After clearing immigration I went outside and looked for hotel transport, which was nowhere to be found. I’d emailed them my flight details and they said the hotel transport would be there, but 30 minutes later nothing…and most people from the flight were gone by this point. After 45 minutes, I gave up. There were no taxis at all (supposedly Nauru has a taxi or two in the country, but nobody seemed to know how/where to locate them) so I started asking baggage handlers/etc around the airport if there was a way to call the hotel. One of the flight attendants from my flight had her cell phone, and rang the hotel. They said they’d send their van shortly.
The van arrived around 15 minutes later, about an hour after we landed, and soon we were off to the Menen hotel. It was an old minivan, and the side door of the van didn’t close. Oh life in the tropics!
Got to the hotel, and they seemed completely uninterested in checking me in. The guy at reception was busy watching the small tv in the lobby with his friends, and clearly the Chicago Bulls took priority over helping me. Finally checked in, got my key, and up to my room…where the AC barely worked. As anyone who knows me knows, aircon is a requirement, so I went down to the front desk to check into getting another room. “No” was the simple answer. No you don’t have any other rooms, no you refuse to give me one, or no you can’t be bothered to look?
I was persistent, and eventually he sighed and gave me the key to another room. The AC in this room worked rather a bit better, and it looked like it would work for the night. View from the room:
Spartan, but functional room:
Ocean view from just outside the hotel:
I had considered walking around the island since it was approximately a 20 km walk around the entire country, but it was hot. Really hot. It was almost nearly 4pm by this point so it would be dark way before I’d get around the island. Remember what I said about taxis? Uninterested front desk guy was pretty sure I couldn’t find a taxi to hire for a couple hours to drive me around the island. I kept pressing him. Surely something was possible. I came all this way to see Nauru, and it would be a real shame not to be able to see anything. Finally, he told me “the hotel driver will take you in the van. You can work out details with him.” I decided not to ask, and soon we were off.
Driving out of the hotel on the one road around the island:
The one road also happens to go around the airport runway:
Since it was the hotel van, and it was 5pm, we were also taking several of the housekeeping staff home after their shifts. The driver kept apologizing for the detours, but it just added to the local flavour and gave me more insight to the island. It was actually a bit of a bonus in my book!
Some rocks on the west side of the island at low tide:
We came across a beach that was filled with locals, so I asked the driver to stop for a bit so I could look around and take some pics. This guy had just caught a fish an was cleaning it up for dinner:
We continued our drive, and soon came upon the phosphate processing/shipping port. Up until several years ago, Nauru was one of the wealthiest countries in the south pacific, due to having large stores of some of the purest phosphate in the world. Then the phosphate started to run out, and revenues dries up…along with Nauru’s prospects.
Sun was about to set by this point, and I’d been told the place to be for sunset on the west side of the island was a place called Jules on the Deck which was a bit of an expat beach bar. There were also lots of locals hanging out drinking, and the view was awesome:
Sun beginning to set:
I went down to the beach to snap a few more pics, and ended up chatting with a group of Australian expats. They were NGO workers, and were in Nauru to work with some of the refugees who were on Nauru. See, Nauru has a population of about 9,000 people in the entire country. Several years ago, the Australian navy intercepted several boats of refugees, and rather than take them to Australia where they’d apply for asylum and anger the anti-immigration crowd, Australia stuck a deal with Nauru. They’d dump them in Nauru, build a detention centre for them, then pay rent to the government of Nauru. Australia “wins” because it doesn’t get 1,000+ asylum seekers, Nauru wins because it gets a bunch of revenue in the form of rents (not to mention hotel/meals/bars that aid worker types would spend money on) and the only people who lose are the refugees.
As the NGO workers called it, it’s alternately “Australia’s national shame” or “Australia’s Guantanamo.” At the beginning, it was basically a prison camp. They were confined to the facility, and had no opportunity to leave. Now, however, they’re free to come and go as they please. However, if they leave the camp and “enter” Nauru, they give up any claim to asylum and become temporary residents of Nauru. Confusing. Enough politics, just explained why I met so many Aussies.
Let’s get back to the important stuff: sunset and beer.
Dogs on the beach at sunset.
Sun almost set as I had beers on the beach with the Aussies:
The hotel van and I had agreed he’d come back at 7:30p post-sunset to pick me up and take me back to the hotel. About 8p, he finally showed up…ah island time.
When we got to the hotel, I offered him $20 Australian as a thanks for driving me around. He would have none of it. He was honoured he could help me see the island and wouldn’t take a tip. Finally, he agreed to take $10 to “cover the gas” although we both knew the hotel owned the van and was covering the gas. It was incredibly gracious of him to play free taxi for me, and I really appreciated it.
There was supposedly a decent restaurant near the Menen Hotel, but both the hotel staff and the people I met on the beach warned me that Nauru has a problem with wild dogs with rabies, making it unsafe to walk around at night. Uhhh… Well, there were several westerners in the hotel restaurant, so I decided to just eat there.
Egg rolls were rather tasty, and the ginger fish stir fry was actually super tasty. Huge chunks of fresh fish in a ginger sauce, yum! I don’t want to know the fat and sodium content of this meal, but that’s the price you pay sometimes for being in super remote places. You eat what’s available!
Woke up super early the next morning, just in time for sunrise:
Expats and locals had been throwing quite the party the night before at the hotel bar, and the next morning displayed the results of expats behaving badly. Litter everywhere:
Soon it was time to head back to the airport, and see if Nauru Airlines would be on time again to take me to Kiribati!
Did you find any postcards?
I am off to Nauru for a few days next week to do some Engineering training and am staying at the Menen Hotel. After which its back to the UK via Brisbane and Hong Kong
I am presently working in Fiji for a week or so and spending most of my time waiting around – they call it Fiji time – I call it a waste of time.
I made it to Nauru last week. Nauru Airlines now advises you to email the Nauru consulate in Brisbane before your trip to get an entry permit emailed to you. You send them an application, proof of hotel and airline bookings, passport scan, etc. and then they email you the entry permit and you show that at check in and present it on arrival to get stamped in to the country.
Menen Hotel now offers an island tour (in the hotel shuttle bus) and they charge $35 AUD.
They have postcards for sale behind the counter at the post office.
A$35 for a tour? Guess they’ve figured out how to run a tourist business finally! Good on them…happy to be a trailblazer lol
Makes me wonder just how many of us crazies have showed up in Nauru in the last year playing tourist.
I thought $35 was quite reasonable for the two hour tour, we lapped the island a couple of times and drove into the interior to see the phosphate mining and the refugee camps. I asked about the tour at 8 a.m., they said the “concierge” would take me in the shuttle bus at 9. Then at 9 they said 11. Then at 11 they said 1. Apparently he was “out fishing” so at 1 a couple of the front desk girls were going to take me, but then he finally showed up.
I asked the driver/concierge if the Menen Hotel gets a lot of tourists and he said “Yes, every week.”
During the tour, we passed a burned out car, he said it had just happened the night before, some dudes from one district burned the car of a guy from another district. Nauru is divided into about 14 districts, and every 2-5 minutes you pass a sign saying you’re entering a new district, and apparently the young local men from each district rumble with each other.
An expat recommended that I do the “bomber track” hike, it’s a hike that leads to the remains of a downed US WWII aircraft. I didn’t get a chance to do it, as I didn’t have good footwear for it and the Menen concierge had never heard of it:
This is a great blog Jason. As a citizen of Nauru, I find your summarised overview of Nauru to be most accurate. Those who have also posted reviews are also spot-on in their comments as well. Nauru is virtually inexperienced in the tourism industry and perhaps reviews like this would help make improvements in the future.
I’ve travelled extensively as well to many countries and I must say that the report on Nauru is a fair and just assessment of a typical day in Nauru. It’s not often that I get to read accurate reviews on the island but this one hit the nail on the head. Well done and keep up the good work.