First part of our Kiribati adventure in here.
After moving to another hotel our life in Kiritimati - or Christmas Island - begins to go on smoother. There's even fresh fruits available in the breakfast and restaurant has a menu even though options are limited on several days. Ice cream is served as a dessert after dinner. There's also a bar but it might be worthwhile to still buy a bottle overseas before heading here. The biggest difference is seen on people's friendliness even though their English might be limited.
The beach is made of bright white sand and water in the lagoon is astonishingly turquoise. Water is so warm that one could stay there forever. Know those photos from Thailand's empty paradise beaches, that in the reality aren't empty at all and maybe even not that beautiful? Those beaches, they can be found from here. As all the other guests are fishing, we have the whole beach to ourselves.
...until children from the nearby village come to swim. At first they stay further away but gradually move closer. Before long they're all playing, running, jumping and splashing water with Bella. Serenity might be gone but at least our child is happy. Playing doesn't ask for common language. Anybody can understand the language of smile, joy and laughter.
Kiritimati isn't by any meters a known destination so divers haven't found it yet. There's a dive shop called Dive Kiribati which has been on business for some years and The Villages hotel are also ramping up their diving business with brand new equipment and experienced dive staff.
The divemasters Zito and Tabi have over thousand dives on their belt and they also deliver tropical aquarium fishes to an agent in Honolulu. Back in the days they might have caught over 100 fishes on a good day.Now there are also seven other companies doing the exact same thing and the catch is between 10 and 20 if they are lucky.
We decide to go for an combined diving and snorkeling trip organized by the newly established dive center. Miika goes scuba diving while I snorkel next to boat with Bella and Watass, a girl from hotel reception.Water is crystal clear and after one can see the bottom 15-20 meters below. After snorkeling a while damn manta ray surprises me big time by gliding straight toward me and scares the crap out of me. Everyone sees the situation, including the divers below. Needless to say but they'll laugh at me for the rest of the day.
As we drive towards the second dive site we pass by inhabited islands. Bella says that the color of the water is like it's poured from a paint bucket. It is so beautiful. Deep, deep, blue.
All of a sudden we hear a splash- a pod of dolphins comes to race with our boat! Just next to our boat they put on a good show by jumping just few meters away. And there are so many of them!
Miika gets in the water for the second dive with his dive masters and we follow above where the current takes them. The dolphins come back to race with the boat, and this time they seem to be even happier! They do high jumps, somersaults, spins, twists and there are dozens of them! I've never seen anything like this!
On our way back we stop for quick snorkeling in the lagoon with eight manta rays. One comes so close to Bella that they could've high fived. On a last possible second they both turn away. Only one of them screams.
In the evening we gather once again the fishermen and us to chatter about the day. We're on fire of our experiences and so are they. The australian guy Sydney has caught an unusual trigger fish and it was big!
These guys play catch and release, so after a nice pose with the fish, they are let back in the water to swim away.
As a non-fishing person it sounds a bit strange. This weird cult of people gets up before sunrise to leave for 10 hours of fishing in the extremely hot sun - and they never bring anything home! This is however supposed to be a world top fish site for fly fishing, we are told. And so it really seems.
Everyone is a bit sad because of the big fishing vessels looming in the horizon. The overfishing they do already has an effect on the fish population around here as some of the fishers who've been here several times have noticed. The fishing vessels of course pay fees for fishing permits but the money is peanuts if the sea is becoming empty of fishes. Farming is nearly nonexistent in here so the locals' main diet is rice and fish.
Sundays are just like in the Fijian traditional village we visited earlier - quiet. The whole village attend service and kids go to Sunday school. We visit them and Bella is soon surrounded by a lot of happy kids.
Everybody is so friendly and welcoming.
We learn that people sleep in a big, open building next to church. They just put their mattresses on a floor for a night and tuck it away in the morning. There's very little privacy and the sense of community feels strong.
Days go by surprisingly fast. Some evenings we get some entertainment at our little hotel. And sometimes I'm totally mesmerized about it. A group of young boys plays pipes with their flip-flops and it's amazing! Yup, you read it right, flip-flops and pipes. I can't believe something this incredible comes out from something so simple.
Have a go and listen to it in the video below, just before you can watch the dolphins there too.
Somehow it seems like Kiritimati managed to get me fall in love after a difficult beginning. There's much it has to offer, and it's still a pristine destination where not that many have found their paths going.
Even if I've sat on the beach of Kiritimati to watch the sunrise as the first country in the world, I'm still moderately happy to leave to Hawaii after a week here and more than 4 weeks in Fiji. As a celiac traveling isn't always that delicious.
But you got me Kiribati.
I am in love.
A special thanks to Rupert, Sydney and Shane for some of the footage used in this post.