THE MARSHALL ISLANDS are a Micronesian island nation in the western Pacific Ocean, located north of Nauru and Kiribati, east of the Federated States of Micronesia and south of the U.S. territory of Wake Island, to which it lays claim. These beautiful islands are a collection of 1,225 flat coral islands and islets of white sand beaches and turquoise lagoons.
There’s pristine diving and lush tropical greenery, and the Marshallese people retain many of their pre-colonial crafts and traditions, especially on the outer islands which are sparsely populated and life is generally still fairly traditional: the rural population consuming food that is either grown or caught. For centuries, the Marshallese have turned to the sea for their needs.
The islands produce mainly coconuts, pandanus and breadfruit. The Marshall Islands are grouped into 29 coral atolls resembling strings of pearls in a blue ocean backdrop. It is no wonder they are referred to as the ‘Pearl of the Pacific’. They lie in two parallel chains known as sunrise and sunset (Ratak and Ralik) and in true atoll form, they are narrow and low and encircle large central lagoons.
All the islands have glorious white sandy beaches, tall palms and are lapped by crystal clear waters. Two-thirds of the nation’s population over 30,000 lives on Majuro, which is also the capital and most developed atoll with a thriving commercial and political centre. It offers visitors, diving and fishing, a cultural museum, a variety of cuisine, entertaining nightlife and is the perfect “home base” while visiting the outer islands.
Day trips can be taken to neighbouring Arno atoll for fishing or diving. Diving is at its best from May through October, when the water is the calmest, though water temperatures are bath-like all year round. Ebeye has a population of about 11,000 and provides access to some of the world’s best wreck diving. Kwajalein lagoon has numerous WW2 and earlier wrecks including the famous Prinz Eugen, the escort ship to Germany’s Bismark. Fishing too, is excellent here, in waters uninhabited for 50 years. The island of Kwajalein is a restricted military base. However, yachts are free to sail in Kwajalein lagoon waters and to dive on any of the sunken ships and planes