The Entrance to English Harbor, Fanning Island, Republic of Kiribati
Fanning Island Information
By Tom Ogg
Language and Currency
What is Fanning Island Like?
What is the Weather Like?
Where Does the Ship Dock?
Where is the Shopping?
What is There to Buy?
What is There To Do?
Is There Anything of a “Don’t Miss Quality?
Are There Any Great Restaurants or Bars?
Fanning Island is part of the Republic of Kiribati. English is spoken widely and US dollars are welcome everywhere.
Fanning Island is a coral atoll that is about 7 miles in diameter. With the exception of the main passage at English Harbor and two small passages only large enough for canoes, the interior lagoon is completely surrounded by the atoll. With only 2,000 residents and no electricity, or indoor plumbing, Fanning Island is about a close as one can get to the proverbial virgin tropical island in paradise.
The Main Tourist Area of English Harbor, Fanning Island
NCL has set up the island as they would one of their private islands. When passengers disembark at the tender dock, everything is there for their convenience. Lounge chairs, entertainment, a local open air market, bars, bar-b-queues, volley ball courts and so on are there for your enjoyment.
Fanning Island is only 185 miles north of the equator, so it can get very hot if the sun is shinning and there is no cloud cover. Hint: wear a high spf rated waterproof sunscreen and make sure your children are completely covered!
The ship actually drifts in the open ocean while calling on Fanning Island. The ocean drops in depth quite rapidly once beyond the water's edge of the island making going to anchor impossible. There are large (200 passenger) tenders that make the run between the ship and the tender pier at English Harbor.
The Fanning Island Handicraft Market
The local natives have created a formidable handicraft marketplace right as you arrive on the island. Numerous tables are set up with a good assortment of items for sale.
The local population on Fanning Island is quite creative and offers many different types of merchandise. Hand weaved baskets, shell jewelry, wood carvings, weaved grass skirts, small hand-carved boxes and collectibles, tee shirts and much more.
Do Not Buy These Shells
One of the offerings are the local shells that are collected from the lagoon. PLEASE DO NOT BUY the Triton's Trumpets (they are large spiraling shells decorated with a motley brown, beige and white pattern). While these shells are certainly beautiful, they are the only predator of the Crown of Thorns Starfish that makes an evening meal of the coral polyps in the lagoon. If the balance between the Triton's Trumpets and the Crown of Thorns Starfish gets out of whack, then the Crown of Thorns Starfish will commence to devour the entire reef (and eco system) that resides in the lagoon. This almost happened at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. If no one buys the shells, then more will not be taken to satisfy the demand.
And I am going to ask a favor from you in return for reading this information. If you are on Fanning Island and see a Triton's Trumpet shell for sale, please explain the damage that might happen to Fanning Island's eco system. On my last three visits to Fanning Island, Triton's Trumpet shells were being offered for sale in spite of my verbal protests to anyone that would listen.
Snorkeling at Fanning Island
Other than exploring the small portion of the atoll available to visitors at English Harbor, there is snorkeling, swimming and the beach sports that are offered on the island. NCL rents bikes so that one can take a ride throughout the portion of the atoll that English Harbor resides upon. NCL has funded a school for the children of Fanning Island, which is fun to see. (take along gifts to give to the children for a very rewarding experience)
If you want to spend the entire day on the island, I would suggest that you book the early beach and snorkel tour from the ship ($20). You will be on one of the first tenders to depart the ship, spend the morning at a secluded beach with excellent snorkeling and then be transferred back to English Harbor to join the rest of the ship for lunch. You can then spend the rest of the afternoon in the general area around English Harbor.
I especially enjoyed walking through the township on the trails that take you back into the residential areas of Fanning Island. The people are amazing and the experience surreal. Folks that complain about the experience as being "third world" must live in a vacuum. Yes, the Fanning Island natives life is different, but what wonderful people; especially the children.
If you would like to get your passport validated with a Kiribati stamp, bring it to shore with you and after the immigration officers clear the ship they set up "office" under a large Banyon tree in the middle of the NCL compound. One guy stamps your passport while the next guy actually manually signs it. I tipped them a dollar and they seemed happy with it.
Singing Fanning Island Children Greet Their Guests
BTW, when you arrive at the island there is a group of children sitting under a large tree singing their native songs to greet their guests. Pictures simply cannot capture the innocence of the moment. The trust and respect that is offered by the children is overwhelming. I tipped the group $5 and wondered about all the people that passed by without recognizing their songs and presence with a tip, or a gift.
Yes, if you travel to Fanning Island and do not get off the ship, you have missed the highlight of the entire cruise.
Nope, none. In fact there are none on the island other than those that NCL set up for their passengers.
42 users found this review helpful.
About Fanning Island: it is hot, it is poor, it is interesting, and the water around it is the most incredible shades of blue and green. It is something all...read more
12 users found this review helpful.
The Republic of Kiribati (pronounced Keer uh bas) is part of the Gilbert Islands and is across the date line. You actually sail across the date line...read more
36 users found this review helpful.
This one port is not worth the time it takes to get there. Our ship took 2 days each way, and had very little to do except sunbathing and bingo. We tried snorkeling,...read more
32 users found this review helpful.
Fanning Island is an atoll of 3 islands, each about 10 miles long and half a mile wide. There is no electricity, plumbing, or phones. The one road is a sandy...read more
18 users found this review helpful.
Now people will either love or hate this island. To us it was so charming. The water was absolutely gorgeous and clear. The people were friendly and it was...read more