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. It is located just 173 miles north of Christmas Island, and at 900 miles south of Hawaii it is one of the closest landfalls to the Hawaiian Islands. The land area on Fanning is only 13 square miles, and the highest point of elevation on island is a mere 10 feet above the high tide. The lagoon of this coral atoll is 42 square miles, with the deepest point at 49 feet; most of it is shallow, pristine flats. Most people don’t know it, but they have probably seen Fanning Island before: it was the picturesque, palm-treed atoll that was recognized as the closing shot on “Gilligan’s Island”!
Fanning today has a local population of around 2,000 residents, settled in 8 small villages around the atoll that are connected by a dirt path; travel is limited to bicycles motorbikes, small boats, and a handful of old flatbed trucks. 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 can be counted on two hands, only those arriving by boat from the capital of Tarawa, over 2,000 miles away, or on the once or twice a year “Kwai” commercial transport vessel from Honolulu. Thus remains a peaceful island, with a spectacularly beautiful inner lagoon loaded with bonefish, trevally, and countless other species of fish that have never seen an artificial fly, as well as 30 miles of outside reefs providing even more exciting angling opportunities as well as world class surfing.
The Fly Shop® is excited to be able to offer this new destination to our most adventurous guests beginning in 2017. We will be working in cooperation with Pegasus Lodges (a world-renowned destination surfing lodge operator) with the local communities and the Island Council to work towards both short term and long term protections for the lagoon as well as sustainable resource community based resource management. Very little is actually known about the fishing, though the few rumors we’ve heard from the very few (probably less than a dozen) people who’ve ever cast a fly in Fanning’s fabled waters have been enticing to say the least. This is an unknown fishery. It has all of the indicators of a remarkable resource, but we won’t know until we can get there and make a few casts.
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 Guard Insurance
Seasons at Fanning Island
Fanning Island sits in the equatorial calm, lying well east of Pacific storm development areas.
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: CAROLYN REID. 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. Carolyn can be reached 1-808-949-8100 or Carolyn@ultimate-vacations.net. Tell her that you are with The Fly Shop®, and she'll take extra special care of you.
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 and take you to the domestic check in counter at the adjacent building.
The Charter Flight from Christmas to Fanning is aboard a privately chartered 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, there is some fluidity 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. In most cases guests should be able to make it to Fanning on time that night and start fishing the next morning; but everyone has to be prepared for the possibility of a delay and morning arrival.
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.
Captain Cook Hotel on Christmas Island:
The Captain Cook Hotel was the first hotel on Christmas Island. It was named after the famous explorer, Captain James Cook, who discovered Christmas Island in 1777 on Christmas Eve. The original "Hotel" was built as the barracks and Base Camp for the British Army during the 1950s. Starting in the early 1980s, the Captain Cook became the epicenter for the fly fishing enthusiasts who first discovered and enjoyed the fantastic fly fishing opportunities there on Christmas Island.
The hotel is conveniently located just a short, 10 minute drive from the International Airport. It also perched on a quiet, private beach, with the panoramic sights and soothing sounds of the crashing surf a constant backdrop to the hotel grounds. It is a quiet setting (aside from the constant, re-assuring roar of the sea), well removed from the hustle and bustle of town.
The hotel offers simple, pleasant, and comfortable rooms with air conditioning and a refrigerator in every room. Each room has two beds, a desk and chair, cabinet, and private bathroom. Guests are usually accommodated in one of the beachfront bungalows, a short walk from the main hotel and restaurant and right on the beach. At the main building there is a front counter, a conference room, bar, and the main dining room.
The on-site Captain Cook Restaurant offers an extensive menu of both local and western dishes with freshly caught seafood, especially lobster as a specialty. There is also a bar adjacent to the restaurant, serving beer, bottled water, some juices, and a few varieties of liquor.
WiFi is available for purchase ($5 per hour, or $25 for the week), but is only available near the front desk area. Your lodging and meals are included in the Fanning Island Package, but the hotel will have you register upon arrival, and settle up for any bar bill or WiFi purchases before checking out upon departure.
Fishing at Fanning Island
We came into our 2017 exploratory trips with high hopes, and realistically moderate expectations. Fanning is an unknown, unexplored fishery, and while one always hopes a "new" destination is remarkable, you never know until you actually get there and start to make a few casts. By the time we'd returned 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.
We found good numbers of bonefish, with a good average size of around 3-5 pounds. We also saw bigger fish every day, from 6-8 pounds. And double digit sized bonefish are here as well. These monster bonefish readily take flies, but frequently broke 20# leaders or straightened #2 hooks! The bonefish are all fat and very healthy.
There are also outstanding numbers of Trevally here, including Bluefin Trevally, Golden Trevally, Striped Trevally, and plenty of Giant Trevally. Most are smaller size from 3-15 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, triggerfish, 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. The flats are simply huge, and there are a lot of them. There are flats you could spend a whole day on. There is no way in a week of fishing to fish every part of every flat. 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 edges to attack unsuspecting baitfish and schools of parrotfish splash their purple-hued tails around the coral.
So far we've discovered and named about a dozen different unique flats or areas, some of which are vast. There are white sand flats that ring nearly 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 or blind casting for trevally but no wade-fishing opportunities; the NE Pass which has miles of flats teeming with bonefish and trevally; 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 potential 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 have proven challenging to fish because they are extremely physical to hike and walk 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, 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, but Christmas refused to leave his beloved Fanning Island. Now, he is excited to share his island's flats with fly fishermen. He is as good as any guide we've fished with on Christmas Island.
There is another Fanning local who has become a well-known guide on Christmas Island, who hopes to return to Fanning to guide on his home island. His name is Matt, and we'll have him working with our groups on Fanning whenever possible.
The other guides (Bennie and Baram) are young, enthusiastic, and hard working. They are very eager and excited to become guides, though they don't have much experience yet. Christmas is working with them every week to get more familiar with fishing and guiding techniques, and they will consistently improve with every day out on the water.
The more experienced guides will rotate the fishing days through to spend time with everyone, but anglers heading to Fanning for the time being should be somewhat self-sufficient as well. The newer guides are great companions on the flats and work hard, but aren't to be considered "professional" guides just yet.
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.