Least Visited, Day 8: Exploring the Endorheic Lake and the Caves of Nauru

January 3rd, 2019

Today was our final full day in Nauru. This is the 2nd smallest country by land mass, and we’re starting to feel it, after having looped around the country possibly five or six times since arriving. For me, it was all in our car, but for most, it was also by foot. Seemingly, we had nothing more to explore. Were there more Chinese restaurants? It didn’t feel like it. Were there more WW2 artifacts? I don’t think so. But there was a LAKE! And CAVES!

As I walked to breakfast, I saw the female staff from a couple nights ago, the one who was throwing water at everyone and gave us some free peanuts. She asked me when our group was staying until, and I told her we were departing tomorrow. She seemed bummed because apparently we would be missing out on “bar night” with the staff on Friday. Where was she yesterday during our crazy bar crawl?!

Buada Lagoon

Our first stop for the day was Buada Lagoon, an endorheic lakeand the only lake in Nauru. We did a simple walk around the lake, exploring along the way. It’s nestled in a village, the only one of the island that doesn’t have access to the beach.

Lisa checks out the workout equipment at the gym


A local church

Upstairs at the church, abandoned rooms

Another nearby church

Near the lake there were a couple stores, a giant church that appeared to have an upstairs home, and a concrete building shell that was somewhat open-air that housed a public gym. There were, of course, trampolines and playgrounds all around, as there were in the rest of the country.

Nauru flag painted outside our lunch restaurant

For lunch, we asked our hotel guide to lead us somewhere that wasn’t Chinese. He led us to Margaret’s Restaurant, which was… Chinese. We ordered but it took nearly two hours from the moment we stepped in until we got our food, and some of us, including myself, didn’t even get food because they completely botched the order. Once we sorted it out, it was time to leave. By now it was mid-afternoon and we hadn’t even explored yet.

Entering the bush from the road to seek out a cave

vines and banyans in the bush

Our guide led us to a cave which was a bit hidden away. We pulled up near a house, then he led us along the sidewalk of the main ring road until we came upon some trash bags on the side of the road. Then we go straight into some bushes and follow a vague path into the woods until we come upon the opening of the cave. A man and his young son lead us along the way, as the mosquitoes feast upon our arms and legs.

The entrance of the cave is short, and stays that way for the first fifty feet in, requiring you to enter at a crouch or squat before coming to an opening, where a steep drop off forms a deep hole. The guide was blocking me, so I didn’t get a good view, but Lisa went ahead and climbed down as everyone shined their phone lights down. It was an easy climb, and at the bottom she said it opened up to another area. She didn’t have a light so couldn’t see. The hole she climbed down was at least ten meters deep, and she was a bit concerned about the idea that if she were to get hart, no one in our group could probably save her. We joked that at least we’d throw down some snacks and a water bottle.

On our way out of the cave, the guide told us it was the site of a tribal massacre over a hundred years ago, which I’m a bit glad he didn’t tell us before, since being on this secluded island was eerie enough. He explained the entire tribe of about five hundred people was brought here and mass murdered. I asked why, and he said the other tribes on the island discovered this particular one had lots of incest, which they didn’t approve of. Even children weren’t safe, as they were a product of the crime. The remains have been long since cleared out of the cave, especially during WWII, during Japanese occupation.

Cave #1, the site of a massacre

Calvin heard of an underground lake through a friend who also had visited Nauru, and once explaining it to the guide, he knew exactly where to take us. Off we went to another driveway near someone’s house, where we got out of the bus and hiked through some shrubbery to come upon a graffitied wall. Just past the wall are some steps down to a cave with a fresh water pond. The pond is deceiving, as it appears small, but it actually extends through the cave, deeper into the island. Sometimes divers will come here and swim their way through to larger openings. Apparently this served as one of the few sources of drinking water during Japanese occupation. Now, it’s covered in graffiti and litter.

Phosphate rocks in Nauru

Hiking to cave #2

Hiking to cave #2

Lisa picks up trash in the underground river in cave #2

The graffiti'd wall just outside cave #2

Our final stop was the painted barricades along the airport runway, which are decorated with “welcome to Nauru” lettering and the names of all the current tribes of Nauru, along with those that have become extinct. Presumably the massacred tribe from earlier is one of those extinct ones. There are also barricades painted with the flags of nearby Pacific countries.

Barricades marking tribes' population

After our adventurous day, we returned to the hotel. Some went out to dinner, but I had a thrilling snack of cheese spread and breakfast crackers in the room that I wanted to finished before we headed off to our next destination, Kiribati, early tomorrow morning.