If you’ve ever come across the official Nauru Tourism Board account on Twitter, with over 470,000 followers*, you may have already heard of the Republic of Nauru.
In the 1980’s, huge revenues from phosphate exports enabled the country to offer free health care, school fees, free water and utilities, even tax exemption. What’s more, the government even covered living expenses and provided houses for newlyweds. Phosphate mining was handled entirely by foreigners and for around 30 years locals had the means to live without needing to work, giving Nauru the highest standard of living per capita in the Pacific region. However, the eventual depletion of phosphate threw the country into a serious financial crisis. In February 2003, Nauru was left isolated from the rest of the world due to a breakdown of its telecommunications network, causing all kinds of rumors to spread on the Internet as to whether this meant the end for Nauru. According to their official account, only three Japanese tourists visited in 2019. Three members of the domain tour went to check it out. The ccTLD for Nauru is “.nr”.
*As of July 19, 2023
◆Where is Nauru?
Nauru is located 42km south of the equator at 166 degrees east longitude, almost halfway between Tokyo and Auckland, New Zealand. It is the third smallest independent state, after Vatican City State and Monaco, with a land area of approximately 21.1 ㎢ and a boundary of 16km. English is the official language and the Nauruan language is also used. The population is 12,000 (as of 2021). The currency used is the Australian dollar (AUD).
*As of June 2023
= Table of Contents =
◆Where Entry is Forbidden Without a Visa
When I was booking my ticket, I checked the details included just to be thorough, and found that I needed a visa to enter Nauru! Not many countries ask Japanese passport holders to apply for a visa, so we hadn’t thought about it. I immediately contacted the official Nauru government through its website, but my e-mail was returned. So, unless we do something, we’ll be unable to enter Nauru! Clutching at straws now, I contacted a Nauru Airlines representative and also the Twitter account @nauru_japan and both of them told me to contact the person in charge directly. A few days later someone called Cramer Cain from IIS7 (Internet Information Service) sent me details in English about how to obtain a visa. It turned out that I needed to submit copies of my e-ticket, passport and proof of a hotel reservation. You can click here for more details on that.
So, in the end we had no trouble obtaining an entry visa. Let’s go to Nauru! Currently there are no direct flights to Nauru. Most people take a direct flight from Brisbane, Australia. We also flew from Brisbane to Nauru with Nauru Airlines. I expected the check-in counter to be quiet, but there was a surprisingly long line of people.
Boarding gate 85.
The cabin is pretty empty. We heard people conversing in a language that was probably Nauruan.
It was just a 4.5-hour flight from Brisbane, but we were still served an in-flight meal.
Our view of Nauru before landing. An island nation so small that the whole country fits neatly into an airplane window.
We arrived around 6:30pm. The light is starting to fade.
We saw a newer model of a Nauru Airlines airplane.
The airport is a tiny building with an area for people to watch the planes and wait for passengers.
There were only about 4-5 groups of tourists, including us.
Soon after passing through the arrival gate, there is a special lane for foreign passports where we wait to start the immigration process.
After passing through immigration, a SIM card can be purchased at Digicel, located just to the right of the exit. Digicel is the only telecommunications company on Nauru. Not all hotels have Wi-Fi, so we recommend buying a SIM card while you are here.
◆State-owned Hotel in Luxury Resort-Worthy Location
We head to Menen Hotel, the only state-owned hotel on the island. A shuttle bus will take you and any other guests to the hotel.
It only took about 10 minutes to arrive at the hotel from the airport.
Menen Hotel also sells SIM cards.
We found a plaque recognizing the donation of a solar power grid system from Taiwan.
The rooms are quite simple. Some rooms don’t face the sea or may have no TV. There are no hair dryers. Take note that you can’t even ask at the front desk to borrow one.
There is a mini supermarket called “Abundance” a few minutes’ walk from the hotel.
Many of the items seem to have been imported from Australia.
There were even some instant noodles with Japanese labels.
On our return to the hotel, we found a local party of sorts being held on the terrace and at the bar.
Music played until late.
In the morning, we took a stroll around the area and saw that the state-owned Menen Hotel was located in an area that you’d usually expect to find a luxury resort.
You can also take a walk along this beautiful beach, located just a short distance from the hotel.
◆The Only Lake and Prison Ruins
We asked at the front desk about a guided tour of the island. An around-the-island tour of Nauru goes counterclockwise on a road that circles the island, starting northward from Menen Hotel.
Reference Source:Nauru Guidebook (Pacific Islands Centre, PIC)
Near Anibare Bay, we saw a bunker (pillbox) built by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. There are bunkers like this all over the island. Originally the bunkers would have been hidden by trees and placed in locations that made them difficult to see.
Bunkers are reinforced shelters, dug into the ground or mountainside, made with concrete or other sturdy materials to protect equipment, supplies and personnel from shelling and other enemy attacks.
In the Ewa area, opposite the Menen Hotel, there is a World War II Memorial located near a phosphate facility.
In some places the paving was designed to look like the island of Nauru.
This phosphate facility is equipped with an extension bridge, called a cantilever, which loads the resources that have been mined in the center of the island onto cargo ships. These are used because the shallow waters prevent large ships from berthing. According to our guide, when they are in use it becomes very dusty.
A five-minute drive inland brings us to a lake surrounded by palm trees and other vegetation.
Buada Lagoon is the largest and only lake in Nauru. The surface has a beautiful mirror-like reflection. It’s classified as an endorheic lake, meaning it doesn’t discharge into another body of water, such as the ocean or a river. Fresh water is rare on Nauru, as it has no rivers or streams at all.
Our next stop was the ruins of a Japanese occupation-era prison near Buada Lagoon. At this point, we can’t see any landmarks at all.
We passed old railway tracks for trolley cars and through a massive rock formation before arriving at the entrance to the prison.
We keep on walking further and further.
Within the shadows of the rocks, housing for the prisoners emerges. Rather than a proper building, it looks like a small prison propped up between the rocks.
This one looks sturdier than the other buildings.
Perhaps they were used for violent prisoners or for those who committed serious crimes. It looks extremely weathered and neglected.
◆Beautiful Miss Nauru’s Relatives Reside in Osaka
We keep going on our tour of Nauru. Leaving the prison ruins behind, we continue along the road toward limestone pillars, called pinnacles. This area is the highest elevation on the island. We saw several bunkers along the way.
Further along, we came across an intact anti-aircraft gun used by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. The entire surface was rusted.
A hole in the ground near the gun. It’s a hole from which soldiers would climb out of to reach the position to shoot.
The next stop was the Civic Center.
At a nearby indoor sports ground, there was an event being held called the “Nauru Tourism Expo”.
There were booths selling souvenirs related to Nauru, such as coffee mugs.
Even Miss Nauru, Alexandra Pitcher, was there!
I thought she seemed familiar – she appears in the Digicel ads.
When I mustered up the courage to go and talk with her, she told me she has relatives living in Osaka so she has always wanted to visit Japan. She was very kind and elegant, just like you’d expect a Miss World contestant to be.
Reference Source: LOOP
Nauru Airlines, the airline we used from Brisbane, also had a booth.
When I said we were from Japan, they told us in the past they used to have direct flights from Kagoshima and Okinawa. They were really kind and friendly, always answering my questions with a smile.
Next, we visited the Naoero Museum, located near to the Civic Center. Admission is free.
A 3D map shows the location of cannons that were installed by the Imperial Japanese Army. Those areas are marked in red.
The museum displays many photos and items related to the history of Nauru or from the time of the Japanese occupation.
Wreckage of a Zero Fighter Aircraft.
Old used bombs were also on display.
A Japanese sword and old beer bottles.
Our guide, Mr.Harris. He was a uniquely flexible guide, letting us request where and what we wanted to do on our 2–3-hour tour around Nauru!
◆What to Eat on Nauru
We were starting to feel hungry so we went to “The Bay Restaurant”, recommended to us by our guide.
According to Mr.Harris, it’s the best restaurant on the island. Inside and out, it’s certainly stylish.
Out the back, you can dine in a relaxing space surrounded by greenery.
On our Domain Island Tours, we aim to visit any Japanese restaurants on the island, but sadly there are none on Nauru.
We first ordered the Steak Sandwich.
Also, a stir-fry and tuna sashimi. It came with Japanese disposable chopsticks, “Otemoto”.
Finally, Fish & Chips. That makes 4 dishes. All together it came to $54 AUD. All of these dishes suit the Japanese palate well. The chips were sweet, like sweet potatoes.
Dinner at Menen Hotel. The hotel’s Asian chef creates exquisitely seasoned and delicious meals! The total price for all 7 dishes, including drinks, came to approximately $87 AUD.
Unfortunately, due to faulty equipment, breakfast wasn’t available.
For dessert, we visited “Tropicana Café”, located near the big supermarket in the Ewa district.
We ordered iced tea and iced coffee.
As well as soft serve ice cream. While there were no nutritional labels on the drinks, they were well packaged. They were pretty sweet. The ice cream was very milky.
◆Driving With a Japanese Driver’s License
We had already confirmed with the local car rental company that we’d have no problem driving in Nauru with a Japanese license.
As we drove along the island’s main, and only, road, we were stopped at a checkpoint. A police officer was checking driver’s licenses. Since there is only one road, we ended up getting stopped three times at the same spot. Because it was a different time of day, it was a different officer that stopped us each time. At each stop, I would present my Japanese license and explain in English when it would expire and we had no problems at all. The police officers were friendly and smiley, not intimidating. While you don’t need an international license to drive in Nauru, keep in mind that if it has expired or is somehow incomplete you may end up detained for 24 hours.
Vehicles gifted to Nauru from Japan can be seen in use. We saw a fire truck with a Japanese flag on it.
We discovered that it was donated by Isehara City in Kanagawa Prefecture through The Society for Promotion of Japanese Diplomacy (SPJD).
This is a pumper tanker – the donated part was the water tank.
An ambulance donated by Kawaguchi City, Saitama Prefecture. It had been destined for scrapping but ended up being donated to Nauru instead, as there is a shortage of ambulances and fire engines.
Lightweight truck from Sasaki Corporation.
This one still has the logo “tas-auto.jp”. Nauru doesn’t have any traffic lights so pedestrians need to show caution when crossing the road.
◆Nauru Now Accepts Credit Cards – Miscellaneous Nauru Information
Today, Nauru has strong diplomatic ties with Taiwan, which we saw even at Menen Hotel.
Mr.Harris, our guide, told us that workers from Taiwan often visit and stay for a while to work on the local infrastructure, such as electricity and road maintenance. In 2002, Nauru had severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan and established diplomatic relations with China. But due to later reestablishing diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 2005, their relationship with China may change again in the future.
Incidentally, this punch clock used to monitor employee time, was made in Taiwan.
We saw many wild and stray dogs in town.
Some of them have collars and seem docile, but it’s best to not approach them.
Prior research told us that ATMs were rare and that credit cards weren’t accepted at all. But we actually found at least two ATMs while we were here (Menen Hotel and a large supermarket in the Ewa district). This is thanks to Bendigo Bank, an Australian bank, that started operating in Nauru from 2016.
Now many relatively new restaurants and cafes accept credit cards and some cafes even accept a variety of payment methods.
Nauru is famously known as “the island made from bird poop”. We asked Kaikoa about it, and it seems to be a fact that all locals are familiar with. Over thousands of years, Albatross droppings accumulated on the island and in time there came to be an abundant supply of valuable phosphate, a key ingredient in fertilizer. While at one point the depletion of phosphate caused a serious financial crisis, since 2004 a secondary mining of phosphate ore started up again and is now a major local industry.
◆Finding “.nr” Around Town
Used for the post office e-mail address.
Also used in an advertisement for Toyota Motor Corporation. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find many “.nr” domains at all. Although not seen in town, the “.nr” domain is used by the official website of the Nauru government, and others.
◆How to Purchase a SIM & Test the Internet Speed
Measuring the speed of the Digicel SIM (2GB, $31.5 AUD) that we bought at the airport: 360 Kbps – measured near Menen Hotel.