Which Micronesian Island?

 

 

 

Micronesia is not the easiest part of the world to visit. With United Airlines currently the only realistic option of getting around the scattered islands of the north Pacific, any itinerary that takes in one or more of the entities that make up Micronesia -Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Palau and the US territory of Guam - will rely as much on airline schedules as personal preferences.

 

 

But for those who take the trouble to explore this lesser-travelled route across the Pacific there is so much to experience that their time in Micronesia is likely to provide some of the main highlights of their entire trip.

 

 

 

Top attractions

 

The top natural attraction in Micronesia is without doubt the Jellyfish Lake in Palau. Swimming through a mass of non-stinging jellyfish and having the opportunity to hold them in the palm of your hand is something that can only be done in a few places around the world.

 

 

For man-made attractions the ancient stone city of Nan Madol on the FSM island of Pohnpei rivals Easter Island as the most impressive site in the Pacific, yet receives less than 1000 foreign visitors a year.

 

 

 

WW2 History

 

Micronesia was the scene of many bloody battles in the war, with the Japanese occupying the whole region until the American forces overwhelmed them, with massive loss of life on both sides, in 1944 and 1945. Today you can find Japanese tanks, guns and military buildings in various states of disrepair in any of the islands. Perhaps the most impressive and unlikely sight is a row of Japanese tanks, appearing in reasonable condition, lined up behind a hardware store in the main town on Pohnpei.

 

 

The Marshall Islands were chosen by the US as the site for their nuclear testing programme in the years following the end of the war. 67 nuclear bombs were exploded over the outer atolls and you’ll find plenty of history related to the aftermath of these tests, even around the capital Majuro. Make sure you see the film ‘Nuclear Savage’ while there – it’s not easy to watch but provides valuable historic context for the troubles of the Marshallese people today.

 

 

 

Diving and Snorkelling

 

Divers can explore the reefs that are found around any of the islands, but perhaps the best marine life is found around Palau. It is here too the most sophisticated tourism infrastructure exists to take care of divers, with several reputable operators taking groups to the best sites.

 

 

If your interest lies in wreck diving, Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands is home to some of the finest vessels from WW2, including the flagship of the Japanese navy and a US aircraft carrier. Reaching Bikini Atoll, now uninhabited as a result of the American nuclear tests which took place here in the 1950s and 60s, is difficult and very expensive. Chuuk, one of the four islands of FSM, has the highest concentration of wrecks and is far more easily accessible than Bikini.

 

 

Snorkelling is possible off any of the islands, although Palau offers what are probably the finest snorkelling spots, with the added benefit that they are only a short trip from the main island.

 

 

 

Surfing

 

We met surfers at various stops in Micronesia, including a young lad who came all the way from Brazil to surf off Pohnpei in FSM and a group of Hawaiians who joined a couple of Brits on a live-aboard surf trip run from Majuro in the Marshall Islands. All said they came to Micronesia not to catch the biggest waves, but to enjoy high quality surf conditions with an almost total absence of other surfers.

 

 

Guam has perhaps the most popular surf scene in Micronesia and if you enjoy the social side of surfing then it may be the best destination for you.

 

 

 

Hotels

 

Guam and Palau are well equipped with top quality resort hotels that cater primarily for the well-healed Japanese tourist. Prices in both Guam and Palau are accordingly high for accommodation, although in both cases no-frills motel type rooms can be bagged for under $100 a night.

 

 

Choices on the Marshall Islands are extremely limited, with regulars to the capital Majuro listing Hotel Robert Reimers as the only place worth considering (around $100 a night).  The hotel also has the best restaurant on Majuro. We stayed at Robert Reimers and it’s a comfortable place without being in any way luxurious.

 

 

 

Depending on where your interests lie, each destination offers good reasons for considering making it a stop on the trans-Pacific part of your RTW trip.

You can get the Micronesia included in your RTW here