These beautiful islands are a collection of 1,225 islands and islets of which only five are single islands. The rest are grouped into 29 coral atolls which together make up more than one-tenth of all the atolls in the world 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.
Of the 29 atolls, 27 are accessible by small plane (Air Marshall Islands). Majuro and Kwajalein atolls, the two population centers are serviced by both Air Marshall Islands and Continental Air Micronesia Jet Aircraft. There are also regular flights to Guam, Hawaii and Fiji.
The Republic of the Marshall Islands was first settled in about 1,000 BC by people of Mayo/Polynesian stock. It was visited by Spanish navigators in the 16th century seeking a westerly route to the Spice Islands. In 1788, British sea Captain John William Marshall sailed through these atolls and proclaimed them the Marshall Islands, while en route from Australia to China. In the 1800s German traders, Missionaries from Hawaii and British and American whalers visited the islands. Japan governed the islands from WWI to WW2. Following WW2, the United States serves as an administrator under the United Nations Trust Territory created for all Micronesia. The Republic of the Marshall Islands came into being and declared its Independence in 1979.
People of Marshall Islands
Marshallese is the official language but English is taught in the schools and is widely spoken. The people are softly-spoken and good-natured with a rich oral tradition of chants, songs, and legends. The chiefs continue to wield a great deal of authority over land ownership and usage. Copra and a fisheries industry are the foundation of the island’s economy. However, the Government which is a unique blend of the American and British system of Government has given strong support for tourism development and seeking another economic basis.
Majuro atoll, capital of the Marshall Islands, is the most developed atoll with a thriving commercial and political center and a population of nearly 30,000. 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. You can relax on your garden furniture or arrange a day trip to neighboring Arno atoll for diving or fishing.
Ebeye is the Marshallese population center on Kwajalein atoll, the largest atoll in the world depending on course on how it is defined (compared to Kiritimati (Christmas Island), Republic of Kiribati). A U.S. military base occupies the largest island in the atoll and its airport accommodates both military and commercial air traffic. 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.
Comfortable tourist accommodation can be found in Majuro and Ebeye, with traditional thatched huts available in a few of the outer atolls such as Milli. Bikini atoll was opened recently to divers and sports fishermen. The Bikini Resort will accommodate sixteen visitors in air-conditioned comfort while they experience the best wreck diving in the world and fish in waters uninhabited for fifty years. Several specialized dive resorts are soon to be built in the outer islands.
The Marshall’s climate is tropical with an average temperature of 27 degrees C. and there is less than a 12-degree daily variation. High temperatures are cooled by trade winds and frequent rainfalls. Primary leisure activities include world-class scuba diving on wrecks, walls and reefs, snorkeling and sports fishing for tuna, marlin, sailfish and more as well as WW2 wreck sightseeing. Visitors can also enjoy shopping for local handicrafts with an array of beautiful baskets, jewelry, and decorations. The islanders are known for their weaving using pandanus leaves.
Marshall Islands Accommodation Guide
The Marshall Islands is Micronesia’s atoll diving destination. Made up of 29 coral atolls, diving in the Marshalls can be done either within the lagoons or in the open ocean. Dive sites include lagoon pinnacles, walls, channels, reel points and vast areas of the virgin unexplored reef. The Marshalls are also home to an abundance of WW2 ship and plane wrecks, concentrated in the lagoons of Bikini, Kwajalein, Jaluit, Wotje, Maloelap and Majuro Atolls. Dive excursions to seldom-visited outer atolls can easily be arranged with local operators and shark sightings are guaranteed!.
The newest and most modern hotel in Majuro, the Royal Garden Hotel, features 24 rooms and warmly welcomes holidaymakers and business travelers. Each room is carpeted and air-conditioned and in-room amenities include telephone, color TV, refrigerator, hot and cold water, and a private bath. The hotel has a twenty-four-hour reception. There are laundry facilities, hire cars are easily arranged and, for business communications, guests have access to the fax machine.
The Royal Garden Hotel’s cozy bar and restaurant with ocean views is just the place to relax and is especially popular during happy hour ( 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.) The restaurant serves excellent breakfasts, lunches and dinners and the staff are experts at looking after guests’ needs.