Kiribati (pronounced Kiribas) is an independent republic within the Commonwealth of Nations, located in the central Pacific Ocean, about 4,000 km (about 2,500 mi) southwest of Hawaii. It is part of the division of the Pacific islands that is known as Micronesia. Kiribati consists of 33 coral islands divided among three island groups: the Gilbert Islands, the Phoenix Islands, and the Line Islands.
All of the islands are atolls (ring-shaped islands with central lagoons) except for the island of Banaba in the Gilbert Islands which is a raised limestone Island. Of the 33 islands of Kiribati, 21 are inhabited. Most of the population is concentrated in the Gilbert Islands and only one of the islands in Phoenix Group (Kanton Island) is inhabited and three of the Line Islands are permanently inhabited. The capital of Kiribati is Tarawa, an atoll in the Gilbert Islands. Bairiki, an islet of Tarawa, serves as an administrative center.
Kiribati has a total land area of 811 sq km (313 sq mi). The islands extend about 3,900 km (about 2,400 mi) from east to west. From north to south they extend about 2,100 km (about 1,300 mi), straddling the equator. Kiritimati (also called Christmas Island), one of the Line Islands, occupies 609 sq km (235 sq mi) and has the largest land area of any atoll in the world. Kiribati’s exclusive economic zone (area of the ocean in which it controls fishing and other rights) covers more than 3 million sq km (more than 1 million sq miles).
The majority of the atolls is barely more than six metres above sea level and surrounded by barrier reefs creating picturesque lagoons for fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming and other water sports. Professional scuba diving guide are available on Christmas Island, Fanning Island and Tarawa.
Prior in 1994, the eastern and western islands groups were on either side of the International Dateline with a 23-hour time difference between them. The President of Kiribati at that time decided to move the dateline for convenience which attributed a 2 hour difference between Islands in the Gilbert Islands Group and the (Line and Phoenix) Islands Group. This also marked Kiribati to become the first nation to see in the Third Millennium and Caroline was renamed Millennium Island to celebrate the occasion during the year 2000.
Kiribati is 12 hours ahead of GMT – 2 hours ahead of Tokyo and 22 hours ahead of Honolulu, on the other side of the international dateline.