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Micronesia

Main attractions

Guam, sunset
Guam, sunset / Takuya Asada, / CC BY 2.0

Micronesia consists of a huge number of scattered, small islands. Many are low lying atolls, but several islands offer true mountain scenery and are covered with rainforest. In Northern Mariana Islands are located several exotic volcanoes which are covered with lush, primeval forest.

Besides the interesting natural scenery the islands of Micronesia offer amazing array of archaeological monuments. These paradise-like islands have experienced fierce battles and cruelty against the prisoners of war during the Second World War and the most intense nuclear bombing after the war.

The highlights of Micronesia are:

  • Archaeological monuments. The structures built by local cultures are found even on small, primeval and very remote islands and local arhaeological heritage offers quite a few mysteries, including paintings of star maps and burials of dwarf people.
  • Ecosystems. Some ecosystems in Micronesia have no analogues. The small Jellyfish Lake might contain up to 31 millions of endemic jellyfish, the largest molluscs in the world form dense colonies in Kanton and Orona Lagoons and mountaintops of some islands are covered with the lower elevation cloud forest in the world.

Natural landmarks

Togari Natural Arch, Northern Marianas
Togari Natural Arch, Pagan / NOAA Photo Library, / CC BY 2.0

Cliff formations and natural arches

  • Natural Arch Spring – Guam, northern part. A collapsed cave with a large natural arch at the sea. Powerful spring flows in the ocean.
  • No Can Fracture – Guam, northwestern part. Very narrow canyon. At the base of this canyon is water – freshwater above and salt water below.
  • Puntan Hugua Humaguiya (Puntan Dos Amantes, Two Lover’s Point) – Guam, northern part. A spectacular, 115 m tall seaside cliff. Site of legends – two lovers tied their hair here and jumped off the cliff.
  • Togari Natural Arch - Northern Mariana Islands, Pagan. Togari Rock is an island with an enormous natural arch.
Blue Grotto, Saipan
Blue Grotto, Saipan / tata_aka_T, / CC BY 2.0

Caves

  • Bangabangas of Banaba Island - Kiribati, Banaba Island. These sacred limestone caves of the island are not man made but they have a special traditional value. Little is known about the number and extent of these caves - but it is known that there are rather many on this small island. Part of these caves is lost due to the mining activities. Caves often are adorned with scalactites and stalagmites, only women were allowed to enter them.
  • Blue Grotto of Saipan – Northern Mariana Islands, Saipan. A collapsed cave, filled with sea water through three openings to the sea. Sunlight colours the water in eerie blue color. Cave is filled with marine life – sharks, barracudas and even turtles and rays.
  • Matt’s Cave – Guam, northern part. Large submarine cave, explored length – 200 m, going up to 65 m deep below the sea level.
  • Piggy Cave – Guam, northeastern part. A 120 m long cave with pools and waterfalls.
  • Siaes Tunnel - Palau, Koror. Impressive tunnel under the sea water, entrance 4 - 20 meters deep, bottom - up to 60 meters deep. Tunnel is lighted through 3 larger side openings and numerous smaller openings. Created by erosion processes in times when seawater level was lower than now.
  • Yikrel a Bub (Blue Holes, The Temple of Doom) - Palau, near Ngemelis, Koror. Unusual monument of nature created in times when sea level was considerably lower. Four deep holes in 1 - 2 metres deep seabed which unite in enormous underground hollow 40 meters below. Cave has two more openings to the side - through the submerged ancient sea cliff. Impressive blue light rays enter though the holes in the cave.

Waterfalls

  • Sawarlap and Sawartik Falls – Federated States of Micronesia, Pohnpei. Two beautiful, tall waterfalls located close to each other.
  • Taki Falls - Palau, Ngardmau (Babeldoab Island). Largest waterfall in Palau, a beautiful, impressive 30 meters high and 37 meters wide waterfall.
Jellyfish Lake, Palau
Eerie reality in Jellyfish Lake / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Ecosystems

  • Bokak Atoll lagoon - Marshall Islands, Bokak Atoll (Taongi Atoll). The lagoon of this atoll is 0.9 m higher than the surrounding sea. The wind brings in a new seawater and the water pours out of the lagoon through a narrow channel. Unusual feature of this remote, pristine atoll is a 10 - 15 cm high, massive rim formed by algae and enclosing the shores of the coral patches in the lagoon.
  • Jellyfish Lake (Ongeim'l Tketau) - Palau, Eil Malk in Rock Islands. Unique marine lake with an area of 5.0 ha, has underground connection to the sea. Stratified in two layers which do not mix. Isolated from the sea 12,000 years and contains a distinct population of two species of jellyfish - endemic Mastigias cf. papua etpisoni and most likely endemic Aurelia sp. Millions of these jellyfishes make strict daily migration around the lake. Four more marine lakes with jellyfish in the nearby islands but Jellyfish Lake is the only one open to tourists. Number of jellyfish has reached up to 31 millions (January 2005), currently some 5 millions.
  • Kanton Lagoon and Orona Lagoon - Kiribati, Phoenix Islands. Spectacular communities of giant clams - the largest bivalve molluscs in the world. Such dense communities of these rare molluscs are unique in the world.
  • Kiritimati Flats - Kiribati, Line Islands. More than 500 hypersaline lagoons, covering some 140 km², located in the lagoon of Kiritimati Atoll. Unique environment for algal growth, algae have formed here thick mats.
  • Kosrae montane cloud forest – Federated States of Micronesia, central part of Kosrae. One of the lower elevation cloud forests in the world, starting already at the height of 450 m. Contains numerous endemic species of plants and animals found only here.
  • Limestone forest – Guam, northern part, in the area of Andersen Air Force Base. Last remnants of the original tropical forest of Guam. Contains many rare and endemic species of plants.
  • McKean Island - Kiribati, Phoenix Islands. 85 000 lesser frigatebirds (Fregata ariel) live on this small (57 ha) island. This is the largest nesting population of these birds in the world. Island has a hypersaline lagoon.
  • Mount Winipat (Winipot, Uinipot) – Federated States of Micronesia, Chuuk, Tol. Unique tropical forest with endemic species of plants and animals. The forest is dominated by Chuuk Poisontree (Semecarpus kraemeri) and only here lives a Teardrop White-eye (Rukia ruki) – a bird which is dependant on poisontree. Here lives also the Chuuk Islands Giant Millipede – a 15.5 cm long millipede and several more plants found only here (Schefflera kraemeri, Semecarpus kraemeri, Randia carolinensis).
  • Pohnpei montane cloud forest – Federated States of Micronesia, central part of Pohnpei. One of the lower elevation cloud forests in the world, starting already at the height of 450 m. Contains numerous endemic species of plants and animals found only here (the beautiful palm Clinostigma ponapensis forms pure stands).
  • Serianthes nelsonii grove on Rota – Northern Mariana Islands, western Rota. A grove of endemic tree (with only one mature specimen outside Rota – on Guam), which reaches the height of 36 m and trunk diameter of 1.83 m. On Rota are growing 60 – 80 trees.
  • Washington Lake, Teraina - Kiribati, Line Islands. Atoll of Teraina island has not a seawater lagoon but freshwater lake taking its central part. This is wery rare for atolls and thanks to this there is luxuriant coconut palm forest and peat bogs around it.
Milky Way, Palau
Milky Way cove in Rock Islands / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Other natural landmarks

  • Asuncion Island - Northern Mariana Islands, Asuncion. Several volcanoes of Mariana Islands look like almost perfect cones but Asuncion possibly is the most impressive one. Volcano is rising 857 m tall above the sea and is covered with primeval vegetation. Island has fumaroles.
  • Daikoku Sulphur Cauldron - submarine volcano north from Farallon de Pajaros. A unique pool of liquid sulphur, possibly the only one in world.
  • Milky Way - Palau, Rock Islands, Koror. Cove with bright turquoise colored water. Bottom consists of bright white limestone mud believed to have curative powers although this has not been proven.
  • NW Eifuku Champagne Vent - Northern Mariana Islands, submarine volcano north from Farallon de Pajaros. A submarine vent which emits almost pure liquid carbon dioxide at 1,600 m depth. Such phenomenon is known in three places on Earth and at Eifuku it is most abundant.
  • Rock Islands - Palau, Koror. More than 200 amazing small limestone islands, often mushroom shaped and covered with lush tropical vegetation. Unique landscape element, especially when looking from the air.

Man made landmarks

Nan Madol, Pohnpei
Nan Madol, Pohnpei / CT Snow, / CC BY 2.0

Ancient settlements

  • Lelu ruins (Leluh) – Federated States of Micronesia, Kosrae. The former capital of Kosrae, developed around 1400 AD and inhabited until the coming of Europeans in the 19th century, when some 1,500 people lived in the city. This large island city now has ruins of more than 100 walled enclosures made of stone, royal burial compounds and shrines.
  • Nan Madol – Federated States of Micronesia, Pohnpei. Unique archaeological monument in this part of the world – ruins of prehistoric city. Consists of nearly 100 artificial islets with massive stone walls, with the largest stones weighing up to 50 tons. A capital of Saudeleur dynasty. The megalithic structures were built in the 12th – 13th century and inhabited until the early 14th century.
Rota Latte Stones Quarry, Northern Marianas
Rota Latte Stones Quarry / CT Snow, / CC BY 2.0

Megaliths

  • Arorae navigational stones - Kiribati, Gilbert Islands, Arorae. Eight of upright corall slabs, which long ago have been arranged in the northern tip of Arorae island and served as a navigational aid for seafarers.
  • Badrulchau - Palau, Ngarchelong (Babeldoab Island). 52 (now 37) mysterious stone monoliths, six have rough faces hewn. Location of former bai - men's clubhouse, possibly built around 161 AD.
  • House of Taga latte stones – Northern Mariana Islands, Tinian. Currently the largest latte stones – megalithic construction (house foundation) of two stones, characteristic for Marianas. The only standing latte stone here is 4.6 m tall and was a part of the house of mythological chief Taga. Other latte stones have fallen.
  • Latte Stone Park – Guam, Hagåtña. Archaeological park, where eight latte stones are displayed, transferred here from the other parts of Guam. Latte stones are prehistoric megalithic structures – large, erect stones with a rounded capstone on them. The rounded capstone has a flat top. It is speculated that latte stones formed a foundation of houses. There are some 270 sites with latte stones in Guam.
  • Malden Island stone ruins - Kiribati, Line Islands. Remnants of stone structures left by ancient Polynesians who lived in this arid, currently uninhabited island. Most ruins are found along the beach, in north-western part and south-western part.
  • Mochong latte stones - Northern Mariana Islands, northern Rota. A well preserved prehistoric Chamorro village with an amazing number of latte stone fundaments - 53 in total! This is the richest megalithic site in Mariana Islands.
  • Ngerbodel stone monolith - Palau, Ngerbodel village, Koror. Human statue, 85.4 cm high. The only unambiguous ancient human statue in Palau with distinct head with face and torso. There are tens of stone faces found around Koror and Babeldoab islands.
  • Odalmelech - Palau, Melekeok (Babeldoab Island). Six enormous, megalythic stone carvings - faces, roughly 1,100 years old.
  • Quarry of Yap stone money in Airai - Palau, small rock island, Airai. Huge piece of the unique Yap stone money, unfinished pieces of stone money nearby as well as the metal toys for production.
  • Rai of Yap - Federated States of Micronesia, Yap Island. Limestone discs with a hole in the middle, diameter up to 3 metres, used as money over the last 500 years. In 1929 there were registered 13,281 stone discs all over the island, now many have been looted and some thousands remain. The largest "coins" are on Rumung Island – one "coin" here has a diameter of 3.6 m.
  • Rota Latte Stone Quarry (As Nieves quarry) – Northern Mariana Islands, southern Rota. The original quarries for the unique megaliths of Marianas – latte stones. Here are found the largest latte stones – up to 7.6 m long.
  • Urunao beach latte stones – Guam, northern part of island. A group of megalithic structures – latte stones in their original setting. This is the site of an ancient village, with wells.

Petroglyphs and rock art

  • Chugai Cave – Northern Mariana Islands, southeastern Rota. 52 m long cave with prehistoric drawings drawn with black color. Drawings show sea turtles, fish and numerous symbols.
  • Gadao’s Cave – Guam, southeastern part. A cave named after a legendary chief Gadao, contains some 50 prehistoric petroglyphs and white cliff paintings. These petroglyphs represent human drawings, diverse undeciphered symbols, one drawing shows a fish.
  • Kalabera Cave – Northern Mariana Islands, northeastern Saipan. A cave with some 50 prehistoric petroglyphs and white paintings, a possible site of prehistoric burials. Skulls were found here up to the 1920s. Petroglyphs for most part show people.
  • Olechukl Iars (Ulong, Oolong petroglyphs) - Palau, western cliffs of Ulong island, Koror. Intricate red painted petroglyphs left by ancient Palauans on the walls of shallow grottoes.
  • Pohnpaid petroglyphs – Federated States of Micronesia, Pohnpei. A rich petroglyph find with more than 750 carved drawings and symbols. Part of petroglyphs is on a large cliff, and part (in different style) – on the nearby boulders. It is possible that the oldest petroglyphs here were made sometimes around 0 AD.
  • Ritidian burial Caves and Starcave complex – Guam, northern part of island. Cave with amazing petroglyphs made roughly at 1000 AD. Some authors consider that one of them depicts constellation of Orion and other - stars.
  • Taberrakl petroglyphs - Palau, southeast corner of Ngeruktabel, Koror. Most abundant petroglyph site in Palau, includes many handprints.
  • Talofofo Caves – Guam, southeastern part. A system of six caves with prehistoric petroglyphs. One of caves has a natural arch - Talofofo's Kissing Rock. Many petroglyphs show stars in the sky and may have served to memorize the stars for orientation during the sea voyages.
  • Unai Dangkulu – Northern Mariana Islands, northeastern Tinian. A cliff covered with some 50 petroglyphs, carved 6 – 9 m above the sea level. Most show people, but there are also cupules and lines.
Ancient footpath, Yap
Ancient footpath, Yap / David Weekly, / CC BY 2.0

Other archaeological monuments

  • Ancient footpaths of Yap – Federated States of Micronesia, Yap. The villages of Yap island are connected with a network of ancient footpaths. Paths are laid with stones and are slightly rised above the surrounding ground. These footpath have bee well preserved over the centuries and often are beautified with flowers and decorative shrubs.
  • Menka – Federated States of Micronesia, Kosrae. Archaeological site, considered to be an important religious site with the ruins of diverse structures.
  • Omedokel Cave - Palau, Rock Islands. 2,300 - 1,400 years old burial site of the early inhabitants of islands and some 1000 years old burials of newer inhabitants. Older burials belong to extinct dwarf people, possibly weighing just 28 - 47 kg.
  • Sculpted hills of Ngchemiangel - Palau, Aimeliik (Babeldoab Island). Relief of island has been sculpted and there have been created extensive terraces. Created in the 5th - 16th century AD.
  • Ucheliungs Cave (Ucheliuns Cave) - Palau, Rock Islands. Cave with entrance in shallow sea water. 2,900 - 1,400 years old burial site of the early inhabitants of islands. Burials belong to extinct dwarf people, possibly weighing just 28 - 47 kg.

Other man made landmarks

Capitol in Melekeok, Palau
Ngerulmud - Palauan Capitol / Peter Binter, Wikimedia Commons, public domain
  • Banzai Cliff – Northern Mariana Islands, northern Saipan. Some 30 m tall seaside cliff. Another site of mass suicide of Japanese soldiers and civilians at the end of the Battle of Saipan in 1944.
  • Bikini Lagoon - Marshall Islands, Bikini Atoll. Unusual, eerie place. This lagoon was used as a ship graveyard after the World War II and then - as a test location for many tests of nuclear bombs. Now the many sunken ships in the lagoon are radioactive but the undisturbed lagoon is full with life and very interesting for divers.
  • Bravo crater - Marshall Islands, Bikini Atoll. The 2 km wide and 75 m deep crater was created by the blast of Castle Bravo hydrogen bomb in 1954. This 15 MT blast created significant radioactive contamination. In this same place more nuclear tests have taken place.
  • Ngerulmud (Capitol Building of Palau) - Palau, Melekeok (Babeldoab Island). One of the most iconic parliament buildings in region, a group of impressive Neo-Classicism style buildings, built in 2006.
  • Suicide Cliff – Northern Mariana Islands, northern Saipan. Approximately 250 m high limestone cliff. A site of mass suicide of Japanese soldiers and civilians at the end of the Battle of Saipan in 1944.
  • Truk Lagoon (Chuuk Lagoon) – Federated States of Micronesia, Chuuk. One of the largest ship graveyards in the world. In 1944 here were bombed and sunk 60 Japanese ships and 275 airplanes.
  • Yokoi’s Cave – Guam, southern part. A cave where in 1944 – 1972 hid Japanese soldier Shoichi Yokoi.

List of described attractions by countries

Micronesia consists of the following countries and territories:

Federated States of Micronesia
Guam (United States)
Kiribati
Marshall Islands
Nauru
Northern Mariana Islands (United States)
Palau
Wake Island (United States)

Map of Micronesia

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