Kiritimati – also known as Christmas Island – is one of the Northern Line Islands of Kiribati. It is the largest coral atoll in the world and by itself represents the majority of the land area of Kiribati. Kiritimati is the I-Kiribati word for Christmas. The name “Kiritimati” is a rather straightforward respelling of the English word “Christmas” in the Kiribati language, in which the combination ti is pronounced s. The island got its original name from Captain James Cook, who sighted the island on 24 December 1777.
Kiritimati lies 232 km (144 mi) north of the Equator, 2,160 km (1,340 mi) south of Honolulu, and 5,360 km (3,330 mi) from San Francisco. Kiritimati Island is in the world’s farthest forward time zone, UTC+14, and is one of the first inhabited places on Earth to experience the New Year.
As it is an enormous atoll, Kiritimati contains about half the land area of the entire country and offers a bit more to do than most of the islands. There are truck and fishing-boat rentals, as well as dive operators, excellent big-game fishing and interesting bird sanctuaries. Anglers prone to seasickness can take heart: Kiritimati is home to some great saltwater fly-fishing, especially bone-fishing, and most fishing grounds are just a short wade from shore. Bring your surfboard too—the waves are awesome. Of course, there are the sunsets, too.
Although there’s enough to see to justify a three-night stay, the limited air service may require a longer visit. There are two weekly flights to Kiritimati; one departing from Fiji on Tuesday at midnight and second one from Honolulu, Hawaii on Tuesday mornings. They are both operated by Fiji Airways. There are also cruise ships that pass through fairly regularly.
Christmas Island is an external territory of the Commonwealth of Australia. The island was discovered 134 years before Kiritimati Island by the Dutch explorer W. Mynors on Christmas Eve 1643. It lies 2,600 kilometres (1,600 mi) northwest of Perth, Western Australia, 500 km (310 mi) south of Indonesia, 975 km (606 mi) ENE of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, and 2,748 km (1,708 mi) west of Darwin, Northern Territory.
Christmas Island hosts numerous unique fauna and flora species, including 14 species of land crabs. It is the location for the mass migration of 120 million red crabs, often called one of the great wonders of the world, and natural adventures, such as hiking to explore the mini cave known as the Grotto, or trekking to Hugh’s Waterfall or the magnificent Blowholes along the western coastline. Guests can enjoy lounging in one of the many beaches on the island, bird watching, snorkelling, scuba diving, and fishing.
Looking to visit Christmas Island? Check out this Cruise.