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Holiday Guides for Oceania - Marshall Islands

Marshall Islands Holiday

Coral, crystal seas and quiet - the amazing Marshall Islands provide all three, and accomodate the thrillseeker too.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands is a remote paradise of white sandy beaches, crystal sea, coral reefs and tropical lagoons.

The Micronesian island nation consists of more than a thousand flat coral islands, with some of the world's best diving. The two chains of atolls, just north of the Equator, are coral deposits located around the craters of underwater volcanoes.

Located in the western Pacific Ocean, north of Nauru and Kiribati, the island group was settled by Micronesians around 3,000 years ago and little is known about the early islanders.

Spanish explorers arrived in 1526, but the region was largely left alone by Europeans for several centuries, until English captain John Marshall arrived in 1788, giving the islands his name.

The Marshall Islands attracted whalers, traders and missionaries throughout the 1800s and became a protectorate of Germany in 1885. The Japanese took control of the islands in 1914 and developed large colonies and bases.

Captured by American forces during World War II, the quiet islands were used by the US army for atomic bomb testing on Bikini and Enewetok atolls in the 1940s. The Marshall Islands are now governed by a president and gained independence from the United States in October 1986, becoming a sovereign nation under a Compact of Free Association with the United States in 2003, providing them with considerable American aid.

The Marshall Islands cover a total land area of just 181sq km (69.8sq miles) and are home to just over 60,000 people, leaving large swathes of tropical jungles untouched.

The remoteness of the islands means that traditional arts and crafts have been kept alive and it is still possible to see people in the smaller villages continuing a steady and ancient way of life, with many islanders reliant on subsistence farming.

The Marshall Islands provide the ideal location for a restful break and also offer the perfect conditions for scuba diving and sports fishing.

The island's tourist industry is still in its infancy, but there are pleasant places to stay, eat in and visit in the more built up areas, particularly on Mujauro and Kwajalein atolls. Some of the more remote atolls offer traditional thatched huts to stay in and a chance to see first-hand the rich indigenous culture of the Marshall Islands, with its stories, legends and songs.

The capital Majuro is located on Majuro Atoll and is the most westernised of the islands. Consisting of a narrow strip of land and home to almost half the Marshallese population, it has 57 islets surrounding it. The atoll is home to some lively bars and cafes, excellent restaurants and a cultural museum.

Both English and Marshallese are official languages and most of the islanders speak English, so communication should not be a problem. The Marshall Islands enjoy excellent weather year round, with temperatures remaining between 25C and 30C throughout.

Around 27 of the main atolls are accessible by plane, with most flights operated by Air Marshall Islands. Both Majuro and Kwajalein atoll have larger airports, served by Air Marshall Islands and Continental Air Micronesia Jet Aircraft, with flights from Fiji, Guam and Hawaii.