We finally arrived in Palau late Friday night (it was a five hour flight from Taipei) and were exhausted. We are spending two nights on the island in a resort before boarding a liveaboard scuba diving yacht to tour the islands of Palau for the next seven days.
The views from our hotel room. Life doesn’t get much better than this…but I think it’s about to…
We had an early and busy day planned for Saturday. At 7:45am on Saturday morning we were picked up at the hotel for a day of kayaking around the islands of Palau interspersed with some snorkeling. It was overcast most of the day, with a few bouts of drizzle, but as soon as we got damp the sun would come out to dry us out.
We left the dock on a speed boat, Captained by a man named Jefferson, or Jeff for short, and with our guide Mac. Mac it turns out, although originally Palauan, left the country at the age of 6 to live with relatives in Portland, Oregon (he told us that adoption by relatives is very common in the Palauan culture) and returned to his native country eleven years later to be ‘home’. He’s now twenty two and started working as a guide last August. We have so far hit the guide lottery; Mac spoke perfect American English (due to growing up in the states), was kind, knew the history and culture of the country well and answered all of our questions, and most importantly had such a keen enthusiasm for the country, history, wildlife and the region that it was infectious and a joy to listen to him.
Palau is a country of over 300 islands, only four of which are inhabited. They were formed thousand of years ago by the butting of the Australian and Philipino titanic plates, which formed these hundreds of rock formations. Birds then brought the vegetation to the rock formations. the result is a spectacular landscape with breathtaking views at every corner, and a sea-scape full of coral and colourful fish.
We kayaked and snorkeled in the morning before a lunch of ginger pork and rice was offered to us on the boat, then kayaked and snorkeled all afternoon. It was glorious.
Part of the history of Palau was its role in World War II. It was occupied by the Japanese as a defensive fort against the threat of Americans. Littered on and between the islands there are remnants of that occupation in the form of rustic bunkers surrounded by empty sake bottles, sunken ships (so the advancing Americans wouldn’t steal their technology) and airplanes that had been shot down and were never removed from the water.
During the day we visited two caves. The first had holes in the ceiling that, with light beams streaming in, reminded me of cathedrals in Europe. The second cave was actually called Cathedral Cave, for its height and the large stalimites that hung from its ceiling. Beautiful.
We also visited a marine lake. Palau has about six marine lakes (I think, but I’ll have to verify that number), which means they are salt water bodies of water that are surrounded by land mass. We visited one called Disneyland Lake, named because you can actually kayak into it through a long shallow tunnel that is reminiscent of the ‘It’s a Small World After All’ tunnel ride at Disney. Mac actually hummed it as we maneuvered are way through it by gently pushing ourselves along the ceiling. We were lucky it was low tide- usually there is even less head room!!!
After a full day of fun on the water we headed to one of the recommended restaurants in the area, Kramer’s, for fresh fish and other fare, then packed it in early – exhausted from a long day and jet lag catching up with us. Tomorrow afternoon we board the liveaboard for a full week of diving!