Stage 15 - Palau & Micronesia


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Oceania » Micronesia » Yap
October 30th 2009
Published: November 5th 2009EDIT THIS ENTRY

PalauPalauPalau

Rounded Rock Islands of Palau. Up to 250-300 of these islands make up the Republic of Palau.

Palau & Micronesia (Yap & Chuuk): 1 March 2009 - 31 March 2009



This last part of our South East Asia trip was a last minute decision. We had never even heard of Palau & Micronesia until we ran into some travellers who had been there and raved about the diving. Micronesia & Palau are located in the western Pacific Ocean, with the Philippines and Indonesia just to the west. Palau is famous in the diving world for its shark populations (130 species). In Micronesia, the island of Yap is famous for its manta rays and the island of Chuuk for its many intact WWII ship and plane wrecks, all easily accessible within a lagoon.

The Republic of Palau is an island nation and sovereign state, in free association with the US. The people are of Melanesian, Micronesian, and Malayan descent. Everyone speaks English and everyone is so easy-going. They still create these beautiful traditional "storyboards", where they carve their old stories and legends into wood.

The Federated States of Micronesia is an island nation which consists of hundreds of islands spread over a vast area. Like Palau, it is also a sovereign nation in free association
Lunch BreakLunch BreakLunch Break

We stopped here for lunch during a day of diving.
with the US. On some of the more remote islands which are very difficult to get to and which we would have loved to have the time to go, the people still hang on to their traditions, music and dance.

Micronesia has a 6,000 year old seafaring culture. In the past, the people (those from Yap in particular) would sail thousands of miles of open ocean without the help of any navigation instruments, compasses or charts. They used only the stars, waves and birds to guide them. As an example, they would learn all the different patterns of the waves around the different islands to be able to identify where they were. Many schools of navigation were set up over time. Unfortunately today this knowledge is quickly being lost.

Yap is also famous for its round stone money which can weigh from a couple of pounds up to thousands of pounds. In the past, limestone was quarried and shipped from Palau, 250 miles away. The more difficult the trip, the more the money was "worth". Today the people use US dollars, but for traditional ceremonies, they may still use their stone money.

Chuuk (previously known as "Truk"
Jellyfish Lake, Eil Malk island, PalauJellyfish Lake, Eil Malk island, PalauJellyfish Lake, Eil Malk island, Palau

Golden Jellyfish have evolved in isolation in this lake for 10-15,000 years - now stingless. Like all jellyfish, they are extremely delicate. We were surrounded by them and had to move slowly and carefully through the water.
amongst other names) has a lagoon of 40 miles in diameter, where more than 100 ships, planes and submarines sank after the fighting between the Japanese and the Allied Forces in WWII. There's nowhere better on earth for wreck diving.

Highlights

- Strapped tight to the reef with hooks in extreme current, watching the sharks swim slowly by in Palau
- Watching the ghostly manta rays glide by in the murky waters of Yap Island
- Enchanted by the beautifully coloured mandarin fish performing their night-time mating dance.
- Lovely stone-path walk on the Tamilyog trail past quiet village houses and the stone money.
- Visiting WWII shipwrecks and sunken planes in Chuuk lagoon and obtaining our Nitrox diving certificates

Lowlights

- While we were there, learning that the Palau government was considering allowing some shark hunting to resume (for 'fin' soup - a Chinese "delicacy" that wastes up to 100 million sharks each year). Miraculously, we now understand that the President of Palau has just announced to the United Nations (in Sep 09) that it would create the world's first shark sanctuary, a proposed area the size of France. If this truly goes
Palau - The Blue CornerPalau - The Blue CornerPalau - The Blue Corner

We held on! The current was so strong. But the sharks and big fish love it and we saw dozens of black & white-tipped and grey reef sharks. That's Valerie on the left.
ahead it would set an incredible example for the rest of the world.
- Steve sick with fever for 2 days .... we thought it was Dengue (the "bone-cruncher"). It wasn't.
- Supermarket aisles filled with tins of every conceivable variety of spam (there's that US association). Too bad we're veggies.
- Not straying too far from our hotel and dive centre in Chuuk or mixing with the locals as they are a tad too fond of their drinking and brawling. We loved the story of the ambitious bank raid though, where the robbers were caught not long after making their getaway in a waiting car. Chuuk is a small island and everybody knows everybody else.




Additional photos below
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PalauPalau
Palau

Just a few feet away ...
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Palau

These giant clams were of the most beautiful colours of blue, purple, green. The most amazing patterns.
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Palau

Black & gold giant clam. You can't see it from this picture but the gold colour was exquisite.
Tamilyog trail, Yap IslandTamilyog trail, Yap Island
Tamilyog trail, Yap Island

We went for a walk down the Tamilyog trail, past the little villages, looking for stone money.
Tamilyog trail, Yap IslandTamilyog trail, Yap Island
Tamilyog trail, Yap Island

Stone money along the path.
Tamilyog trail, YapTamilyog trail, Yap
Tamilyog trail, Yap

Traditional house used for village meetings.
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Yap Village

These stones are still worth real money. A family's stones are lined up outside their house. They won't be stolen.
Yap Late Evening DiveYap Late Evening Dive
Yap Late Evening Dive

This is a mandarin baby fish. The males and females have a unique little mating dance which we were so privileged to witness at dusk. We had to stay motionless for a long time to observe it. Thanks to the guys at "Beyond the Reef" Scuba Diving.
Yap DivingYap Diving
Yap Diving

Steve and Dive Master waiting for the manta rays to appear. Yap has more mantas than anywhere else in the world.
Manta Ray, YapManta Ray, Yap
Manta Ray, Yap

Here it comes ......
Manta Ray, YapManta Ray, Yap
Manta Ray, Yap

And another .... so ghostly...
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Yap

Sharks eyeing up German ...
Chuuk Lagoon DivingChuuk Lagoon Diving
Chuuk Lagoon Diving

Inside a submerged ship.
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Chuuk Lagoon

Gas mask.
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Chuuk Lagoon

Valerie enjoying the wreck diving.


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