Country guides Australasia
Nauru is the world's smallest independent island nation, measuring eight miles squared (21 km sq). This Micronesian island is just south of the equator and has fewer than 11,000 local inhabitants. It is an intimate place where tourists, who are very rare, can expect a warm welcome. The local Nauruan language is one of the most unique in the Micronesian islands, but English is an equally common tongue, so there is no need for a phrase book.
Phosphate mining gave the islanders one of the highest per capita incomes in the world during the '60s and '70s, but after years of mining, there are thought to be only trace amounts remaining, which provide scant income for the island. Australian government grants have been the primary source of income to Nauru in recent times.
Mining procedures have adversely affected the island's environment, polluting some of the waters and making fishing, a previously common form of subsistence, impossible in some spots. In recent years, however, indigenous vegetation has begun to revitalise this formerly barren island.
Inhabited by the Germans and Japanese, and administered by Australia, New Zealand and the UK during the 20th Century, Nauru gained its independence in 1968. Today there are still traces of the Japanese occupation of the island during World War II, and tourists will enjoy visiting the former lookout bunker, complete with rusted guns and Japanese writing on the walls from the last watch.
For tourists interested in old mines, WWII relics, and meeting the locals, flights arrive several times a week from Australia. Like many of the Micronesian islands, Nauru has picturesque palm-lined beaches, with deep-sea fishing, bird watching and diving as possible tourist activities.
Since 2001, Nauru has intermittently played host to a number of immigrants and refugees awaiting admission into Australia. This has been a source of controversy and has affected visa rates and international opinion of the Nauruan and Australian governments. That said, this will do little to affect tourists and will mainly have travel implications for journalists and government officials travelling to the island.