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Northern Kiribati: A visit to Butaritari Island

By SY Streetcar — last modified Jan 08, 2013 04:10 PM
We have just spent 3 weeks in Butaritari - one of the most northern islands of Kiribati. Below is some information that might be useful.

Published: 2013-01-08 00:00:00
Countries: Kiribati

GENERAL

- Although Butaritari has air access to Tarawa it has very few facilities and is very quiet.

- There is no mobile 'phone coverage. There is at least one public telephone in the main village.

- The islands are lush and fruit and vegetables are grown locally. There are a handful of very small stores, in which it is possible to buy some canned provisions and sometimes flour.

-  The lagoon has fewer obstructions and has clearer water than Tarawa or Abaiang.

- While we were there the climate felt very different to Tarawa with more variability in wind direction and more rain. Winds often came from various directions (including west and north) around large areas of convection that moved past the atoll. These temporary winds were sometimes strong and made lee shores uncomfortable, but never untenable. It often took several hours for the gradient wind direction and strength to return.

FORMALITIES

- In order to visit Butartari, it was necessary to obtain permission from both Immigration and Customs in Tarawa (the same applies for all the outer islands).

- We submitted a written request to Immigration & then Customs  (in person). They each  provided us with a letter of introduction to give to the local police on arrival in Butaritari. This stated the length of time we were permitted to stay, and boat/crew details.

- We were directed to hand the letters to local police in Butaritari immediately on arrival. The police in Butaritari were expecting us  and waiting for us to report in with them. They wanted to see permit letters and passports.

- Permission to visit one of the outer islands is granted for a fixed period, usually no more than 2 weeks.

- Current policy (6/01/13) is that all yachts MUST return to Tarawa for final outward clearance, and yachts are not allowed to stop at any of the outer islands after making final outward clearance.

NAVIGATION AND ANCHORAGES

- We entered the atoll through South Channel Pass. This pass is deep and easy. There is currently one red buoy on a shoal in the middle of the pass on the lagoon side.

- CM93 charts seem to be reasonably accurate without need for correction. We also used Google Earth charts which we had previously set up. There are some uncharted bommies and shallow areas, particularly in the eastern part of the lagoon.

- The anchorage off the wharf in the southeast corner (Butaritari island) can be rough when the prevailing wind is east or north of east. This is not a great anchorage but gives access to the main village with police station. The old wharf provides a good dinghy landing.

- The best anchorages we found are at the eastern end of the lagoon. There is good holding in places off Natata Islands, but still plenty of coral to wrap around. When the wind goes south of east the anchorage off Kuma village provides an interesting change of location - holding seems to be good here as well.

- The village of Kuma has one small shop. Some fruit and veg is available although this may not always be surplus to the needs of the village.

- Where the lagoon's fringing reefs are wide there seem to be good protection from ocean swells, even at high tides. At low tides it is possible to walk considerable distances, exploring the exposed reefs and islands.

- Some protection from temporary westerly and north westerly winds can be found in the very north east corner. This may not work in stronger and more sustained westerlies.

- There have also been reports from boats anchoring in the very northwest corner of the atoll. We did not explore this area.

Kate Mackay & Rory Garland
S/Y Streetcar

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