A rich history involving human sacrifice, canoe-building, and nuclear testing has led to what is now known as "Marshall Islands." Home to Bikini Atoll, the site of the biggest hydrogen bomb test ever conducted by humankind, the reefs and atolls group of Marshall Islands is now an adventure hotspot for World War II diving . This Melanesian nation is halfway between Australia and Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean. It boasts of two major atolls: the westernized tropical capital, Majuro, and Kwajalein, which is leased to the US army for missile testing and therefore, virtually closed to visitors except to scholars of military history. Ever since Spanish explorer Alonso de Salazar spotted the islands in 1526 and 17th-century British Captain John Charles Marshall lent his surname to the islands, the Marshallese have retained the reputation of being expert navigators, fishers, and canoe-builders. Their annual sailing contest called proa is a major tourist attraction especially because it is during this that they cross the seas using only stars and stick-and-shell charts as guide. In a similar fashion, travelers can sample the Marshallese outrigger canoe at the Majuro Lagoon and the white-sand Laura Beach in Majuro. Some islanders still use the korkor (canoe) in their frequent jambos (picnics), but boom-booms (motorboats) are also gaining popularity. For those in a hurry, Majuro's international and domestic flights also come in handy, albeit the frequent delays.Although 20 nuclear weapons were blasted in Bikini Atoll, scientists attest that it is now safe to walk on the islands. It is also reported to be safe to dive into its waters where large sharks and sunken WWII vessels test the divers' adventurous spirit. Marine life and wrecks are also the attractions of Wake Island, where large birds were hunted in lieu of the natives who were sacrificed to the chiefs. The tribal chiefs used to practice tattooing using human bones as the pen. Considered as the finest weavers in Micronesia, the Marshallese women craft fans, mats, necklaces and bags out of dyed maan (pandanus) and kimej (coco palm) leaves. English is widely-spoken in the flower-dressed communities, where the Marshallese continue to live in family compounds. The people's faces show imprints of the nations that had conquered them in the now distant past—the British, Japanese, Americans, Spanish, and Germans. Shellfish, cassava and coconut are their sources of sustenance.
Marshall Island Traveler Advice
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