Animals and Plants
Diverse flora and fauna
The fauna and especially the flora are very different on the widely spaced islands. The island of Pohnpei is an island of volcanic origin. Here stands the highest mountain in the archipelago, Mount Nahna. The flora is very fertile: In the interior of the country you will find dense jungle, the region is also very rich in water, so that there are many valleys with rivers and waterfalls to discover. Many tropical fruits grow here.
Dense mangrove forests run along the coast, protecting the sensitive coasts. There are only a few beaches for this. These can be found on the small islands that belong to Pohnpei. The distances are often great. The small atolls are then up to 600 kilometers away from the main island.
To the east is the small state of Kosrae, which is also of volcanic origin. The soil is very fertile, so not only vegetables but also a lot of fruits grow here. On Kosrae, like on Pohnpei, there is a high mountain called Mount Finkol, which at least reaches a height of 722 meters. Here, too, the typical vegetation of the rainforest determines the landscape.
Nowhere else are there so many manta rays
Mangrove forests also define a group of adjacent islands that form part of Yap and are interconnected: bridges and canals help to get from island to island. Above all, the animal world is fascinating here. In addition to sharks and many smaller fish species, the manta rays determine the picture underwater. They seem to feel very comfortable in these waters, because you will probably not find so many in any other place in the world.
Dependence on the US
The Federated States of Micronesia are very dependent on the United States. There is a treaty between the two countries in which they have stipulated their cooperation.
Much of the Micronesians are poor. Many live from agriculture and fishing. Most grow exactly what they need for everyday needs. These include copra, which is obtained from coconuts, kava and betel nuts. The government also sells licenses for fishing.
Tourism is growing only slowly
Many people work in services and administration. There is little industry. Some residents make handicrafts that they sell, but unfortunately there are few tourists who can bring money to the islands. A bad road network scares off some. Only 40 kilometers of roads are paved and 200 kilometers of easy slopes.
However, there is an airport in each of the four states of Pohnpei, Kosrae, Chuuk and Yap. Otherwise ships connect the islands with each other.
A means of payment that weighs heavily
There is a very special means of payment on the Micronesian island of Yap: stone money. These are stone coins up to four meters in size. The stones are far too heavy to just pay quickly. But they have a hole in the middle into which – if the money is needed – you can drill a tree trunk and this is then used for easier further transport. More or less. Most of the time you leave the stone where it is and everyone remembers which stone belongs to whom.
Incidentally, the stones come from Palau, which is more than 300 kilometers away. But that is precisely why it is a very valuable means of payment. And when is it used now? In the past, only men used stone money. Today it is mostly used symbolically, for example when selling or buying land.
The advantage of this money: It’s not that easy to steal. Which thief wants to burden himself with a stone weighing up to five tons?
Chew betel nut
Chewing the betel nut plant is particularly typical for the inhabitants of the Yap Islands. This plant grows in Micronesia, but also on other islands such as Palau or the Solomon Islands. Here too, people chew betel nuts. To do this, the nuts of the Areca palm are mixed with lime obtained from crushed mussels. There are also pepper leaves. You chew this mixture and spit it out again at some point.
Why do you do this? In this combination, the betel nut has an intoxicating effect, similar to alcohol. If you want to forget your everyday life or feel less hungry – this is also a side effect of chewing betel nuts – you can use this method. In the end, the teeth suffer and turn red to black.