Author Jacqueline Detwiler Photography Whitney Tressel
AS THE WORLD INCREASINGLY retreats into an echo chamber of car horns and email alerts, it’s nice to know that somewhere in the middle of the Pacific there’s a whole nation of smiling, slightly salt-frosted people deftly navigating speedboats around idyllic islands, pausing here and there to lop the tops off of coconuts or admire a well-formed brain coral. That’s not to say Palauans never have a tough day at the office, but in general this 300-island-plus archipelago feels insulated from the clamor of modern life.
This feeling stems in large part from the exceedingly low ratio of concrete buildings to half-hidden lagoons and sighing palm groves, but also from the influence of Palauans themselves. One of the most close-knit populations on earth, they still hold traditional festivals to provide money and support for neighbors with newborns.
As Palau increasingly becomes known for more than the diving meccas that made it famous, however, one can only hope that the country’s track record of ecological preservation will keep it pristine for many years to come. Paradises, after all, are notoriously fleeting.