Think "bikini" and very holiday images start popping up, don't they? Sun-caressed sandy pits, hypnotizing wave swoosh sipping into your ear and golden bronzed bodies in their skimpy bathing suits of myriad colors. A bikini can sweep you off your feet with a striking effect. In fact, "bikini" and "strike" go together since March 1, 1954, when the U.S tested its thermonuclear hydrogen bomb during the infamous Castle Bravo operation at Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands. The detonation, which poisoned the inhabitants and made the area, as described by the Atomic Energy Commission, "by far the most contaminated place in the world", definitely marked the Marshalls out loud on the map.
Although the atrocious memories linger and so do fallout health effects, today Marshall Islands make a heavenly diving destination teeming with marvelous marine life, tranquil lagoons and beach retreats to cater for many a taste. Located in the west-central Pacific and about halfway between Australia and Hawaii, the Republic of the Marshall Islands comprises two parallel chains of atolls, the Ratak and the Ralik, sprinkled over 750,000 square miles of the ocean. Apart from the traumatic nuclear spots, the islands retain a lot of the relaxed tropical feel mixed with a cultural splash of their former colonizers and invaders. Here British, Russian, German, Japanese and American elements blend with the indigenous Micronesian for an enticing culture hotchpotch. But steer towards the outer islands in Majuro Atoll and you will find plenty of desert-island castaway feel!
Some come to experience the "dive capital" and take the advantage of the excellent marine environment to dive, snorkel or kayak their breath away. Others, like history buffs, appreciate a collection of World War II wrecks and sites unparalleled anywhere in the Pacific. Topped off with the languid tropic vibe and scenic seascapes, the Marshall Islands undoubtedly make a worthwhile and unforgettable stop on your Pacific cruise.