Kwajalein - Marshall Islands
Lying to the north of the Equator in the Eastern Pacific, the Marshall Islands are an atoll of tiny islands, resting on a crescent-shaped coral reef, and form a large lagoon with a surface area of 1,100 square miles. Kwajalein island is a United States Army Base, and home to approximately 1000 other Marshallese natives who commute to work everyday in a boat called the LCM. This small tropical island measures only ½ mile wide and 3 miles long, and is a small oasis in the Pacific Ocean, as it is surrounded by thousands of miles of unmarred and tranquil sea. Comprising over a thousand flat coral islands of white sand beaches and turquoise lagoons, the Marshall Islands beckon visitors with all the promise of a tropical paradise. There's pristine diving and lush tropical greenery, and the Marshallese people retain many of their precolonial crafts and traditions, especially on the outer islands. The flipside to the paradise picture is that many of the Marshallese still struggle with the after-effects of the 20th century's nastiest technology. Several of the islands - the Bikini Atoll in particular - served as testing sites for atomic bombs through the 1960s, and many of their inhabitants have suffered from radiation poisoning, while their home islands remain too contaminated to be resettled. And yet, despite these hardships, you'll find the Marshallese exceptionally welcoming and their culture and identity alive and well.