Pohnpei is the capital of the Federated States of Micronesia and is located in the Eastern Caroline Islands, about 6 degrees north of the equator (view nifty map). The island measures roughly 12 miles by 14 miles with a rugged tropical rainforest interior. Its terrain is mountainous with Nahnalaud Peak being the highest point at 2,540 feet. The peak aids in generating abundant rainfall with an annual average of 16 feet falling in Kolonia. This no doubt helps to feed the 42 streams and rivers and many stunning waterfalls. Thankfully, most of the rain falls at night. The island is surrounded by a vast lagoon that sports many excellent SCUBA diving opportunities. Historians will find the ancient ruins of Nan Madol fascinating and marvel at the 25-foot high walls made out of basalt between the 7th and 16th centuries. Additional information on Pohnpei can be found at http://www.visit-pohnpei.fm.

The lagoon at low tide
The lagoon at low tide
Travelers disembark the plane with Sokeh's Rock in the background
Arriving at the airport
The slopes of Pohnlehr Peak (668 feet), southeast of downtown Kolonia
Pohnlehr Peak (668 feet)
We were impressed with this two-story Ace Commercial Center store.
Ace Commercial Center
We were even more impressed with this 3-screen movie theater, where we saw the Fantastic 4 and War of the Worlds (despite our distaste for Tom Cruise).
Pohnpei Center Cinemas
Though I'm not certain, I believe this is Mwand Island.
Mwand Island
Sokeh's Rock at sunset
Sokeh's Rock at sunset
Fisherman's canoe
Fisherman's canoe
Shoot me an email if you know what kind of flower this is (kevin@mcgrathimages.com).
Tropical flower
Our day-long tour from The Village Hotel included a short 10-minute hike to Kepirohi Waterfall.
Kepirohi Waterfall
Kepirohi Waterfall
Kepirohi Waterfall
This Pohnpeian man enjoyed watching a pair of local women swim in the waterfall's pool.  His teeth were likely stained red due to chewing betel nut.  

According to Neil M. Levy, author of Moon Handbooks' Micronesia, “Betel nut is a green nut that's wrapped in a piece of pepper leaf and chewed whole for 20 minutes or so.  It produces a sense of well-being, accompanied by light headedness that lasts for about 15 minutes.  Betel nut chewing turns saliva and teeth bright red.  It's so prevalent in Micronesia that many public buildings sport 'No Spitting' signs.”
Pohnpeian Man
The cool water provided relief from the hot and humid afternoon.  Iím glad I kept my swim suit on - the fish were a little too friendly!
Taking a dip
Our guide impressed us with his climbing skills.
Our guide impressed us with his climbing skills
The celebrated ruins of Nan Madol are an engineering feat.  Evidence suggests that construction began in the 7th century and continued until the 16th century.  Natives used bamboo and mangrove rafts to transport large basalt logs to the site.  These logs were arranged to form walls that are as high at 25 feet!
The ruins of Nan Madol
Here you can easily make out the basalt logs.
The ruins of Nan Madol
Meditation chamber
Meditation chamber
The Tattooed Irishman Restaurant at The Village Hotel is a perfect spot to relax with a cold drink and watch the sunset.
The sun sets over the Pohnpei lagoon
Most of the dwellings on Pohnpei are similar to this one.  I can only imagine what sort of destruction a strong typhoon would inflict upon the land.
A typical Pohnpeian dwelling
There's only one road that goes around the island.  Although most of it is paved, the southern portion is still gravel.  Construction began by the Spaniards in the 1890s, continued by the Japanese in the 1930s, and was finally completed in 1985.
The jungle stretches right up to the around-the-island road
Madolenihmw Harbor
Madolenihmw Harbor
This volcanic plug is known as Pwisehn Malek, which directly translates to “Chickensh*t Mountain”.  Legend has it that a rooster relieved himself here (creating the feature - it's not really a mountain) while racing around the island on an errand of the gods.  Must have been one hell of a dump!

Note: For you purists out there, I replaced the background with a more interesting skyline.
Pwisehn Malek (Chichensh*t Mountain)
Many feral dogs (and pigs too) can be seen roaming around the island.
Feral dog
This memorial is dedicated to the memory of four loved ones who lost their lives at Liduhduhniap Falls.
The Liduhduhniap Falls memorial
The trail to the falls leads down canyon walls and is covered with moss and is very slippery.
The Liduhduhniap Falls trail
We pause for a portrait and to appreciate the beautiful scenery
Portrait perfect
The falls are on the Kahmar River
The Kahmar River
Liduhduhniap Falls
Liduhduhniap Falls
Wild Hibiscus
Wild Hibiscus
We were surprised that our rental car was such a recent model, especially since the rental agency was basically run out of a shack.  BUT, they were very nice and accommodating.  I enlarged the license plate in case you were interested in seeing what a Pohnpeian plate looked like.
Our rental car

Pictures of Skyline Drive  

Unfortunately, we both came down with head colds a few days before arriving and were only able to get two dives in. Regardless, we were amazed with what we saw in just those dives: many colorful nudibranchs, two large manta rays, an octopus, eels, feather stars, clams, and christmas tree worms. A current runs at most of Pohnpei's dive spots, thus drift diving is popular. We had never done a drift dive before and found the lack of required physical activity to be quite refreshing. Our first dive was at Manta Road (northeast corner of the lagoon), aptly named for the mantas that hang out there. The second dive was at the Palikir Pass wall (northwest corner of the lagoon).

The beautiful waters of the Pohnpei Lagoon
Beautiful lagoon waters
Our guide looks for a good dive spot
Looking for a good dive spot
Manta Road on the northeast edge of the lagoon, is a prime site for spotting manta rays (Manta birostris).
Manta ray
The wing span of this manta ray was about 6 feet.
Manta ray
We were treated to many types of soft coral.
Soft coral
The classification of this nudibranch is formally known as Nembrotha kubaryana.  These stunning creatures and their snail-related cousins form one of the main divisions within the Mollusca.  Most are characterized by the combination of a pair of tentacles on top of the head and a tuft of feathery gills on the rear part of the back.  

One would think that these soft-skined, unprotected creatures would have difficulty fending off predators.  As usual, nature invented a solution.  The flesh of nudibranchs is often toxic or distasteful and the bright colors seem to serve as a warning sign.  Some forms of nudibranchs feed on various hydroids and other cnidarians.  They're able to digest the stinging cells (nematocysts) of their prey without firing them and incorporate the cells into their own tissue.  Thus, the feathery protrusions covering their back are armed with stolen weapons.

Source: Allen, Dr. Gerald R., and Roger Steene.  Indo-Pacific Coral Reef Field Guide.  Singapore: Tropical Reef Research, 2002.
A very colorful nudibranch
Check out (but don't touch!) the gills on this nudibranch.
What looks like a small evergreen bush is actually a feather star.  These creatures abound in the strong currents of Pohnpei's passes.
Feather star
We counted at least 20 people in this small boat!
Filled to the brim
I was able to fire off a quick shot before this octopus hid deep within a crevice.
Two remoras (back-right end) were hitching a ride on this manta ray.
Manta ray with attached remoras
These spotted garden eels (Heteroconger hassi) reminded me of the aliens in Men in Black.  They stick out of holes in the sand and feed in the current.  When approached, they retreat into the sand.
Spotted garden eels
While swiming back to the boat, I found myself in the middle of a school of gold-banded fusiliers (Caesio caerularea).
Gold-banded fusiliers

Pictures of Skyline Drive  

The Village Resort Hotel is hands down the most beautiful, romantic, and enchanting hotel we've ever stayed at! It was built by an American couple in the late 70's (you would never know it's that old) who subsequently earned an ecotourism award for their hard work. Its 20 open-air bungalows hang off the sides of a mountain overlooking the lagoon and have no air conditioning. But that's ok! Each have a high-speed ceiling fan to keep you cool and the screens allow you to become fully engulfed in the sounds of the tropical rainforest. Oh yeah, almost forgot to mention the water beds. The Tattooed Irishman at The Village is considered to be one of the best restuarants on the island and you won't hear any objections from us. We highly recommend the crispy plum chicken (almost worth the trip itself) and firey Bananas Foster.

The Village Resort Hotel is perched high above the lagoon.  Even Gilligan would be jealous.
Mountain-side resort
The Tattooed Irishman Restaurant at The Village is open for breakfast, lunch, and diner and offers a splendid selection.
The Tattooed Irishman
Here I am enjoying a Tattooed Irishman, the house specialty.  The Professor asked me to give him his coconut back when I was done.  I think he was going to build a ham radio with it or something.
The house specialty
It was a short walk through the jungle from the restaurant to our bungalow.
Bungalow trail
Our bungalow was on stilts, with the back end about 20 feet off the ground.
Bungalow on stilts
A ceiling fan helped to cool us off at night and the hanging nets kept insects at bay.  We were pleasantly surprised at the lack of mosquitoes.  In fact, we were only bit a few times during the entire 4-day trip.
A perfect spot to relax
The bungalows are almost entirely made of natural items.  Even the roofs are thatches.  OK, so the sink is porcelain and the light switch is plastic.  I did say almost everything!
Sink and shower
Ha!  Who needs room service when you have a view like this?!?
Our view!
Here you can see just how isolated each bungalow is.
Isolated tropical paradise
Here you can see just how isolated each bungalow is.
Isolated tropical paradise
The talented kitchen staff did an awesome job with their presentation of Bananas Foster.
Bananas Foster
Val quickly made friends with the resident feline.
Val's new friend
We came back to our room one night to find the cat hunting lizards up in the rafters.  She eventually gave up and performed a quick acrobatic show.
Acrobatic show


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