The 607 islands of the Federated States of Micronesia are spread over a 2,500 km expanse of the Pacific Ocean. Only 65 of these islands are inhabited and they are divided into four groups.
The state of Chuuk is renowned for its diving amid beautiful beaches scattered with coconut palms. Surrounding the islands is a marine graveyard of World War Two Japanese ship wrecks. Dining tables, among many other artifacts, are preserved exactly as they were left 50 years ago, covered in a garden of coral. The Chuukese still live, cook and fish traditionally and they are particularly known for their carving skills. The use of the Chuukese wooden carved ‘love stick’ is part of a legendary practice of courtship unique to this island group.
Greater Yap island group lies in the south west. The island group comprises of Yap, Tomil-Gagil, Map, and Rumung. Yap has a number of small hotels, including the finest dedicated dive resort in Micronesia, that cater to divers, sightseers and those wanting a closer look at the culture. The environment of Yap differs from the other Micronesian islands in two ways:
– Geological – The island was formed by a constructive fault line as opposed to volcanic activity as is the case with most of the islands above sea level. This has resulted in a landscape of rolling hills and mangrove forests rather than mountainous terrain.
– Customs – Yap also differs from most of the other islands because it is still very traditional. All customs and traditions are preserved as much as possible. The chief of the clan still holds the highest respect and unusually on Yap descent is traced paternally through the father. Houses are still built in the traditional method using mahogany supports underneath Nipa palm-thatched roofs. The Micronesians were the original seafaring explorers and they still make canoes traditionally. Carved out of the breadfruit tree and bound with coconut husk fibres, they can be up to 30 metres (100 feet) long.
Pohnpei is the largest and longest of the Micronesian islands and its main city, Palikir, is the capital of the Federated States of Micronesia. As the island is so mountainous there is high rainfall and 40 rivers run down from its mountains. Pohnpei is home to Nan Madol, Micronesia’s most impressive archaeological site. It dates back to the thirteenth century during theSaudeleur Dynasty. The ruins have collapsed but it is still an impressive structure that used to house temples, vaults, bathing areas, and pools. Called the ‘Venice of the Pacific’, Nan Madol was a manmade city with ocean-filled channels which once housed a thriving, royal civilization. Tours can be arranged on the island.
A few hours southwest of Hawaii, Kosrae is the ultimate beach holiday destination. It has pristine white sand beaches, virgin reef, an interior of uncharted rainforests, and ancient archaeological sites to amble around. There are the wrecks of two whaling ships, dating back to the 1800s, for divers to explore. With visibility of more than 200 ft, diving is a must, but non-divers will see resident dolphins and Spot whales. It is well worth exploring Mount Finkol, the tallest mountain in Kosrae at 2,064 ft high.
By Faye Welborn