If you’re travelling to Nauru, chances are you’re on business, ticking off every country in the world or visiting out of sheer curiosity – for this Pacific island is hardly your archetypal holiday destination.
Although ringed by a beautiful coral reef, the island's interior has been ravaged by decades of phosphate mining, extracted to supply Australia with fertiliser. The sea is also subject to strong currents and rocky pinnacles jut up immediately offshore, meaning swimming and diving are limited.
Tourism has never featured highly on Nauru's agenda, but there are a couple of dilapidated hotels and a handful of attractions: remnants of the Japanese WWII occupation, small beaches, a Chinatown of sorts and the lunar-like landscape of the mined centre. Buada Lagoon is worth checking out too, but swimming here isn’t recommended. You can also organise a deep-sea fishing charter and try your hand at hooking yellowfin tuna, marlin and wahoo.
Nauru’s main road stretches 19km (12 miles) round the country, so it doesn’t take long to see everything, and the climate is stiflingly hot and humid, so flopping under a palm tree is about as much as you can usually manage anyway.
This tiny island republic has gone from being one of the world’s richest nations (in terms of per capita income) to a country on the edge of economic ruin. When the phosphate began to run out, the economy took a downward turn. Consequently, Nauru has been forced to look to other means to keep the country afloat, most recently housing a controversial detention centre for Australia-bound asylum seekers in return for Australian aid.
Nauru’s airline runs a regular service from Brisbane, locals are as upbeat as they can be about the future, and signs of vegetation are beginning to appear inland, but the chances of increasing numbers of intrepid travellers visiting look slim.