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Planning Retirement Online

Ageing Traveller Series

The Ageing Traveller series is written by Rose Howell, who has been traveling the world for over 40 years, beginning with New Zealand and then the ‘Hippy trail’ in the 70’s. Her travels have taken her to; Asia, Middle East, UK, Europe, Africa, South America, USA, Canada, China and the Pacific Islands. In total she has visited 67 countries plus all the states of Australia except Western Australia, and her goal is to make the century club. Her passion for travel is documented on her website

Click here to find out more about Rose.

A Guide to Kiribati

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Kiribati (Gilbert Group) for work. What an amazing experience.

Kiribati (pronounced Kiribas)

My experience. (February 2012)

Firstly we had to travel to Fiji and stay overnight before flying to Tarawa Kiribati. What did I expect to see on arrival? Having travelled extensively since the 70's to countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Africa, Burma, South America (just to name a few), I was surprised that it was as primitive as those countries back in the 70's. We flew in on an Asia Pacific plane, and on landing we could see that houses lined the strip and locals were on the edge of the tarmac waving. It is a novelty for the locals as there are two arrivals a week. Who doesn't like to watch planes landing and especially when you can get so close to them?

The airport was a tin shed with handwritten signs. Luggage was carried off the plane and put on a bench and then you had to find your own. You are able to hire a car to get around. It is easy driving as there is only one road and you won't get lost.

The widest part of the island is approx 500metres so you would end up in the sea either side if you took a wrong turn. The maximum speed on the road is 60kph. You need to keep to it as there are a lot of speed humps and no warning of them. As the road is shaded by trees it is hard to see the humps until you are on them. There was a lot of last minute braking which sent passengers and luggage flying.

There is also a toll to pay when crossing the main causeway. It will cost you 40cents one way. That poor man sits in his little hut collecting the toll 24 hours a day in very hot conditions with no fan or air conditioning.

We were lucky to be picked up from the airport and driven to the motel.
First impression of the island as we drove to our motel, was it is not the most beautiful I have seen but it has a beauty of its own. The locals describe it, as an ‘island for travellers not tourists" and that is so true. If you are looking for modernity, then this is not the place to visit. If you are looking at experiencing the island life and its people then this is where you come.

"Mary's Motel" run by George. Mary died in 2003 so George took over and his sisters and brothers help run the place. It is very clean but also very basic. The room did have an airconditioner and hot shower. They also had wifi internet access but it wasn't very reliable.

They have a restaurant which has a large choice of food which is very good. If you are into seafood (I am not) then lobster and very delicious fish is what you should try. The menu is a mixture of Asian and Western food. They even had pancakes which was a nice change. Prices were very reasonable and the serves were large. Drinks consisted of soft drink, water, beer and wine (not easy to get wine, white in particular).


The road on the main island goes for about 50 km’s and at the end you look over a beautiful island that happens to be a resort. You can only drive via 4 wheel drive at low tide or go by boat, so unfortunately I never got to check it out.
Evidently there a many islands like this and you can only access them by boat. I met a volunteer who was going to one of these islands to teach boat building for 6 months. How exciting. They have generators for power but everything is pretty basic. There are charter companies that take you to many of the islands fishing or surfing and the reports are that it is amazing.

One of my highlights was getting the opportunity to drive on the airport tarmac and direct planes (not really). How many of you can say you have done that?????

On another trip a group of us went to an island where you can walk across at low tide and get a canoe back at high tide. It was so relaxing and beautiful. You can do an all-day walk to a good swimming spot or just hang out in the hammocks eating and drinking.

Other sites consist of Parliament House, WWII relics (they do day bus tours) and the museum.

One thing that is evident in Kiribati is that a majority of them are religious. As we found out on Sunday. There is pretty much every denomination there. Sunday service is very musical and we were able to hear some of the singing which was lovely. They all get dressed up in white and look so nice. Don't know how they get their stuff so white though. We saw schools and churches of the Mormons, 7th Day Adventist, Uniting and Catholic just to name a few.

Where is it?

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 which is a raised limestone Island.

(From the air the Gilbert Group looks like a long snake)

Kiribati (pronounced Kiribas) is an independent republic within the Commonwealth of Nations, located in the central Pacific Ocean, about 4,000km southwest of Hawaii. It is part of the division of the Pacific Islands known as Micronesia.

The majority of the atolls is barely more than six metres above sea level and surrounded by barrier reefs creating picturesque lagoons for fishing, snorkelling, scuba diving, swimming and other water sports. Professional diving guides are available on Christmas Island (Kiritimati), Fanning Island and Tarawa.


Of the 33 islands, only 21 are inhabited, with most of the population concentrated in the Gilbert Islands. The capital is Tarawa.
Approximately 100,000 with 50,000+ living near the capital.

People (Micronesians)

The happiest and friendliest people I have met in a very long time. They know how to relax and not get too stressed. Life revolves around their family, music and friends.

One night, we came across the equivalence of a disco and watched and listened from the sidelines to their amazing dancing, drum and guitar playing and singing.


Temperature varies between 25° and 33°C. The wet season extends from December to May. A gentle breeze is predominant from the East and a sea breeze cools everyone down all year round.
What to wear? Cool, cotton, loose outfits for men and women.


Australian Dollar. There are a couple of ATM’s that you can withdraw money if Banks are closed.


There are no supermarkets but there is a large store called Moels Trading Store. They stock tim tams, weetbix, vegemite and of course all the other stuff. One thing that is hard to get is fresh fruit and vegetables as they have to get it in from Fiji. Fresh fish is plentiful in particular the best Tuna I have ever seen or eaten and when you order it you know it is fresh.

Phone cards are sold at Moels as well but there are several other places, like the securty office in the business area. Take your phone and buy a card and you can then ring home even though it is expensive. No texting available though.

There are a couple of bakeries with delicious buns.

Be careful of the icecream as a few people complained about getting sick. We bought ours from a large trading store that looked new.

Chatterbox cafe is the only place we found good souvenirs, make sure you have cash though as they don't take cards. They make great coffee there too and you can check in here for your flight instead of the airport.

There is a market in the main area but not a lot of choice.
Several restaurants that serve really good food. Check on their website.

Have you visited any unusual travel destinations? Tell us all about it:

Rose Howell Biography

Rose has been traveling the world for over 40 years, beginning with New Zealand and then the ‘Hippy trail’ in the 70’s. Her travels have taken her to; Asia, Middle East, UK, Europe, Africa, South America, USA, Canada, China and the Pacific Islands. In total she has visited 67 countries plus all the states of Australia except Western Australia, and her goal is to make the century club.
She has taken all kinds of transport and accommodation from budget to luxury. She has travelled through war zones, survived a bus accident in the Andes and visited areas that are no longer available to tourists, such as the Khyber Pass and Bamiyan Statues in Afghanistan.

Rose wants to inspire others to travel and offers free advice to all travellers in particular those who are embarking on their first travel experience. She has a passion for travel and since retiring from an Adult teaching position with TafeSA, has recently resumed clocking up kilometres interstate and overseas.
Her daughters have inherited the travel bug from their parents. The eldest daughter is a travel journalist/documentary maker based in a beautiful area called ‘Byron Bay’ in New South Wales and with her husband, has two globetrotting toddlers who at the age of 5 and 2 also love to travel. Her youngest daughter and fiancé have recently returned from 2 years working and traveling in the UK and Europe. They have only been home a couple of months and are already getting restless. Oh the travel bug!!!!

Rose has developed a website for the over 50 traveller where you can access for free all her advice and past and present stories. You can add stories of your own too.

She also has a blog on:


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