SAIPAN, Micronesia To say Micronesia is off the map of most travel
agents is an understatement. It is often left off maps entirely.
The Federated States of Micronesia include the islands of
Pohnpei, Kosrae, Chuuk (formerly Truk) and Yap, and is part of
dozens of atolls spread throughout a part of the Pacific
less-detailed maps often depict as solid blue.
There are close ties between the FSM, as it is often referred
to, and the United States. English is widely spoken here, and U.S.
dollars are the official currency (existing simultaneously and much
more practically with Yap’s famous stone coins).
Micronesia’s weather is in the 80s year-round, and it is a top
destination for clients who are into scuba diving. Commercial
flights throughout Micronesia use Guam as a hub. Continental and
Northwest are big operators that fly to and within Micronesia.
The islands themselves are incredibly diverse, each with a
distinct culture and different tourist offerings (though all have
plenty of beach and sun). And as might be expected from islands
surrounded by lots of ocean, many of Micronesia’s best activities
take place in the clear warm water.
Here’s a sample of some of the sites and activities that make
Micronesia a secret treasure.
Palau’s Rock Islands: Around Palau are hundreds of
mushroom-shaped limestone islands rising out of the clear turquoise
water. Many of the islands can be hiked, and are covered with
caves, waterfalls and World War II wrecks. One rock island, only
reachable by kayak, has a swimmable lake filled with stingless
Yap’s Giants: Yap is famous for two giants: stone coins and
manta rays. The stone coins large, disk-shaped traditional currency
still in use for a few specified transactions mostly involving
property are kept in a village’s Stone Money Bank. The giant
mantas, with wingspans up to 14 feet, come every day to “cleaning
stations” where small fish eat parasites off them; the mantas swim
in slow circles while the cleaner fish dine.
Pohnpei’s Nan Madol: Nan Madol is an ancient town inhabited by
members of the Saudeleur Dynasty from around 200 B.C. until the
1400s. The exact dates aren’t known, and estimations vary wildly,
which adds to the mystery of this remote place. The enormous basalt
structures are built on coral around a series of almost 100 islets
and man-made canals. Some of Pohnpei’s spectacular basalt
waterfalls are located within walking distance of Nan Madol.
Tinian’s Atomic Bomb Pits: The last stop before Japan for World
War II’s atom bombs, nicknamed Fat Boy and Little Man, were pits on
Tinian, now memorialized with small plaques atop the pits which
have themselves been filled and covered with lush grass.
Saipan’s Golf: Saipan has five golf courses, each with its
particular draws two are within feet of the beach, two are on
rugged limestone cliff-tops, most have ocean views and one, a local
nine-hole, has the occasional rooster walking across the green. The
18-hole courses all have teahouses, and while very well maintained
are rarely fully booked.
Palau’s Babeldoab: While all of Palauan society retains
traditional elements, Babeldoab, Palau’s largest island, contains
Palau’s most traditional and remote villages. These villages will
become less remote when the paved road currently under construction
is completed in 2005. Babeldoab also has jungles, lakes,
waterfalls, caves and other natural wonders.
Chuuk’s Wrecks: In 1944, the U.S. sunk hundreds of Japanese
ships and airplanes in the Truk Lagoon, where they had been
stationed as part of Japan’s large Pacific convoy. The ships and
planes are now divable wrecks, having been transformed from
machines of war into remarkable fish habitats, staying incredibly
well preserved in the warm saltwater.
Saipan’s Kiteboarding: Saipan has some of the best windsurfing
and kiteboarding in the world, just off beautiful white-sand Micro
Beach. Every year, major windsurfing tournaments are held there,
and the rest of the time it’s open season for the fit and well
balanced (and those who ogle them) among us.
Marshall Islands’ Diving: Bikini Lagoon, on Bikini Atoll, part
of the Marshall Islands, is where the U.S. tested atomic bombs
after World War II. In 1996, it was declared safe for scuba diving.
The diving here is deep and is mostly of wrecks, including
submarines, a Japanese battleship and the world’s only divable