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Location of Airai


Satellite image



Palau consists of a string of islands along an oceanic ridge in the Westernmost part of the North Pacific. To the West and South, Palau is close to the Philippines, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. To the East, Palau is part of a scattering of islands that become known collectively as the Caroline Islands, which in turn lie within the larger region of mostly very small islands, collectively referred to as "Micronesia." Greek for "small islands," Micronesia includes the the Marianas, the Carolines, the Marshalls, Nauru and Kiribati:


Micronesia Map

Map of Micronesia derived from one published in Atlas of Micronesia (Karolle, 1995).




This map of Palau from the CIA World Factbook shows the extent of the entire archipelago. The Southwest Islands (Sonsoral, Pulo Anna, Tobi etc.) are inhabited by Carolinian peoples of a different language group and culture from the main Palau islands.


Map of Palau


The archipelago consists of a large reef platform surrounded by a barrier reef, and within which are found the bulk of the islands that comprise the country. North of this is Kayangel, a true atoll. And far, far to the south are a handful of small islands inhabited by Carolinian people of a different culture from the rest of Palau.

Within the main group is one volcanic island, Babeldaob (pronounced Bab-el-thaup), the second largest island in Micronesia, after Guam. Near Babeldaob is a group of islands that comprise Koror, the provisional capital of the country.

Below and around Koror lie countless raised-limestone islands, mostly uninhabited, that are collectively called the Rock Islands. Some of these were inhabited in ancient times. Today, they provide diving attractions for tourists, posing the major economic force in the islands today.

At the south end of the lagoon is Peleliu, known to some as the site of a major battle in the Second World War. Angaur, which lies just to the South, is a low platform island from uplift of the reef flats.


Traditional structure of villages has today given rise to the modern states of the country. Some of these comprise groups of islands, such as Koror, which includes all the Rock Islands down until Peleliu. Kayangel, Peleliu, and Anguar are their own separate states.

Babeldaob itself is divided into ten states, based on traditional village territories. Airai is the southernmost state on Babeldaob. It's location adjacent to Koror means that it has a close relationship with the center of activity in the country. Yet at the same time, it retains aspects of the old Palau, and includes ancient features that make it a "traditional village."



The states of Babeldaob, plus Koror.



On the next page, we will look more closely at the State of Airai, and orient ourselves to its various features and locales.



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