Backpacking in Micronesia on a Gap Year

Countries  »  Micronesia

Forget your Fiji and your Bali, for the true desert Island experience head for tropical Micronesia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, Micronesia is made up of four separate Islands: Kosrae, Yap, Pohnpei and Chuuk. Unlike other island-hopping destinations, in Micronesia each island has its own unique and diverse culture, language and tradition, making for a real adventure.

Things to do

The islands of Micronesia have some of the best beaches and waters in the world. Now, it’s easy to say that about every place in the beautiful Pacific Ocean but thanks to a low-level of visitors and pollution, the seas of Micronesia have been allowed to thrive. The flourishing marine life and warm water makes an ideal location for a scuba diving and snorkelling. The most popular dive spot is the Truk Lagoon, located off the coast of Chuuk.  Here you can discover an underwater museum of Japanese tanks, planes, guns and ships from WWII. Just throw in some sea turtles, rays and barracudas swimming and you’re bound for a surreal experience. When you’ve finished diving or snorkelling you can relax on the nearby Kuop Atoll, where you can sit on white sands in the shade of leaning palm trees.

Plane Wreck

If diving isn’t your speciality then you can see wrecks from WWII along the Sokehs Rock trail. This challenging but short uphill hike takes you past war guns and abandoned buildings, with the backdrop of the Pohnpei harbour creating a stunning view.

The Kepirohi Waterfalls in Pohnpei make for another worth-while hike to see nature at its finest. Dig your hiking boot into jungle terrain until you reach the modest, but none the less beautiful Kepirohi Waterfalls. You can then reward yourself by jumping into the clear pool and daring to experience the intense pressure of tumbling water on your shoulders.

Things to see

Micronesia is unique in many ways but the strangest tradition has got to be the old-aged tradition of the Rai Stone Money. Years ago these giant circular slabs were placed into the ground to be used as a means of currency as they are still used today. The slabs are too big and heavy to literally exchange so items are bought by trading the ownership of the slab with the seller. This usually happens during political deals, marriages, or for food. Backpackers can see these historic but fully functioning slabs on the Island of Yap, with the largest disk reaching 12ft in diameter.

Rai Stone Money

To get a better idea of Micronesia’s still very influential historical past, take a trip to the Temwen Islands to see the Nan Madol Stone city. These historic ruins were thought to have been constructed in the 1200s when they became the ceremonial place of the Saudeleurs dynasty until the 1600s. The manmade Nan Madol is made up of nearly 100 artificial islets and contains a vast number of stone walls and foundations of what were once buildings. It is thought that the nobility stayed here in order to remain separate from the common people.

The mystery as to how the Nan Madol ruins were built is right up there with Easter Island and Stonehenge. Historians and archaeologists are clueless as to where the rocks came from and how the buildings were constructed without any levers or metal. The locals believe that they were created by the two sorcerers Olisihpa and Olosohpa who performed rituals so they could lift stones with the help of a flying dragon. It’s definitely the coolest theory out of the bunch.  

Nan Madol