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Published: November 24th 2009
Saw 15 or so of these guys during a surface interval.
Now I am contemplating whether or not to write this blog or not. I mean, do I tell you, do I not? I want to tell you about this beautiful, beautiful place but I don't want to wreck its cozy and lovable feel. I mean it's still a non-commercialized, non-super-touristy place, where the locals say hello to you as you pass by and cars stop to let you cross the street. It's so beautiful half of you readers have stopped reading my blog and have breezed through the photo's. Don't deny it! I don't blame you either though. Anyways, I'll tell you a bit about my Palau adventures but you have to promise me not to ruin it. I'm going back one day to check on it so don't think I won't notice if it has changed!
So as I told you in my loooong last blog (don't worry this one will be shorter and more photo's), I left Max to go visit the tiny nation in Micronesia called Palau. I must admit, before leaving for this trip I had never heard of Palau, Peter jokingly mentioned that I should go there. I was curious and after a bit of
How's it going?
research I quickly realized I had
to go. Luckily for me, through Fish'n'Fins Dive Company (the oldest in Palau) I could get a reasonable deal on diving, living (at Lehn's Motel and Apartments), and flights (Continental). I jumped on the opportunity. After the short 2 hr flight from Manila, I was in Palau and I was there to dive. So rather than going through my day to day activities I'm just going to load this blog up with photo's and tell you some of the highlights of my stay.
First, a bit about Palau, like I said, it's a small island nation which boasts a population of roughly 20,000 (the smallest in all of Micronesia). It used to be a part of the USA but received independence in 1994 and it was also the scene of some very bloody fighting during WWII. The people are mainly local Palauans and the capital is Koror, though Peleliu is an important island to the nation.
My flight arrived at 2 am, by 2:30 am I had my bag and was greeted with a man holding a sign with my name on it. I've never had that happen before! It was a
Just a couple of fish
...and a Manta in the corner!
fish'n'fins driver who took me to my hotel and asked if I wanted to be picked up at 7:30 am to go diving, a mere 4 1/2 hrs later. I said sure, I'm here to dive, why not. After less than 4 hrs of sleep I was on my way to the first dives of Palau.
Now my first dive day of Palau was more than memorable, it was incredible. We started with a dive at Big drop off and this dive had over 25 m visibility, we saw two turtles (my first two ever diving), a bunch of reef sharks (white and black tip reefers) and loads of fish. It was like swimming in an aquarium! Little did I know at the time that this was the norm for Palau. During our surface interval, the dive masters decided to go fishing for some Tuna. They only had a line and a squid like lure. Now like salmon fisherman back home who have to worry about seals stealing their catch, people here have to worry about sharks stealing their fish! The guys ended up catching three fish and each time they had to pull it into the boat as
Fishing between dives
They had to be quick pulling up their catch, like salmon fishers have to worry about seals stealing their catch, these guys have to worry about Silke sharks, and they got close!
fast as possible since there were two Silke sharks hot on the heels of the newly hooked fish. A truly amusing sight.
Another memory is of something that occurred after our first dive on the second day. We were treated to another amazing sight! We saw a bunch of dorsal fins in the distance closing in on us, sharks? No, dolphins! We carefully got closer with the boat to investigate. It turned out to be a pod of 15-25 Spinner dolphins! They're one of the smaller kinds of dolphins but they playfully passed by us as we snapped some photo's. I ask you, how could I not love this place?
Now I must tell you next about the German Channel dive site. I dove this site the most due to the fact of what you can see there. Not only do you have a strong fish population, beautiful coral, and great visibility; it also has a cleaner station for Manta Rays. A cleaner station is exactly that, it's a place where bigger fish go to get cleaned by smaller fish. The smaller fish eat parasites the bigger fish might have picked up during their travels. Now on my
3 of the 7 we saw that dive.
first visit to German Channel we saw a lone, magnificent Manta Ray as it swam around, we also spotted a nice, big 3m or so Leopard shark! Mantas are very odd but beautiful creature especially when you see more than one at the same time.... which I did, twice. The second time we saw four Manta Rays. When they're not getting cleaned there, they feed on the plankton. Now when they feed, they swim along parallel with the bottom and then all of the sudden, they turn and swim straight up towards the surface, finally completing what looks like a back flip, they go back to the depths. When multiple Manta's are doing it together it looks like they're elegantly dancing together. It is not only beautiful but very calming seeing such big animals glide so gracefully together through the water. Sometimes though, when they turn up to swim to the surface, they actually jump out of the water, like one of them did on our third dive when we saw not one, not three, not six, but SEVEN Manta's. I rented a camera and I got some photo's, you might have already seen them. I had the camera during
the third dive with the SEVEN Mantas. We were swimming around with the Mantas since they were swimming around feeding rather than staying put being cleaned. It was one of the most amazing experiences in my life, I mean one instance that is burned in my memory is when I was busy admiring three Manta's dancing in the water, I felt compelled to look over my shoulder just as a fourth Manta swoops by me less than five feet away from me. It was crazy.
What other memories can I pull out of my brain? Well, my title: "It never rains in Palau" was something I heard one of the first times I went diving, it was pouring rain at the time when Clint (the dive master) said it. At first I thought, 'oh, this might be a unique day', after three more days of erratic showers I realized it was a bit of an ironic statement. It rains a lot in Palau but luckily they never get any typhoons. The typhoons just start building steam around Palau so they get a ton of rain. Palauans and Fish'n'Fins employees love, looove to joke around which makes the atmosphere at
A million+ jellyfish live in this lake chasing the sun each day.
the dive shop great. They're always joking about what they saw (ex: Dive master 1 "We saw fifteen Manta rays and a whale shark today".... Dive master 2 "..at Jellyfish Lake!"). They were all great and all local Palauans who work at the shop except for a few: Hiro, a Japanese guy, and Sergei the happiest Russian I have ever met. Sergei would be bouncing around early in the morning always asking people to correct his English but loving every minute of his time in Palau. I promised I would keep this blog short since the last one was so long so all I can say about the rest of the Fish'n'Fins crew was that they were amazing and always were in a good mood.
I have to quickly explain what Jellyfish Lake is, well, it is exactly that. It's a small lake that has jellyfish in it, rumor has it, roughly six MILLION jellyfish. This little guys (The biggest are palm size, the smallest dime sized), follow the sun in this lake and do not sting so you can swim with them. When you first jump in you don't see any. As you start swimming a few pop
He was hiding at the bottom of Turtle Bay
up in the distance, then they number in the 10's and 20's, then 50's to 70's, until you are surrounded by thousands of these guys. It was a fun experience, I didn't have a camera but here
is what my view was in the centre of the lake.
On my last day I decided to go to the Palauan prison. No it wasn't a museum of the atrocities that occurred there or anything, it was the fully functioning prison. Now little Palau has a very low crime rate and those who do get locked up are, in a way, rehabilitated and prepared for life outside of prison. Let me explain, one of Palaus most famous souvenirs are story boards. These are intricately carved pieces of wood that tell the local stories about Palau. The prisoners carve them and are considered the best carvers. The older prisoners teach new prisoners how to carve so when they get let out they have some way of providing an income for themselves. These story boards can be as small as a carving that fits in your hand to tables, chairs, and giant canvases, truly unique and cool souvenirs.
I have more stories
We hooked on to the dead coral and enjoyed the shows which usually included 10+ reef sharks.
but I'll save them for later when I'm back but I have to mention one more positive thing about Palau. Palau realizes the importance of its waters, marine life, and peoples effects on the environment. So they have made it illegal to catch any sharks in Palau. Most of Palau's waters are Marine Park, so it's protected, and they have several fees that people have to pay to enjoy these waters. Ok, so the paying may not sound like such a great thing but it provides funds to help keep it protected. Also, the Fish'n'Fins staff told me how they understand that you need to learn more about the animals that attract the tourists, so you can better protect them and ensure they'll be there for a long time. So they helped bring researches out, tagged sharks, observed their habits to find out where they feed, where they give birth to their young, and where to best, and safely see them with out impeding too much on their territory.
Unfortunately, some dive companies (not Fish'n'Fins) in Palau have started feeding the sharks to attract them for the customers, I even saw one bleeping moron grab a turtle while he
Grey Reef Shark at Peleliu.
was scuba diving. Sigh, why do so many stupid people have to ruin such awesome things? Why? So I got to say this; I have indulged a bit about this amazing place. If I have convinced you to go visit this place, please, leave it as you found it, I like it just the way it is. It also needs to be kept this way since all you hear about these days are the depleting number of fish, disappearing coral, etc. We gotta protect what's left. That is why I was, in a way, reluctant to write this. The less people know about it, the better. But, Palau is dependent on tourism, no tourists, no growth. It's a fine line, like I said, I hope they get it right. What I learned in Palau:
- Scubasm : The exhilaration that comes from diving in Palau ... I had many
- Crocodiles make good guard dogs
- It never rains in Palau
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