Fanning Island, also known as Tabuaeran, which means "heavenly footprint" in the native Polynesian language, is a ring-shaped coral reef surrounding a protected lagoon in the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean. Its non-Polynesian name derives from the American explorer, Edmund Fanning, who discovered the then unpopulated island in 1798. Tabuaeran later fell under British rule from 1889 through 1979 until it gained independence and became part of the Republic of Kiribati.
Celebrated for its white-sand beaches, blue-green waters and friendly residents, Tabuaeran is a paradise for snorkeling, surfing and sunning. One of the closest landfalls is the Hawaiian Islands, though even they sit some 1,450 kilometers (900 miles) away. The island has even played the part of the proverbial desert island on television, appearing in the closing shot of Gilligan's Island. While the atoll may have been a stopover for the Polynesians who first settled Hawaii, unlike those more popular Pacific islands, it has retained its feeling of being a remote outpost into the 21st century.