Geography of Nauru

Home | Category: History and Religion


Nauru is located in Oceania, island in the South Pacific Ocean, south of the Marshall Islands. Its geographic coordinates are 0 32 S, 166 55 E. Nauru is the third-smallest country in the world behind the Holy See (Vatican City) and Monaco; it is the smallest country in the Pacific Ocean, the smallest country outside Europe, the world's smallest island country, and the the world's smallest independent republic; situated just 53 kilometers south of the Equator, Nauru is one of the three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean: the others are Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati and Makatea in French Polynesia.

Area: total: 21 square kilometers; land: 21 square kilometers; water: 0 square kilometers; ranking compared to other countries in the world: 239. It is about about 0.1 times the size of Washington, DC. [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

Land Boundaries: total: 0 kilometers; Coastline: 30 kilometers; Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nautical miles; contiguous zone: 24 nautical miles; exclusive economic zone: 200 nautical miles.

Land Use: agricultural land: 20 percent (2018 estimate). Arable Land: 0 percent (2018 estimate); permanent crops: 20 percent (2018 estimate); permanent pasture: 0 percent (2018 estimate); forest: 0 percent (2018 estimate); other: 80 percent (2018 estimate). Irrigated Land: 0 square kilometers (2022). [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

Topography: sandy beach rises to fertile ring around raised coral reefs with phosphate plateau in center. Elevation: highest point: Command Ridge 70 meters; lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 meters.

Climate: tropical with a monsoonal pattern; rainy season (November to February). Natural Hazards: periodic droughts


Ocean islands are basically divided into three types: 1) "low" coral and sand islands; 2) "high" islands (usually exposed peaks and ridge-tops of submerged mountains and volcanos); and 3) parts of the continental shelf. Some continental islands were mountains and hills along the coast during last Ice Age when ocean levels were lower.

Low islands or cays were formed on coral shoals from reef sediments. Atoll islands are low islands (See Below). Seabird dropping fertilize the soils of some of these islands, which allow scrubby forest to take root. Others are battered regularly by storms and are little more than shifting piles of sand. Some patches of sand are so low they disappear during low tide and lose their status as islands.

High islands generally have better soil and a better supply of water than low islands. Low islands support only a few species of plant because there little topsoil and this soil has a high salt content. Although they often have no visible water sources they often are positioned over water lenses that trap rain water and can provide fresh water through wells.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: CIA World Factbook, 2023; “Encyclopedia of World Cultures, Volume 2: Oceania,” edited by Terence E. Hays, 1991, Wikipedia, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated August 2023

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from, please contact me.