UNESCO World Heritage Sites can be found world-wide. The various locations all have special cultural, historical, or scientific significance, as determined by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Sites are legally protected, and run the gamut from monuments to buildings, cities, forests, deserts, mountains, and atolls.

Kiribati (officially the Republic of Kiribati) is an independent island nation which straddles the equator, in the central Pacific Ocean, more or less midway between Hawaii and Australia. It is the only country in the world to be situated in all four cardinal hemispheres, and is also home to the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA).

In 2010, PIPA became the world’s largest and deepest UNESCO World Heritage Site, a distinction it still holds as of November 2021. Measuring 408,250 km2 (157,630 sq mi), it is one of the largest marine protected areas (MPAs), as well as the largest protected area of any type (land or sea) on the planet. The site encompasses one of Earth’s last intact oceanic coral archipelago ecosystems; its reefs are likely what a reef looked like a thousand years ago.

PIPA consists of eight atolls and two coral reefs. In total it is roughly equivalent to the size of the state of California in the U.S., although the actual land area is only about 25 km2 (9.75 sq mi). It is home to an estimated 200 species of coral, 500 species of fish, 18 marine mammals and 44 bird species.

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