THE MARSHALL ISLANDS
The Marshall Islands is a Micronesian island nation in the Pacific Ocean just north of the equator, halfway between Hawaii and Australia.
It consists of five single islands and 29 coral atolls with a land area of only 70 square miles spread over nearly one million square miles of ocean.
They lie in two parallel chains - the Ratak or Sunrise chain of atolls lying to the east and the Ralik or Sunset chain in the west. They resemble a string of pearls on an emerald sea and are often referred to as the 'Pearls of the Pacific'.
All of the islands have sandy white beaches fringed with tall palms and lapped by crystal clear waters. The islands are low and as with all atolls the land encircles a central lagoon.
The islands are home to 45,000 Marshallanese who occupy all but nine of the atolls and islands. The capital is Majuro Atoll, but the best known of all the Marshall Islands is probably Bikini Atoll where the Americans performed more than 20 hydrogen and nuclear bomb tests between 1946 to 1958.
When to go
The Marshall Islands enjoy tropical weather that varies little during the year. Despite being almost on the equator the temperatures are moderated by the cooling trade winds and the lagoon waters remain a balmy 26ºC all year round.
The rainy season runs from September to November and is typified by sharp downpours followed by sunny skies. The driest weather is from January to April.
Typhoons can occur too, most commonly between the months of June and December.
How to get there
Continental Airlines fly three times a week to the Majuro and Kwajalein atolls from both Guam and Hawaii on its Island Hopper Route. From here the national airline, Air Marshall Islands, services the majority of islands and atolls with a weekly timetable not unlike a bus schedule.
Cruise ships call into the Marshall Islands from time to time
Where to stay
There are many good quality hotels on the Marshall Islands as well as bed and breakfast accomodation, small island resorts, thatched bungalows and campsites. Some of the hotels are located on small private islands with private beaches and small taxi boats which ferry you from one side to the other.
What to see
One of the Marshall Islands best attractions is its scuba diving, with year round warm water, excellent underwater visibility and much to see below the waves.
On one hand there are
many species of tropical fish, black coral, coral heads, steep drop offs, sea mountains and coral pinnacles. Then there are the many World War Two relics which can be found on the islands, both below the water and on land.
For three years from 1942, the Japanese and Allied Forces fought some of the bloodiest battles in all of the Pacific here. The result is many wrecks, both naval and aircraft, are still to be found in the deep lagoons and surrounding sea.
On the sea floor by Bikini Island are two naval ships from World War Two, The USS Saratoga and the Japanese Battleship HIJMS Nagato which led the attack on Pearl Harbour. Both were used as targets during the nuclear bomb tests and were sunk in 1946.
Boats can be chartered for scuba diving as well as lagoon cruising and for fishing. The sport fishing off the Marshall Islands with its immense ocean is fabulous whether it be off the reefs, on the lagoons or out at sea and every one of the atolls and islands offer excellent angling opportunities.
Wallis and Futuna
The Federated States of Micronesia
Northern Mariana Islands
Torres Strait Islands
Micronesia (Moon Handbook)
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