This is said to be Micronesia’s most remote destination and, unlike the other three Federated States of Micronesia, Kosrae has no outlying atolls. It is a high volcanic island extending to some 110 sq km (42 sq mi) in area with steep contours and dense vegetation that have prevented development. The island is sometimes called ‘the sleeping lady’ because it appears to have the female form when viewed from the sea. It is surrounded by coral reefs that are carefully protected against damage. More than 170 species of hard coral have been identified, plus ten soft corals, and the reefs and lagoons are home to over 250 different types of fish and marine animal. The Utwe-Walung Marine Park preserves untouched forest and mangrove ecosystems.
The island government is the main employer, and though the inhabitants continue to rely on traditional farming and fishing for subsistence, imported goods now meet their wider needs. They used to live in family groups surrounding a communal cookhouse, but this practice is in decline. For all that the 21st century has crept in, the islanders still delight in traditional singing, chanting, weaving, woodcarving, canoe building and house construction. They are extremely devout and welcome visitors warmly.
There are a few small resorts, but you won’t be sharing the beauties of Kosrae with many others – this is the island that mass tourism has yet to discover. The visitors who do make it are inevitably captivated, and some do no more than unwind from the hectic pace of the modem world – sunbathing, snorkelling, meeting islanders and eating wholesome food. Others dive on the reefs and wrecks, or trek into the lush interior and discover the island’s rich archaeological heritage. Whatever their preference, not one is disappointed by this wondrous tropical island.
Population: 7.700 (2007 estimate)
When to go: December to April is the best time, July to October the wettest.
How to get there: It’s best to travel via Guam from whence (if you want to ‘do’ all four of the FSM’s states) a ‘Visit Micronesia’ pass is available. Or go the other way on Continental’s island-hopper flights from Hawaii.
Highlights: The extended hike to the top of majestic Mount Finkol.
The remains of two 19th century whalers, Henrietta and Waverly – the former was burned in Okat Harbour as reprisal after crew members molested local women.
Exploring atmospheric mangrove swamps by canoe.
Spotting bottleneck dolphins and the occasional whale.
You should know: The last buccaneer, the American William ‘Bully’ Haynes, was shipwrecked here in 1874 – and is said to have buried his treasure here – it has never been found…