Although other island states may be smaller in area and/or less populous, they are all dependent territories of other countries, so Nauru keeps the title of the world's smallest independent republic.
Mining of Nauru's phosphate deposits, which occupied about 90% of the island, began in the early 20th century under a German-British consortium. During World War I, the island was occupied by Australian forces and became a dependent territory. Nauru achieved independence in 1968. In the 1980s, phosphate exports briefly gave Nauruans one of the highest per capita incomes in the Third World. As of 2008, most of Nauru's revenue came from the export of phosphate to Australia, South Korea and New Zealand as well as other countries. The industry is controlled by the Nauru Phosphate Corporation (NPC). It is anticipated that the phosphate reserves will be completely exhausted before 2050. The sale of fishing licences is the other major revenue raiser. Countries such as Australia and Taiwan provide substantial development cooperation funding. Despite this, the unemployment rate currently stands at 90%, which is the highest in the world. That is not the only problem on the island, as over 95% of the population is obese and over 40% suffer from diabetes.
In 2001 the container ship Tampa rescued several hundred asylum seekers from a sinking Indonesian vessel and attempted to deliver them to Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, which is an Australian Federal Territory. In what was labelled The Pacific Solution, the Australian Government established an Off Shore Processing Centre (OPC) on Nauru where these people were housed, pending assessment of their claims to be refugees. The OPC was closed in early 2008.
The climate is tropical, with some rain occurring between November and February.
There are a few "sandy" beaches but most of the shallow area around the island is coral reefs. Most of the interior of the island is worked-out mining land, which is to be rehabilitated.
There is a lagoon on the island, the only body of water there.
All foreign visitors require a valid passport, a 30 day tourist visa and proof of hotel booking or local sponsor in order to enter Nauru. Your visa must be obtained from your local Nauruan embassy before departure. There have been rumours on the Internet that you can get in for up to three days without getting a visa, but that is not accurate.
Nauru's national carrier Nauru Airlines flies to Nauru International Airport from Brisbane (Australia), Tarawa (Kiribati), Kosrae (Micronesia), Majuro (Marshall Islands), Nadi (Fiji) and Pohnpei (Micronesia). Schedules change throughout the year; further details are available from the Our Airline website.
Nauru is so small that it takes less than one hour to drive right around it. The airport runway cuts across three of the twenty kilometres of road. The only traffic lights on the island are used to stop the traffic and allow the plane to cross the road to the terminal! This is a favourite souvenir snapshot taken by visitors.
Traffic drives on the left. The 19km Island Ring Road circles the island. Drivers should be on increased lookout for animals and pedestrians while driving on the beltway. There is a community bus which travels around the island every hour or so during the day. Cars or bicycles can sometimes be rented from Capelle and Partners, the largest local supermarket.
The official language is Nauruan, a distinct Pacific Island language. Some locals speak Tuvaluan or Gilbertese which are quite common around the island since these two ethnic groups have historically worked in the Nauru mining industry. English is widely understood, spoken, and used for most government and commercial purposes.
Nauru uses the Australian dollar as its national currency. Cash transactions are the norm; credit cards are rarely accepted. There is only one ATM on the island which is situated at the Menen Hotel reception area.
Food is imported from Australia and arrives by ship and plane, usually every week as the vessels have been in operation regularly. There are lots of small "eating places", selling Chinese food. There is a fast food kiosk at Capelle's supermarket served by the locals and at Milton Ross supermarket served by Filipinos. There is also another fast food take away at McDon's, serving Filipino dishes.
Nauru has a serious obesity problem, as will become apparent as soon as you arrive. The decision to mine the phosphates led to almost complete loss of agricultural land, with the result that almost everything is imported. Such imported foods are usually processed and high in sugar and fat. Several studies have cited the country as the fattest in the world.
Dining in Nauru is a great experience. During your Nauru tours, enjoy all kinds of delicious and healthy dishes. Since, Nauru is an island nation, seafood is very popular in its restaurants. Most of the restaurants of Nauru offer delicious seafood dishes.
If you go to the restaurants in Nauru, you will be offered authentic dishes that are loved by all. The cuisine of Nauru is highly influenced by the cuisines of countries such as Germany, Australia, China and Britain. You can savour all kinds of mouthwatering dishes in the various restaurants and bars in Nauru.
Local owned restaurants 'Jules' and 'Bay Restaurant' are popular names in the list of restaurants and bars in Nauru. Jules serves seafood delicacies from mussels, oysters and whatever you love from the ocean. 'Bay Restaurant' serves Asian delicacies and variety of pizza. Both places have various drinks to serve. There are many other restaurants in Nauru that are Chinese owned. There are many food stalls on certain roadsides on the island where local sell barbecue serves of variety dishes. If you crave for barbecue, keep an eye out for the 'BBQ signs' by the roadsides. Nauru cuisine is very light because of the high temperature. Another popular area to eat is at the 'Eigigu takeaway' which serves local food. It situated close to the Nauru Post office. Therefore, you will get to savour simple food items in the eateries of this country. The aroma and flavour of the delicacies of Nauru are unique to this country.
The dishes offered in Nauru are a treat to the taste buds. Sushimi, Coconut fish and Meat are one of their main foods. Cooked and smoked hams are also very popular.
The Reef Bar at the Menen hotel used to be the only bar in Nauru. It is situated at a walking distance of 30 minutes from the Od-N-Aiwo, the only other hotel on the island. It serves Australian beers, Chinese beer 'Tsingtao' and international spirits. The bar-room has a couple of pool tables, satellite TV and recorded music. It's lively at the weekends as there is local 'Live Bands' playing. There is also a huge flat screen allocated outside at the patio where there is a sea view at the background and guests and local friends sit and watch football game match live every weekends as part of their social outing. There is a new bar on the island 'Jules' situated in Denig district that is privately owned which had recently opened in the late 2012. New faces will be enthusiastically welcomed by the locals and the expats will usually have a chat, too. No flip flops/thongs/shorts (enclosed sandals are OK). The usual clothes wear for men is collar T-shirts or floral island shirts and skirts/dresses for women. Standard clothing is highly recommended.
There are two hotels, the more expensive Menen on the east of the island and the budget Od'n Aiwo to the west.
Like many other Pacific Islands, Nauru is surrounded by a shallow reef with cut-outs through the reef providing access for boats and harbours, and there can be strong currents across the shallow water, moving boats in the harbours, and dangerous marine animals on the reef floor. Ask for advice before venturing into the water.
The trafficking of drugs and narcotics of any kind will be punished severely.
Homosexual acts are still technically illegal in Nauru and can lead to prosecution. Open displays of affection between same-sex partners may offend some in Nauru.
Water supply in Nauru is dependent on rainwater collected into tanks from the roofs of houses and from an ageing reverse osmosis desalination plant.