Islands of “Paradise” in the Pacific
SWAYING coconut palms, sandy beaches, blue-green waters, fruitful fields, calm moonlit evenings—does that sound like paradise? Here in Micronesia, in the western Pacific, we have all of this and more. In this troubled 20th century, many persons would like to “get away from it all” and live somewhere peaceful and beautiful. Might an island in the Pacific be the ideal refuge?
Micronesia is made up of 2,000 islands—97 of which are inhabited—scattered over three million square miles (7,770,000 km2) of ocean. From the air, they resemble broken pieces of an exquisite emerald necklace on the blue velvet of the Pacific Ocean. Each district has its own special beauty, from the magnificent sunsets of Guam and Belau to the coconut groves and sun-drenched white beaches of Kiribati; from the emerald mountains and lush waterfalls of Ponape to the bejeweled waters of the Truk lagoon.
Is it your dream to live in a paradise? Then come with us and visit some of these beautiful regions. Perhaps you can choose which version of “paradise” you prefer!
Belau and Yap
Let’s begin with what some consider the most beautiful: the district of Belau (formerly, Palau), the westernmost of the Caroline Islands.
As you approach by plane, your first view from the air is almost unbelievably beautiful. Gigantic jade-colored mushrooms seem to spring up from the aquamarine and sapphire waters—waters so clear that you can see right to the bottom, even in depths of 30 or 40 feet (9 or 12 m). When you land, you find that the island lives up to the promise of that first view. Foliage is lush. There are heavily wooded rolling hills. The soil is fertile, giving rich crops of breadfruit, oranges, sugarcane and other tropical produce. Mangrove trees grow in the shallow coastal waters, providing shelter for an abundance of marine life. And here, as in most of the Micronesian islands, you will notice the SILENCE.
But we aren’t going to linger here. Let’s move on to Yap—another unusual type of “paradise,” a land of coconut groves and quiet beauty. There are no paved roads here. The pace is slow and the soil is rich.
What makes Yap unique is its money—the famous large stone disks. In some places, the streets are literally lined with money! Today, stone money is not used for trade, but it is still considered to have cultural value. This value is determined less by the money’s size than by its age and history. There are a number of village-owned “money banks” having huge stone disks with holes in the center lined up along the road to the “bank,” and leaning up against the sides of the buildings.
The bright-eyed children in Yap are very appealing, as they are in all of Micronesia. And they have most interesting names: Radio, Love Me, Nothing, Careless, Twinkle, and even Adolf Hitler. Some are named after visiting celebrities, nicknames and all!
You want to stay here? Well, let’s complete our tour before you finally decide.
Truk, Ponape and Kiribati
To save time, we will spend only a few minutes over the magnificent Truk lagoon. More than 30 miles (48 km) in diameter, this lagoon is large enough to hold all the islands of Micronesia. Its azure waters provide a special kind of paradise for diving enthusiasts. Here is a historic underwater cemetery, where fantastic forms of marine life have made their homes among the sunken warships of World War II.
But now, on to Ponape, in the east Caroline Islands. Ponape abounds with cascading waterfalls of great beauty and boasts the highest peak in the Carolines—over 2,500 feet (760 m). It is a land of heavy rainfall and dense upland forests. But these are rarely visited, as Ponapeans prefer living beside the coastal coves and bays.
The people are rather shy and speak a soft language. Their “Casalelia” (“Welcome”) is one of the loveliest greetings of Micronesia. By the way, Ponapeans greatly admire a large-hipped woman; so if you feel you are rather “hefty,” this may be the island “paradise” for you!
Off the coast of Ponape is an intriguing archaeological treasure, the deserted city of Nan Matol. Called the “Venice of the Pacific,” this city was built of colossal blocks of basalt on more than 100 islets in a swampy lagoon. No one today knows how or when the city was built.
Far to the southeast of the Micronesian chain are the picturesque Gilbert Islands (Kiribati), with the main atoll of Tarawa. Here we can see what most people would consider to be true Pacific island homes: quaint thatched roofs on houses made from coconut trunks and fronds, bound together with twine from the coconut husks.
The people are unusually warm and hospitable. Abundant coconuts and breadfruit make up their staple crops, supplemented by a large quantity of seafood. A feeling of tranquillity descends on you as soon as you land on Tarawa. The unhurried pace of the people is contagious, and a visitor may really begin to feel that he has succeeded in ‘getting away from it all.’
Here there is public bus transportation, lacking on almost all the other islands of Micronesia. This is a boon, as distances are great on this long, narrow atoll. But don’t try to catch a bus on time. Buses do not run on a schedule—remember, we are in the tropics.
The palm-fringed lagoon mirrors the true Micronesian colors of azure blue and green by day, while at night the moon and the stars seem near enough to touch. The soft lapping of the sea on both sides of the atoll and the gentle trade winds can easily lull you to sleep. Even though Tarawa is on the equator, the trade winds keep the air pleasantly cool, at least for some months of the year.
Have you decided yet which of these exotic areas you want to escape to? Before you make a final decision, there is something else that you should know.