-pointed star in Nauru's national flag (the yellow line represents the Equator and the blue space the Pacific Ocean). The original inhabitants lived on fishing and even turned the lagoon in the middle of the island into a fish farm.

The first European to set foot on the island was the British commander John Fearn in 1798. The natives had a good relationship with the European ships whom they traded with. Occasionally, deserting sailors settled on Nauru. The island was devastated by a civil war between 1878 and 1888, after which it was annexed by the Germans. During the three-decade period as part of the German Pacific Territory, a king was appointed to rule the island, and the first missionaries arrived.

Conveyer belts for loading phosphate on ships – phosphate mining and the functions supporting it are very visible all around Nauru

Mining of Nauru's phosphate deposits, which occupied about 90% of the island, began in the early 20th century under a German-British consortium. During World War I, the island was occupied by Australian forces and became a dependent territory. Briefly occupied by Japan during the World War II, Nauru was recovered by Australia afterwards and achieved independence in 1968. In the 1980s, phosphate exports briefly gave Nauruans one of the highest per capita incomes in the Third World. As of 2008, most of Nauru's revenue came from the export of phosphate to Australia, South Korea and New Zealand as well as other countries. The industry is controlled by the Nauru Phosphate Corporation (NPC). It is anticipated that the phosphate reserves will be completely exhausted before 2050. The sale of fishing licences the other major revenue raiser. Countries such as Australia and Taiwan provide substantial development cooperation funding. Despite this, the unemployment rate currently stands at 90%.

In 2001 the container ship Tampa rescued several hundred asylum seekers from a sinking Indonesian vessel and attempted to deliver them to Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, which is an Australian Federal Territory. In what was labelled The Pacific Solution, the Australian Government established an Off Shore Processing Centre (OPC) on Nauru where these people were housed, pending assessment of their claims to be refugees, in exchange for Australian aid to Nauru. The OPC was closed in early 2008, but was reopened in 2012.

Other than these, also tourism could in the future be an additional source of income for the Nauruans. However, this would require better tourism infrastructure and transportation links.

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 30 30 30 30 30 30 30 30 30 31 31 31
Nightly lows (°C) 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25
Precipitation (mm) 280 250 190 190 120 110 150 130 120 100 120 280

A small, flat island almost exactly on the Equator, Nauru is a textbook example of tropical climate. The temperature is constant around the year, with even the record lows and highs per month staying within a couple of degrees. The number of average rainy days varies from 16 in January to 9 in May and June.

Nauru is best avoided during the cyclone/rain season, which is from November to February. Even if you wouldn't encounter a cyclone, the sky is constantly cloudy and torrential rains and thunderstorms are frequent during this time of the year.

Terrain

There are a few "sandy" beaches but most of the shallow area around the island is coral reefs. Most of the interior of the island is worked-out mining land, which is to be rehabilitated. The only inland body of water is the lagoon.

Get in

Map of Nauru

The Australian offshore detention centre operating on the island means that there will be a lot of Australian government staff staying at the island's two small hotels and filling seats on the flights to and from Nauru (especially the direct flight to and from Brisbane). This, in combination with the visa requirement, means that you probably should plan and book your trip a few months ahead.

Entry requirements

All foreign visitors require a valid passport and proof of hotel booking or local sponsor in order to enter Nauru. A free visa on arrival is available to citizens of the Cook Islands, Fiji, Israel, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Russia, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Taiwan, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Citizens of other countries require an advance visa. There have been rumours on the Internet that you can get in for up to three days without getting a visa, but that is not accurate.

You can apply for a visa from:

Alternatively you can send an e-mail to principal.immigration@naurugov.nr or visa@naurugov.nr. It may take a long time for the visa application to be processed, so you should send your application well ahead of your intended trip. A tourist visa reportedly costs AUD 100. If you are a journalist and intend to work on Nauru you will need a journalist visa, costing AUD 200, although if you are going to report about the Australian detention centre on the island you might need to fork out AUD 8000, due to a 2014 decision by the Nauruan government. Applications for journalist visas should be directed to: Joanna Olsson, Director of Government Information Office: joanna.olsson@naurugov.nr.

You will be sent a card that you need to fill in and return together with a copy of your passport. The visa fee is paid upon arrival in Nauru. At this time you will have to hand in your passport to the officials to be registered. The passport will be returned to you the next day.

If you're transiting through the American territories (e.g. Guam) on your journey to Nauru, you might need a transit visa or an ESTA, depending on your nationality.

Customs regulations

Passengers may bring in to Nauru:

Drugs, explosives, weapons and porn may not be imported.

By plane

The airport terminal

As of March 2016, the national carrier, Nauru Airlines (formerly known as Our Airline and Air Nauru), flies to Nauru from Brisbane, Nadi and Honiara. Flights are rather irregular, with each destination being served one to three times a week.

The   airport is located in the Yaren district in the southwest of the island and is where virtually everyone arrives to and departs from Nauru.

By boat

Neither of the two ports in Aiwo and Anibare can accommodate passenger traffic or yachts; they are used for export of phosphate or by local fishermen. As the water is shallow near the coast, larger ships must anchor off shore.

Get around

View of the ring road

Every year, there are on average 200 tourists in Nauru, so it has the honor of being the least touristed country in the world. Crowds aren't a problem at all. There's hardly any public transportation, so your best bet to get around would be in a rented vehicle; car, scooter or bike. Other alternatives are by foot (not very pleasant in the tropical heat and humidity) or hitchhiking, which is quite common on the island.

The hotel may or may not send a car to pick you up at the airport; in the worst case you'll have to walk.

By public transport

There is a community bus which travels around the island every hour or so during the day. Also, locals sometimes cling to the cars of the goods train between Aiwo and the inland mining area.

By car

Motorcycles are also a common sight here

Nauru is so small that it takes less than one hour to drive right around it. The 19km Island Ring Road circles the island and is paved — however this is not the case for most of the inland roads. The airport runway cuts across three of the twenty kilometres of road. The only traffic lights on the island are used to stop the traffic and allow the plane to cross the road to the terminal! This is a favourite souvenir snapshot taken by visitors.

Traffic drives on the left and drivers should be on increased lookout for animals and pedestrians while driving on the beltway.

Cars or bicycles can sometimes be rented from Capelle and Partners, the largest local supermarket. Otherwise you can ask at your hotel or just ask a local. Foreigners need an international driver's license to drive on Nauru. Also, be aware that fuel shortages are not unheard of!

Talk

The official language is Nauruan, a distinct Pacific Island language. English is widely understood, spoken, and used for most government and commercial purposes.

See

The Buada Lagoon
Karst landscape with limestone stalagmites in the island's interior

Do

An abandoned Japanese pillbox
Anibare Bay probably offers Nauru's best beaches

On land

Nauru is one of the few countries in the world you can walk around the whole perimeters of in a reasonable time. A sealed road goes all the way around the island and drive takes about 25 minutes non-stop. A pushbike ride would take 2-3 hours and a walk maybe 6 hours. There is lots of nice scenery if not much to do and, going from either hotel, Chappelle & Partner department store right at the top of the island in Ewa district makes for a welcome break at halfway around.

When walking around you may see traces from the Second World War, when Japan occupied the island, including remains of Japanese guns, bunkers and pillboxes. There may also be opportunities for some urban exploring of abandoned phosphate mining and transportation facilities in the middle and the west of the island. If you've always wanted to visit a country high point, it's fairly easy to hike up to   Command Ridge, 65m above sea level.

If you're into sports, you can watch the local teams battle it out at an Australian rules football match. The national game is played all through Saturday at the   Linkbelt Oval sports field.

In the sea

Many beaches on Nauru are shallow and rocky and not very suitable for swimming. Your best bet would be Anibare harbour which also is a great place for swimming and seeing the fishermen bringing in the day's catch. If you want to try some fishing yourself, there's one company you can consult:

Events

These are the most important festivities during the year:

Buy

Nauru uses the Australian dollar as its national currency. Cash transactions are the norm; credit cards are rarely accepted. There are no exchange offices in Nauru and the single bank office, Bank of Nauru is usually closed. However in April 2015 the island's first ATM was opened at the Capelle & Partner. You should probably still bring enough Australian dollars in cash for your stay.

Bargaining or tipping are not done on Nauru.

Eat

Coral formations in Anibare Bay

Most food is imported from Australia and arrives by ship or air, usually once every six to eight weeks. You can find western and Asian (primarily Chinese) food. Because of the tropical climate dishes might not be as heavy and hearty as the original versions. As not all ingredients may be available, dishes are often rather simple.

Since Nauru is an island nation, seafood is very popular in its restaurants. Cooked and smoked hams are also very popular, as meat is one of their main dishes.

Budget

In addition to these, you'll also find some small inexpensive "eating places", selling Chinese food.

Mid-range

Splurge

Drink

Other than that, restaurants and shops offer soft drinks and some also have alcoholic beverages.

Sleep

Sunset

There are two hotels, the more expensive Menen on the east of the island and the budget Od'n Aiwo to the west. In addition to these, the supermarket has guest rooms in the north of the island.

Stay safe

Nauruan police

Nauru is a peaceful island and all kinds of crime are very rare. In emergency situations you can call either emergency number (117 or 118) or go to the police station which is near the airport.

Swimming and surfing

Like many other Pacific islands, Nauru is surrounded by a shallow reef with cut-outs through the reef providing access for boats and harbours, and there can be strong currents across the shallow water, moving boats in the harbours, and dangerous marine animals on the reef floor. Ask for advice before venturing into the water.

Stay healthy

Water supply in Nauru is dependent on rainwater collected into tanks from the roofs of houses and from an aging reverse osmosis desalination plant. You should avoid tap water.

Considering its size and remoteness, Nauru has a decent healthcare system. Aside from the rampant problem of obesity among the population, the infant mortality and life expectation numbers are on par with industrialized nations. There are two hospitals on the island, Nauru General Hospital and RON Hospital, both located in the Denigomodu district in the west of the island. However, if you have contracted anything more serious you may need to get transferred to Australia. Needless to say, it's best to have a good travel insurance when visiting Nauru!

The tropical diseases usually encountered in equatorial countries are less of a risk in Nauru, although it's recommended to get a hepatitis B shot. There is a risk of dengue fever, though, so you should protect yourself from mosquito bites.

If you come from a country where yellow fever is endemic or you've visited such a country in the last six days, you need to have proof of yellow fever vaccination.

Respect

Nauru is a Christian country, and Christian values and rules of conduct apply.

Cope

Australian-type plug

There are three newspapers in both Nauruan and English; Nasero Bulletin, Central Star News and Nauru Chronicle. Foreign newspapers are non-existent and information from the rest of the world comes from the Internet and satellite television and radio — in fact there's no local broadcasting.

As in Australia, the main voltage is 240V/50Hz, and the plugs are Australian too. Bring an adaptor! Brownouts are quite frequent.

Connect

Mail

There are a couple of post offices on the island from where you can send mail.

Embassies

There are only two embassies on Nauru; the closest embassies of most other countries are in either Australia or New Zealand.

Telephony

There are public phones and a mobile phone network. Be aware that you may need to buy a SIM card from the local operator Digicel if your home operator doesn't have a roaming contract with Nauru.

Internet

CenpacNet inc. is the only Internet provider, and it also owns the national domain .nr. Moreover it operates the only Internet café on Nauru:

Other than that, hotels offer computers to get online, though you should inform yourself about the rates beforehand!

Go next

Virtually everyone comes and goes by the local airline and thus your next destination will be Australia or one of the few small Oceanian islands the local airline flies to. When leaving Nauru, be aware that locally produced goods may be subjected to export duties.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, March 06, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.