Pohnpei - Micronesia's Garden Paradise
The secluded island of Pohnpei, which fittingly translates to 'Upon A Stone Alter', is one of four states and a cluster of atolls that make up the Federation of Micronesia (FSM). A lush volcanic island fringed with pristine reef and exploding with natural wonders of tangled mangrove forests, cascading waterfalls, verdant jungles and dominant basalt cliffs bursting from the coral floor towering over the island like a protective guardian.
With almost no sandy beaches, the island is for those venturers who love to explore rather than flop and drop. With balmy waters, the crystal lagoon encompassing the island offers an underwater utopia. Home to vivid coral gardens, sheer drop offs and surreal marine life encounters, such as Manta Alley, where you glide alongside the gentle mantas - the underwater world has limitless sites to discover.
Surfers will enjoy the guarantee of no crowds and many passes on offer including the famed beast that is 'P-Pass'.
Pohnpei is for the determined traveller. Taking a handful of flights to reach, makes for an almost untouched paradise. Hotels are in low numbers and also low rise - no higher than the coconut trees. The lack of tourist trinket shops and fast food restaurants gives Pohnpei its untrammelled splendour.
Circumbulated by a single road, the island is easy to navigate as you cruise through time frozen villages, bend past wandering dogs and skittish chickens who are testing the age old question of why they cross the road. Children wave furiously with grins stretched from cheek to check, women bustle about in their bloom patterned dresses.
For the adventurous, opportunities to hike the spine of the island to the summit of the 'Big Mountain', Nahna Laud, will reward you with the island of Pohnpei at your feet. This is not for the faint hearted. For those wanting to get their survivor on, zip across the bombay sapphire waters to Ant Atoll. Offering extraordinary diving and snorkelling as well as the opportunity to camp on this coralline islet which rings around the shallow turquoise lagoon makes for a true barefoot luxury experience. Sleep under the swish of palms and silent blanket of sky glittered with stars.
The six waterfall hike is a full day adventure as you traverse the island through the the sun dappled rainforest. The power of the falls and crystal pools at the bottom make for an invigorating swim between hikes.
For those keen on mythology and history, you cannot go past the world heritage listed site, Nan Madol. Best accessed by boat when the tides are right, you can also reach these dramatic ruins on foot by following a cracked coral path through a labyrinth of mangrove forest. These megalithic ruins are located over a series of islets threaded by canals which you can weave through via kayak or paddle board for those keen to venture deeper in the ruins.
Mythology and local beliefs envelop Nan Madol. How and when it was built, no-one knows for sure. It is said that giants (who's bone are securely protected by the spirits in a nearby site) and magic brothers who flew the stones in, are responsible for the imposing construction. Today, the ruins are just that. Ruins. A complex of fallen columns strangled by jungle, the border of a fortress like structure still stands, proudly framing what was once a grand entrance and the gentle lap of the clear waters slaps the stones in the distance.
Due its location in the central Pacific, Pohnpei has its share of tumultuous WWII history, rusting relics and crumbling Japanese ruins. For those keen to delve into into the jumble of jungle, there are Japanese tunnels to navigate, oxidised barrels from Japanese artillery piercing through the foliage and another level of history to embrace.
An island perfect for the independent traveller wanting to truly head off beat, avoid the crowds and sink into true pacific life.
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