Introducing Tarawa Atoll
Shaped like a two-sided triangle, Tarawa Atoll is the administrative centre of Kiribati. The atoll is divided into North and South Tarawa; the south is the locus of all government activity and services, while the rural north approximates an outer- island experience. South Tarawa is home to more than a third of Kiribati's population, most of whom live clustered in open-sided huts on the islet of Betio at the westernmost tip of the atoll. Betio was the site of a bloody victory over the Japanese by US marines in 1943; it still has huge guns along its beaches and rusting tanks just offshore.
South Tarawa is hot, noisy and chaotic, but don't be overwhelmed. Look a little closer and it's also vibrant and friendly, with many I-Kiribati retaining modified traditional lifestyles in the face of continuing urban drift.