Update December 20, 2019:
The Fly Shop® is postponing the Fanning Island Project until further notice. Our partners Pegasus Lodges is hoping to start construction on the new lodge sometime in February 2020 with completion in the Spring. As soon as we have more information to share, we will update you.
Thank you for your patience…
Fanning Island is the latest super-exciting new flats fishing discovery in equatorial Pacific. Fanning Island, known locally as Tabuaeran Island (which means heavenly footprint in the local dialect), is smaller, quieter; a more remote neighbor to the widely recognized Christmas Island.
Fanning Island, known locally as “Tabuaeran”, is part of the Line Islands of the central Pacific Ocean, in the island nation of Kiribati. Fanning is located 173 miles north of Christmas Island, and just over 1,000 miles southwest of Hawaii. The local population on Fanning consists of 7 villages, and less than 2,000 residents (compared to nearly 20,000 now living on Christmas Island).
Moreover, Fanning is an island in many ways lost from time, as it has been without any form of regular air service since 1993 and as such the number of foreign visitors prior to 2017 could be counted on a couple of hands, only those arriving by boat from the capitol of Tarawa – over 2,000 miles away – or on the “Kwai” a commercial transport vessel from Honolulu that delivers supplies to the island a few times a year. Thus remains a peaceful island, with a spectacularly beautiful inner lagoon home to bonefish, trevally, parrotfish, Napolean Wrasse, and a variety of other species of fish that have never seen an artificial fly, as well as miles of outside reefs providing additional angling opportunities as well as world class surfing.
The Fly Shop® conducted a series of 4 exploratory trips between January and September of 2017, followed by 6 more expeditions in 2018, and 4 in 2019. As of June 2019, a total of 68 anglers have fished Fanning Island in the past 3 years. For comparison, this is about how many anglers are on Christmas Island on a busy week!
During this time we gathered a sense for the viability of the fishery, as well as working to develop the long-term sustainable approach to protecting the lagoon fishery with the support and cooperation of the Tabuearan Island Council and the people of the 7 Villages on the island.
There remains much to see, learn, and discover in this beautiful tropical island. We know there are good populations of fish, and these fish are aggressive, having never seen an artificial fly. At the same time, it is a very unique fishery, quite a bit different from neighboring Christmas Island. As we continue to discover more about the fishery, and the guides and local communities gain more experience, the fishing on Fanning Island is only going to get better and better.
Reservations & Rates
The cost of the 7 night/6 day package is $4,995.00 USD per person (double occupancy - Tuesday to Tuesday)
Your angling package at Fanning Island includes the charter flight from Christmas Island to Fanning, conservation fees on the island, meals, lodging at a local homestay, and transportation around the island (road and boat).
Not included in your Fanning Island package are round trip airfare to Christmas Island; all alcoholic beverages, gratuities; meals and accommodations while in Hawaii; items of personal nature, including fishing tackle and any other items not specifically listed in the inclusions; travel insurance.
The Fly Shop® is not in the insurance business, but we recommend Travel Guard coverage as a service with a desire to see your best interests protected. It is impossible to know when an unfortunate situation (loss of luggage, fly rods, illness in the family, or an accident) may occur. However, such things can and do happen, and this insurance can provide a means of recourse against non-refundable financial losses.
• Travel Insurance Information
Seasons at Fanning Island
Fanning Island sits in the equatorial calm, lying well east of Pacific storm development areas.
Because of its proximity to the equator, Fanning does not have seasons as we know them. The temperatures in January are virtually identical to those in July. Easterly trade winds blow throughout the year at an average of 10 to 20 knots. It's rarely humid or unpleasantly hot. The mean daytime temperature is 80°F, and the evenings drop down
to a breezy 72 degrees.
Fanning does differ drastically from its southern neighbor, Christmas Island, in that it has more annual rainfall, averaging about 75 inches of rain a year (compared to about 30 inches at Christmas). This makes for a more lush environment. You do want to be sure be prepared with a light rain jacket in case you get caught in a downpour.
Statistically, the three "wettest" months of the year are March, April, and May. When storms do hit the island, they typically only last for a few hours, and it's rare to have a full day of cloudy wet weather.
Getting to Fanning Island
To get to Fanning Island, you will first have to travel to Christmas Island (Kiritimati) via either Honolulu or Fiji. Most guests plan on arriving in Honolulu on either Sunday or Monday, or in Fiji on Monday or Tuesday. Fiji Airways flies every Tuesday between Nadi (Fiji), Honolulu, and Christmas Island. You cross the International Date Line, so on Hawaii time you fly Tuesday to Tuesday, while on Christmas Island it is actually Wednesday to Wednesday. The flight to Christmas Island departs Honolulu Tuesday at 12:00 PM, arriving Christmas Island at 3:30 PM on Wednesday. The following Tuesday (Wednesday in Christmas Island), the
return flight from the island typically leaves about 7:00 AM and arrives in Honolulu at 10:30 AM.
We strongly recommend using the services of our professional travel agent in Honolulu: Renee Mahler with Ultimate Vacations. She is the best resource for reservations between Honolulu and Christmas Island (Cassidy International Airport, code CXI). She is very familiar with this flight and will take good care of you. Moreover, if there are ever any travel delays related to either the charter flight to Fanning or the commercial flight on Fiji Airways to/from Hawaii (or Fiji), she will be able to assist you in any rebookings needed to get you home. While these sorts of delays are rare, they do happen. This is also another good reason to purchase Travel Insurance for this trip.
Upon arrival on Christmas Island you will disembark the Fiji Airways flight and clear customs and immigration in the small, one-room “terminal”. You will be met by a representative from Fanning Island who will help you with your luggage.
The flight from Christmas to Fanning is aboard an Air Kiribati Harbin Y-12. The Harbin Y-12 can take up to 12 passengers. The flight will last about 1 hour, 15 minutes. Soon you will be touching down on beautiful Fanning Island, on a 1,200 meter dirt strip on the northern side of the atoll.
Please note, life in these remote tropical islands operates at a VERY different pace than we are used to in the modern world. There is some degree fluidity – along with patience and persistence at times – with the transfer from Christmas to Fanning. The Fiji Airways flight from Honolulu lands late in the afternoon, around 3:30 pm. This allows a very narrow window for guests to de-plane, clear customs, and re-board the Air Kiribati Charter flight with enough time for the plane to make the 1 hour and 15 minute flight to Fanning, and return with enough daylight as there are no runway lights in either place. All told there’s only about a 45 minute cushion of time, so if the Fiji Airways flight is delayed at all…the flight to Fanning won’t go that night. While the Fanning outfitter does try to get Air Kiribati to fly direct the afternoon of arrival, they rarely seem to be willing to do so.
In most cases guests will be transported to a hotel upon arrival to Christmas Island. You will depart the hotel early (7:00 am) the next morning and the Air Kiribati flight will depart at 8:00 am for the 75 minute flight to Fanning. You’ll be met at the landing strip, rig up, and start fishing right away. You will want to pack in such a way that you can easily rig up and prepare for your first day of fishing on the beach (don’t forget your sunscreen!), while the staff take your luggage to the village.
If you are able to fly to Fanning immediately following the Fiji Airways arrival, guests will board a flatbed truck at the village of Tereitaki for a short drive to Tabon te hanger near the mouth of the lagoon. The trip is about 3 miles and will take approximately 20 minutes as the road is not maintained. Here you will board a cargo barge and be transported across the “English Channel,” about a 5 minutes ride, to the pier at Paelau. There you will be greeted by either the infamous Bruno Delali, who will help load your luggage into his small truck for the short, 5 minute truck-ride to Bruno’s home-stay, A La Belle Etoile. Or, once the Pegasus Ecolodge is completed, you will be greeted by the lodge staff who will help transport your luggage to the resort, just a few hundred yards from the dock. On the final day on Fanning, anglers will want to pack and organize most of your gear before departing for fishing in the morning.
The flight should depart Fanning at either 12 pm or 4 pm. We strive for the later departure, but Air Kiribati sometimes insists on the earlier departure. Either way, there is time for a few hours on the flats, so if you want to fish that day, go for it! It's easy enough to have your bags packed and set out early that morning, and the staff can get them to the airport for you while you're fishing. The guides will fish you on the flats not too far from the airport, and drop you off there sometime around 11, in time for the flight. The plane will most likely land around 10 am, dropping off people or supplies from Christmas before taking off and continuing on to Washington Island. It will then return, refuel, and you'll load up and depart around 12. You'll be back on Christmas Island by 2 pm.
If the flight goes at 4, you will have the option to either fish for a few hours in the morning, then return midday to the lodge to clean up, have lunch, and finish packing; or, if you prefer you can pack a lunch and fish most of the day and the guides will fish you right to the airport to fly out that afternoon. The flight will depart Fanning at around 4:00 pm, arriving at Christmas Island at around 5:15 pm. Upon arrival at Christmas you and your luggage will be transported by covered truck to the nearby hotel, where you will be accommodated for the night (meals and bottled water included).
Early the next morning you'll fly on Fiji Airways back to either Honolulu or Fiji.
Lodging at Fanning Island
The current accommodations on Fanning are at a local homestay, affectionately called A La Belle Etoile. But most people just call it Bruno's. Bruno is an legendary sailor and expat Frenchman who has lived on Fanning for 30 years, married to a local and with a family. The homestay is his house and surrounding complex, a true marvel in its own right of island ingenuity and vision. There is nothing else like it in the world.
The grounds in total are about an acre, although it is hard to gauge because it's a maze of vegetation, stone walkways, outdoor showers, and
sleeping huts. Smooth flat stones and decorative coral compose a flat and manicured drive and walkway throughout.
A series of small thatch-roofed wooden huts, called kiakias, are tucked into niches around high trees and coconut palms everywhere. There are 6 huts in all, allowing for single accommodations. Each is a small low building with a full bed encompassed in bug netting. Everything is open air, with ample space to spread out gear and settle in. The roofs are low and while there is solar-powered light a flashlight is a must as it is fairly dark at night even with the low lights. Each hut is isolated and overall very private.
At the back of the complex is the main house and kitchen, adjacent to a covered outdoor dining area with two picnic tables. In the center is an open air freshwater shower. Behind the main building is a second two story building, the first floor containing a storage area with refrigeration units and a workshop, and upstairs an extra room for hosts or additional guests.
Also behind the main house is a small greenhouse, then another outbuilding which contained one of the two freshwater toilets and showers. There is a second toilet and shower inside the main house. There is also an open-air shower in the center of the grounds, somewhat private with foliage around and a very popular option for many guests. Water is pumped at low pressure with small water pumps, using local ground water. The water is okay for showering and cleaning, but is not safe for drinking or brushing teeth. There is no water heater, so don't expect hot water (but the cool water feels really refreshing!). Bruno has a 7,000 gallon catch basin for fresh rainwater for the drinking water supply. Very efficient and safe, without the waste of plastic water bottles (you'll want to bring a re-fillable water bottle).
The food is surprisingly excellent given the remote nature of the island. During your stay you will enjoy such local delicacies as fresh fish, lobster, giant mantis prawn, land crab, local chicken and eggs, and local pork. Fresh bananas, bread fruit, limes, and occasionally small mangos will grace the table depending on the season. And there's always fresh coconut milk, kamaimai syrup made from the nectar of the coconut tree, and dried fruit roll from tasty pandanus fruit.
Solar power creates 24-hour power, totally off the grid yet self-sufficient. It's possible to charge things on 110 AC inside the main house. It's his home, and his wife and kids are all over the place, adding to the overall ambience, especially when combined with the chickens, chicks, roosters, cats, and the sounds of pigs from the neighbors. It is at the same time homey and comfortable, like camping but way more comfortable and with a unique and distinctly island feel.
At Bruno's you are literally immersed in the island life. Though private, the home stay is in the village of Aontena so you can also expect to meet some of the friendly neighbors who will no doubt be curious about the I-Matangs (Kiribati word for "foreigner") visiting their island. Villagers stop by, kids are running around, and you don't want to expect a quiet night as roosters are making a ruckus all the time. With all of that, it is a memorable part of the trip. In fact, it's a big part of what makes the entire experience so amazing and truly special. It's not for everyone…but for the right people it's an experience you'll never forget and will surely long to return to.
Fanning Island Eco Resort:
Pegasus Lodges has designs in place and all of the building materials on the island, ready to start building their new Fanning Island Resort. As soon as they get final permission from the government, they anticipate the lodge being built and ready to go within about 2 months' time. In many ways it will be sad to not be staying at Bruno's slice of tropical heaven, but a definite, vast upgrade in overall level of comfort and services.
Pegasus already has the lease in agreement with the Island Council for the 25 acres of land that encompasses the entire point from the harbor to the channel and both the lagoon and ocean sides. It's a big parcel and quite beautiful with a high canopy of mature trees and lots of room to build. There on the point it is considerably cooler with the breeze blowing in across the lagoon. It is also considerably quieter, with no dogs or roosters or people, just the sound of the surf outside and rustling of leaves in the canopy. The new lodge will feature a central main lodge in the heart of the property. Interspersed around the property will be eight private, individual bungalows, four with views looking out onto the lagoon and four others looking out on to the ocean side and surf break. Each will be built on raised wooden platforms to maximize the cool breeze coming off the sea and lagoon, designed along the lines of a deluxe safari-style spacious tent.
Fishing at Fanning Island
We came into our advance exploratory trips with high hopes, and realistically moderate expectations. Fanning is an unknown, unexplored fishery; while one always hopes a “new” destination is remarkable, you never know until you actually get there and make a few casts. Upon returning from our first few trips to Fanning Island, however, we realized this remote Pacific Island holds a remarkable fishery with incredible potential to get even better with time, development, and protection.
From these initial forays to the island we’ve begun to understand much more about what Fanning Island has to offer the adventurous angler. It’s a very diverse fishery, with a variety of flats, reefs, and channels home to bonefish of all shapes and sizes, several species of trevally, parrotfish, even napoleon wrasse.
Bonefish are the largest draw to anglers wishing to explore Fanning Island. There are decent populations scattered around the lagoon, though not nearly the populations of fish that are routinely found on Christmas Island. If you’re in the right place at the right time you can encounter good numbers of fish, while most days you’re hunting the flats in search of a few true trophy bonefish. The average size for Fanning bonefish is around 3-5 pounds, while we also see bigger fish from 6-8 pounds regularly and double-digit sized bonefish are here as well. These monster bonefish readily take flies, but frequently break 20# leaders or straighten #2 hooks!
There are also good numbers of Trevally here, including Bluefin Trevally, Golden Trevally, Striped Trevally, and plenty of Giant Trevally. Many are smaller size from 3-10 pounds (perfect for making a quick cast with your bonefish rod when they suddenly appear on the flats), while bigger brutes from 25-60 pounds make an appearance most days, exploding up onto the flats in massive pushes of water. These bigger GTs can be targeted on the higher incoming and dropping tides, especially in the areas around the NE Pass and the remote Irapa Wilderness.
In addition, there are schools of parrotfish, napoleon wrasse, and a host of other exotic species both big and small that can be spotted and targeted around the atoll. The lagoon itself is an exceptional habitat for a variety of flats species, especially bonefish and trevally. It’s not a huge lagoon overall (about 13 miles long by 5 miles wide), but the volume of the flats is expansive. There are a few flats you could spend a whole day on, while smaller pancake flats pop up throughout the inner lagoon. Most are easily waded on hard-packed white sand. A few have an uneven bottom, and some in the middle of the lagoon are punctuated by chunks of coral. Bonefish of all sizes come up out of the deeper waters of the lagoon and slide onto the flats to feed, while a host of trevally species patrol the channels and edges to attack unsuspecting baitfish and schools of parrotfish splash their purple-hued tails around the coral.
There are white sand flats ringing the entire inside periphery of the lagoon. There are also three “passes”, where water feeds into the lagoon from the outside: the main “English Channel”, which is near the village and is a deep channel, good for trolling but no wade-fishing opportunities; the NE Pass which has miles of flats interspersed with deep channels and coralheads, home to large bonefish, aggressive trevally, and finicky tailing parrotfish; and the spectacularly beautiful, super remote Irapa Pass, which is a challenge to get to and even then only possible on the right tides, but worth every effort as it boasts incredible bonefishing and trevally action as the tides rise and fall. Finally, there are miles upon miles of flats both big and small that punctuate the inner lagoon, all great for big bonefish coming up from the deeper lagoon water, as well as chances at marauding trevally.
There are also outside reef flats, which are challenging to fish as they are extremely physical walking with a lot of loose rocks and rubble, but those adventurous anglers who’ve trekked the outer reef at Fanning have been rewarded with more than just sore muscles, including some huge triggerfish, parrotfish, napoleon wrasse, and GTs in the surf.
The Guide Team:
The head guide at Fanning is Kiritimati (pronounced “Christmas”). “Christmas” is the brother of the renowned Christmas Island guide, Teannaki. Teannaki taught “Christmas” how to fly fish and how to guide on nearby Christmas Island, but Christmas refused to leave his beloved Fanning Island. Now, he is excited to share his island’s flats with fly fishermen. He is an outstanding guide who knows the lagoon on Fanning better than anyone else alive.
Over the past few seasons, Christmas has worked hard to build and train a team of local guides. One is his brother, “Ra”, who was also trained by Teannaki and has exceptional eyes for spotting fish regardless of the conditions.
The two “newer” guides are Beni and Ram. Both are young, enthusiastic, and hard working. When we first met Beni and Ram they were eager and excited to become guides, though they didn’t have any experience. They’ve spent long hours over the 2017-2019 seasons learning their new sport, and Christmas has worked with them to get more familiar with fishing and guiding techniques. When we returned to fish with them in January 2018, they’d already become quality guides with good fish-spotting skills and a familiar with the best spots in the lagoon. And with every week they spend on the flats, they’re going to continue to get better and better.
The guides will each rotate the fishing days to spend time with everyone. Still, as the guides gain experience, we recommend that anglers heading to Fanning for the time being should be somewhat self-sufficient as well.
What Makes This Destination Special and Unique?
• Fanning Island presents a unique opportunity to explore an undiscovered island paradise. It an amazing place, and so rare to find such a remote island with such little impacts from the outside world. Here you can literally be among the first to make a cast in the pristine white sand flats of this tropical slice of heaven.
• Fanning is super remote and hard to get to, which has protected it from exposure to anglers. Indeed, the bonefish, trevally, and other fish found here have never seen an artificial fly before. These fish are therefore more aggressive, and less spooky, meaning more hookups and bigger fish than other, more well-known and popular destinations
• This beautiful island paradise will take you back in time to a different way of life. Here you will be immersed in village life and the sleepy, smiley island culture. The cultural component of experiencing life in the village on Fanning is one of the truly special parts of this trip.
• The flats in the lagoon on Fanning are composed of smooth, hard white sand that in places stretches on for miles. It is perfect habitat for a variety of Pacific flats species – including bonefish, a variety of trevally species, parrotfish, napoleon wrasse, and more – and all of the fishing is done on foot. The way it should be.
• The average bonefish here is 3-5 pounds, while bigger fish from 6-8 pounds are hooked every week and true bonefish monsters of 10-12 pounds have been seen and hooked. Everyone wading the flats of Fanning has a chance at a true trophy bonefish. And since these fish haven’t been cast to a thousand times before, the odds of getting one of these big bonefish to eat your fly are higher on Fanning than just about anywhere else in the world.