Want to visit this tiny Pacific island nation? First, sign the pledge.

To enter the Republic of Palau, sign here. 

On Dec. 7, the Pacific island destination unveiled a new pledge for all incoming visitors and became the first country to incorporate environmental practices into its immigration laws. Before guests receive the stamp in their passport, which they must sign before an officer, they will watch an in-flight video inspired by a Palauan legend. In the film, a giant lands on the archipelago and inadvertently stomps on its natural resources. Realizing the damage he has wrought, he pursues a more sustainable, gentle-giant approach, thereby helping preserve the islands' natural beauty for future generations.  

The takeaway lesson for tourists: Tiptoe on those big feet of yours.  

"Tourists do not realize the negative impact they are having," said Laura Clarke, one of the four co-founders of the Palau Legacy Project. "If something isn't done, it is clear that tourists collectively could cause serious damage and devastation to Palau's fragile ecosystems."  

The agreement, which is dedicated to the children of Palau, opens with this promise: "I take this pledge as your guest, to preserve and protect your beautiful and unique island home." The statement urges visitors to follow such environmentally sound practices as "tread lightly, act kindly and explore mindfully." It also warns them to not take or harm any precious objects. It closes with a poetic flourish: "The only footprints I shall leave are those that will wash away."  

The Palau Legacy Project created the pledge to address a growing concern over tourists' careless behaviors, such as littering, corrupting coral and disturbing protected species. The country can take legal action against visitors who break the conditions of the document, including issuing fines of up to $1 million. Signs at the airport and around the islands remind guests of their responsibilities. Among the don'ts: feeding the fish and sharks, and snatching fruit or flowers from gardens.  

Palau, one of the world's smallest nations, supports a population of 20,000 people and 160,000 annual visitors. Tourism has surged over the past three years, which has startled islanders - and also motivated them to act.  

"The pledge hopes to raise awareness of how we are all interconnected," Clarke said, "and how decisions made outside Palau impact the country as much as visitors do."

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Travel

Sacramento plays its role well in ‘Lady Bird’ film
Sacramento plays its role well in ‘Lady Bird’ film

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — “You clearly love Sacramento,” says the Catholic nun and high school principal as she looks over the college essay written by one of her students. The teenager, who clearly thinks the city is uncool, shrugs and says she just pays attention to her surroundings. “Well, it comes across as love,” says...
After the games, the fun continues

Except for bonspiel regulars, curling seems only to break into popular consciousness once every four years, with the arrival of the Winter Olympics.  This year, the sport has popped up at a broad array of locations, from rooftop bars to remote frozen lakes, giving more people an opportunity to hurl the stones through March.   Snake River...
Walking in Memphis, visitors retrace Martin Luther King Jr.’s footsteps
Walking in Memphis, visitors retrace Martin Luther King Jr.’s footsteps

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shortly after noon, as Sunday services at Memphis’ abundant churches conclude, another gathering of the faithful is getting underway at a restaurant popular for its soul food. “Hi, welcome to The Four Way,” owner Patrice Thompson greets every customer, often in quick succession. Many dressed in their Sunday...
In Salem, Massachusetts, the cuisine will leave you enchanted.

Salem. The name alone conjures specters of skeletal tree branches stretching toward a misty, moonlit Massachusetts sky, menacing black-cloaked Puritans, and witches, ghosts and ghouls lurking around every brick-paved corner. It's true that Salem has both earned and cultivated its spooky reputation as the Halloween capital of the world. Yet in recent...
Travel deals: Aer Lingus sale to Ireland and discounted Hawaii vacations

This week's best travel bargains around the globe.  The new Amira Resort & Spa, in St. George, Utah, is offering half-off a third night and a free fourth night. The Stay & Play package starts at $423 per couple, including taxes, for three nights in a king room with a private patio and fireplace; the typical rate is from $507. A four-night stay...
More Stories