Explore one of the worlds least visited countries, Nauru, shrouded with its own fascinating history form both German and Japanese occupation, modern controversy and mystere.
Nauru delivers dramatic unexpected landscapes of piercing pinnacles left over from the countries wealthy phosphate mining era tangled with lush jungle and a pancake like island ringed with pristine reef. WWII relics can be found high on hill tops and strangled by undergrowth. War prisons, hidden caves bunkers… Nauru’s phosphate mining put the country on the map. It was the world’s wealthiest country per capita for a short period, before the island of ‘guano’ created from thousands of millennia of seabirds nesting here, became exhausted and the country’s economy plummeted. The controversial Regional Processing Centre is one of the few lifelines of income to the island of Nauru, but again, this is only a short term solution as the centre is now empty. An island with fascinating mythology, a generation who lived through the Pacific War with incredible stories to share and a nation looking to progress and rebuild the wealth they once had. This is an incredibly empowering educational experience and will really shape your impression of Nauru and life on the island.
Welcome to Nauru! Flying into Nauru is quite incredible. This flat pancake like island nation, seems to just bob in the middle of the Central Pacific with ocean blue as far as the eye can see. Best known as a phosphate rock island and for the mining which raised and then destroyed the country’s economy as well as Australia’s refugee processing centre, Nauru is one of the smallest countries on earth as well as being one of the least visited with only 200 visitors a year!
Upon arrival at the airport, you will be met in the arrival hall and transferred to your hotel for check in. Drop off your luggage and your guide will take you to Bay Restaurant for dinner (payable locally). This locally owned restaurant serves a seafood and Asian infused menu. Be sure to purchase a chilled beverage and sit out the back on the expansive deck! A wonderful welcome to your first night Nauru!
3 nights Ewa Lodge or similar
Head downstairs to the local café where you can order a range of meals. (Not included). Be sure to stock up on any water or snacks you may need for your time in Nauru as it is not open on Sundays. Set off this morning as you head into the interior of Nauru. Your first stop will be the tranquil and lush Buada lagoon, the only body of water on the island. This is a very picturesque spot in the lower middle of the island. The lagoon is surrounded on all sides by dense palm trees and other vegetation. Once home to an abundance of Milkfish, this lagoon used to host traditional spearfishing competitions. Swimming is not recommended here.
Continuing on, see some of the old railway tracks which were used to transport phosphorus from Topside to the port for export. Venture into the tangle of trees as they strangle the piecing pinnacles made of sharp limestone. These pinnacles were once underground until the phosphorous around them was mined. Enjoy the brief shade as you meander through these towers and learn about both the German and Japanese occupation of Nauru. Under German occupation, Nauru was named Pleasant Island. The first site you will come to is the former German Communications Centre which was used a gas chambers to exterminate the locals not willing to work. An eerie site with a telling history, as you explore further into the vines, you will see prison cells – both above and underground which later became part of the Japanese prison.
Your next stop will be the double-barrelled anti-aircraft gun on the Command Ridge, before you drive further into the centre of the island via what is currently the local landfill site. Once you clear the landfill site either via vehicle or on foot (depending on the weather and road access), veer off road into the bush and scramble your way to two machine gun nests on the hillsides. For those feeling adventurous (and who are not afraid of heights), there is a further climb to the ‘Great Wall of Japan’ showcasing an incredible view over the lunar like landscape of pinnacles and the newly installed Chinese solar farms. Beneath you in the vegetation, are remnants of bombed aircraft and relics left over from the Pacific war. Continue on to the underground Japanese hospital where soldiers were once lowered in through the hole in the roof for treatment.
Drive past the Phosphate mine which is still operating at a limited capacity producing second grade phosphate. The mining equipment is very rusty and you can see the phosphate fumes when it is in operation which causes significant health issues for the locals who live in this district. You will also pass the former Regional Processing Centre which sits at the centre of humanitarian controversy.
Drive past Parliament House and the High Court. Your guide will return you to your hotel, where you are at leisure for a late lunch and perhaps an afternoon wander in the shallows amongst the pinnacles (wearing reef shoes of course) or take a swim in the newly formed boat harbour for a swim with the locals. There are plenty of locals fishing around here too if you wish to check out their catch of the day. This afternoon, one of the Nauru Airlines planes comes into land which many of the locals pause to watch at the runway as the local roads surrounding airport are closed due to the jet blast.
Sunday’s are a very sleepy day in Nauru. If you are an early riser, you may wish to walk around the entire island (19km, approx. 3 hrs) before the heat of the day sets in. Meet your guide and set off on foot to one of the highest points on the island. Climb up between the pinnacles to a former Japanese bunker with the most incredible view over Anibare Bay. Formed by the underwater collapse of the volcano that underlies Nauru, you will see the large arc shaped bay and if the sun is shining, the colours from up here are incredible.
Head towards Yaren, the busiest part of town and the closest district to a capital city and see the rusting counter leviers which were bombed in WWII. In the distance you can see the new counter leviers which transfer the baked phosphorus onto the incoming cargo ships. The new cargo ship harbour is between the two and was constructed by the Chinese. This is the biggest cargo port in the Central Pacific and has been built deep enough to house two Chinese submarines.
Your next stop is the sobering Nauru war memorial. A fascinating site as it differs significantly to most other WWII memorials who commemorate fallen soldiers. During WWII, when the Japanese occupied Nauru, they wanted to evacuate the population from the island for their ‘wellbeing.’ The population was slowly moved to Chuuk where many perished from malnutrition. The last vessel due to depart Nauru was coming into port to collect the last of the population when it was bombed by the Americans. This small population of Naruan’s now lived on the island during the war, some who are still alive today and have fascinating stories to share if you have the opportunity to chat with them. This memorial on one side, commemorates those who were shipped to Chuuk and did not return, and also those who did return. Further to this, there a glass cabinet with a scoop of sand and ashes from Chuuk for those who did not survive as their bodies were never recovered or laid to rest. Also in this cabinet is a piece of the vessel which was bombed.
The eerie story of this memorial is on the far side of the monument, under a plaque called ‘Lepers.’ This is perhaps on of the most inhumane stories from the Pacific War under Japanese occupation. Those were riddled with disease, disability and illness were promised a place on a vessel which would take the lame to be treated. Once aboard and only 1km from shore, the Japanese shot everyone on the vessel and pushed them overboard into the ocean to be sure they were rid of the ‘leppers’ and a portion of the memorial is dedicated to those victims.
Moving from war history to modern history, across the road from the memorial is a large empty concrete quadrangle which was used for activities to integrate the refugees into the community. Many refugees, once processed, stayed on the island of Nauru for some time. Many who ran local businesses, restaurants and bars which all contributed to the country’s small economy. Many married into the Nauruan community but most have now left the island. Those who still remain, are completely integrated into the local community.
Now, it is time to cool down and go below the surface. Grab your headtorch and venture into Maqua (Moqua) underground lake and cave. A vast cave network which is filled with fresh sea water via tunnels underneath the island. It is cool and refreshing down here and with a good head torch, you can see the extensive cave system.
Heading back towards your hotel, you will stop at the Anibare Ponds situated behind a local village where local children often play in the water. Here, your guide will share some of the traditional mythology stories that make up the Nauruan culture – ask about the story of Eigigu, the first lady on the moon from Nauru.
The afternoon is yours at leisure to enjoy lunch at one of the local restaurants (not included). This evening, why not head to Western bay (located at the end of the runway), where the locals gather for sunset. Often there is a food truck here or locals preparing a beach BBQ who may invite you to join them!
This morning, you have the option to book a private fishing charter (please enquire at time of booking), from 6am – 10am. Nauru is known for its deep sea fishing. Surrounded by a shelf where the island simply drops off to 1km deep, you are not too far from shore when you have the opportunity to catch yellow fin tuna, marlin or red snapper. If the fish aren’t biting, why not jump overboard and snorkel over the shelf? If fishing is not your thing, this morning if it is open, you will head to the Nauru Museum for a history recap of everything you have learned over your time here. From here, you will visit a traditional workshop where log waste that is destined for landfill or waste is converted into local furniture and traditional wooden postcards and other handicrafts. At midday, head to the airport for check in for your onward flight.
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**Please note that this tour can be organised on request for private departures.
* Pricing is subject to change at anytime until full payment has been received.
* A minimum of 2 adults is required to guarantee this departure.
A non-refundable deposit of $1000 AUD per person is required to secure your place. Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure. Travel insurance is mandatory for travelling with Crooked Compass. For full terms and conditions, please click here.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.