A nation of approximately 340 islands, Palau, locally called Belau, lies in the Micronesia region of the Western Pacific Ocean, halfway between Australia and Japan. Angaur, Babeldaob, Koror, and Peleliu islands are the most populous, with about two-thirds of the population living on Koror Island. Ngerulmud, the capital city, is on Babeldaob Island. Most of the population are ethnic Palauans, a mixture of Micronesian, Melanesian, and Austronesian descent. Palauan and English are the two official languages. The main source of employment and income here is tourism. In 2019, Palau attracted over 94,000 international visitors. The weather in Palau is hot and humid – perfect conditions for tropical flora and fauna! Scuba diving and snorkeling in the island’s rich marine environment are popular activities, especially in the artificially made German Channel. The channel also acts as a major transportation route for boats traveling between the lagoon to the Pacific Ocean. The main attraction is the Rock Islands Southern Lagoon. Consisting of over 200 islands with beautiful beaches, the area is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The 70-mile-long barrier reef encloses spectacular coral reefs and a turquoise lagoon of approximately 1,450 square kilometers (560 square miles). There are approximately 385 coral species with different types of habitats. At least 13 species of shark, together with a large diversity of plants, birds, and marine life are sustained here. Structures are prohibited from being built on these islands. In 2005, the Micronesia Challenge was initiated by His Excellency President Remengesau, who is also a Shining World Leadership Award for Ocean Protection Laureate. The goal of the challenge was to conserve 30 percent of coastal waters and 20 percent of forest land by 2020. In 2009, the world’s first shark sanctuary was created in Palau to protect about 600,000 square kilometers (231,660 square miles) of ocean where commercial shark fishing is banned. Palau is the first country in the world to change its immigration policies to benefit the environment. Visitors to Palau are now required to sign an eco-pledge requesting them to promise to respect the environment. The goal is to make Palau the first carbon neutral tourist destination in the world.