THE paradise islands of the Republic of Palau in the Pacific Ocean have become the first nation requiring tourists to sign an eco-pledge upon arrival. The pledge is as simple as receiving a stamp in your passport but is mandatory and government policy.
The country is made up of around 300 pristine limestone and volcanic islands that share ocean borders with Indonesia and the Philippines.
The nation is blanketed with emerald forests, overseen by diamond blue skies and surrounded by turquoise waters that meander between islands. Dubbed the “underwater Serengeti”, it is little surprise travelers are flocking to discover the islands.
High volumes of tourism over the last few years have seen an economic boost for Palau, but with a growing economy comes developers, investors and ultimately more tourists wanting to get their very own piece of the stunning paradise pie.
The government has made a wise and bold move toward preventing the islands from being ruined by a flux of tourism that has been seven times higher than the local population in recent years.
After all, prevention is far better than cure, as Australia and other nations are discovering with natural ecosystems being destroyed through human action.
The pledge is a five-stanza poem inked into your passport which requires a sign off on a promise to “tread lightly, act kindly and explore mindfully”. There is also an in-flight film that that is shown to all passengers as they approach the island.
However, you do not have to be traveling to Palau to sign the pledge. As Leonardo DiCaprio, actor and environmentalist, kindly reminded us on Twitter, you do not have to be present at every location to be an advocate and educate yourself about healthy ecosystems and sustainability.
According to National Geographic, many locals see the Palau Pledge as a small but significant step toward educating tourists and changing the attitudes of tourists about the value of the country’s natural and living resources.
The nation heavily relies on tourism for the economy, as well as agriculture industries and fishing. This pledge is a thought-out process, one that transcends more than just political agendas and works with communities and tourists alike to build a stronger vision of conservation.
Must-dos in Palau
Jelly Fish Lake
The lake is full of cute and harmless jellyfish that chase the sun throughout the day. You can snorkel, swim and kayak here – but don’t pick up the jellyfish, just leave them to bask in the sunshine.
The 217m Mount Ngerchelchuus is home to one of Palau’s main attractions – the blissful Ngardmau Waterfall
After a challenging 30-minute hike through the jungle, you can reward yourself with a dip in the cool pools and shower under the waterfall. There is also a monorail that will take you straight there. There is a small fee of around US$10.
Badrulchau Stone Monoliths
Forget the Moai heads on Easter Island, Stonehenge in the UK or The Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland, it is all about the basalt monoliths that are believed to have been put there by the Gods to help support a men’s meeting house that held thousands of people.
It’s a perfect picnic spot, too, with glorious sea views.