Fanning Island Overview
If you're on Fanning Island, part of the Republic of Kiribati and officially known as Tabuaeran Island, you most likely arrived by private yacht, sailboat or one of a few cruise ships. A sibling of the better-known Christmas Island, Fanning is extremely remote with no power grid or indoor plumbing. And that means it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience for cruisers to visit this untouched atoll in the central Pacific Ocean and its 2,500 residents.
Try a Kiri-Coco, a concoction of pineapple juice, coconut cream and Myer's rum served in a coconut shell.
Real grass skirts, shell necklaces, palm-frond baskets and shark-tooth knives, which are actually made on the island and not in Korea or China, make great souvenirs.
English is the most commonly spoken language on Fanning Island.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
Currency is the Australian dollar, but American dollars are also accepted. As there is no power grid on Fanning Island, there are no ATM's; be sure to get cash onboard or in another port of call before arriving.
Where You're Docked
Passengers board high-speed ferries to English Harbour. You'll disembark onto a wooden pier jutting into the clear, tourquoise water of a palm-fringed lagoon. Yes, it's picture-perfect, reminiscent of a Robinson Crusoe tale or a "Gilligan's Island" episode.
Near the pier at English Harbour, you'll find a beach compound with lounge chairs, entertainment, a local open-air market, volleyball courts and more.
There are a few ways to get around Fanning Island: on foot, by bike or on the backs of open-air thatched-roof trucks. It's easy to walk from the center of activity into the heart of the island; some locals also offer bike rentals and organized walking tours. Walks and bike rides can be taken on a hard-packed dirt road that has some ruts and potholes.
Watch Out For
As you should in any new place, be aware of your surroundings, and don't carry unnecessary valuables. Leave fancy jewelry and excessive amounts of cash in your stateroom's safe.
Take part in a rousing game of sand volleyball on the court in the center of the beach compound. Song and dance performances are also put on by Fanning church and school groups. The children are especially delightful in their grass skirts, doing a hula-like dance. There are usually three such groups who perform and solicit donations for their performances by setting out plastic buckets.
Been There, Done That
Take a stroll or bike ride. In 10 or 15 minutes, you can walk or pedal to the NCL Primary School and past homes made of coconut wood, palm fronds and corrugated metal. Nearly every islander greets tourists cheerfully, and the children call out "hello!" and flash sunny smiles. Though you might expect panhandling, we saw not a single outstretched palm.
The main beach, around the lagoon, is powder-white; the water is warm, clear and shallow -- perfect for swimming and splashing. Those who bring their own equipment might see angelfish, parrot fish and other reef fish. Unfortunately, the best snorkeling is from a boat in deeper water, but those are rare and can be difficult to hire.
Your best bet is to have lunch onboard your ship. While adventurous eaters might want to seek out local delicacies, islanders warned that Westerners would almost certainly fall victim to -- let's put this delicately -- traveler's discomfort. The coconut milk is some of the best in the world, but drinking too much of it can also loosen things up.
Staying in Touch
There are no phones or Internet cafes for passenger use on Fanning. The island has its own health center and three small clinics staffed by nurses, but there are no doctors; occasionally, patients can be transported by boat to Christmas Island.
Some ships may offer beach and snorkeling excursions, but it can be difficult to find boats to take passengers to deeper waters, where the best snorkeling areas are located. Bike rentals are also a good option for heading to the heart of the island or for exploring the area around English Harbour, and some locals offer organized walking tours of the island.
For More Information
Cruise Critic Message Boards: Hawaii
Cruise Critic Message Boards: Norwegian Cruise Line
The Independent Traveler: Hawaii Travel Guide