OceanView Header

 


Palau Trip Report 

Perhaps it is a perverse sense of retribution that causes Continental airlines to schedule a flight out of Yap at 04:00 a.m. but that is when our flight left so, bleary-eyed and anything but bushy-tailed, we arrived back in Guam at an unholy hour of the morning and were transported to the Fiesta Hotel for the day.  It is easy to see the positive effects of being a U.S. territory since the infrastructure in Guam is reminiscent of any tropical American paradise.  The cars are new, the highways are paved, and there is a decadent air of affluence surrounding the beach area.  However, all we wanted to do was catch up on some much needed sleep.  Unfortunately we were rather rudely awakened in the afternoon by the phone ringing and the front desk informing us that we should have checked out hours ago.  Nice!

Back at the airport we said a few goodbyes to some of our fellow divers who had connections to Manila and waited for our flight to Palau.  It is probably a good thing that we arrived in Palau at night when we could not see anything.  The first impression that we got upon awakening in the morning was that we were most definitely in a third world country.  The view from our room is comprised of huge oil storage tanks but, to be honest, the view on the other side of the hotel is not much better.  The vehicles are in pretty rough shape but the locals are expert at scavenging parts to keep them running and there are more pot holes than road on parts of the route to Sam’s Tours, the operation that we are diving with during our stay in Palau.

Now, I have some good news and some bad news.  First, the good news…my luggage arrived with me.  And the bad news…the right hand grip of the housing no longer functions, rendering the housing completely inoperable.  With the assistance of the local video professional we took the housing apart and put it back together.  Voila…success, we are back in operation.  That was, of course, until I took the camera out of the housing and put it back in at which point it failed to operate again.  So, we took it apart and put it back together again several times but we could not get it to work.  Amphibico informed me that they could FedEx a replacement handle to arrive in three days but apparently it could take up to a week to make it through customs.  So, it was decided to wait until returning to Canada to have the housing sent in for service.

Now, about the diving… I have unofficially renamed all of the dive sites that we have visited thus far as “Missed Photo Opportunities”.  Our first dive was to one of the signature dive sites in Palau, Blue Corner.  Legions of grey reef and whitetip sharks patrol the edge of the wall here.  The divemasters do not feed them, they do not have to, the sharks are just there.  We hooked ourselves onto the reef using reef hooks and while we were buffeted about in a current that threatens to tear your mask from your face and your regulator out of your mouth, these sharks glide by effortlessly against the current.  If you are lucky, a fish will devour a smaller fish and the ensuing feeding frenzy is instantaneous.  Huge Napoleon wrasse and several whitetip sharks descend on the area stirring up the bottom into a cloud of sand.  And then, as quickly as it started, it is all over and they simply go back to being on patrol.  The largest barracuda that I have ever seen hung motionless above us, oblivious to the effects of the current.  Upon releasing our hooks we were whisked away in the current to a group of yellow-masked angelfish and a turtle seeking shelter from the current.  Eventually we came to our safety stop above the wall and spent the next three minutes in the midst of a school of several hundred barracuda.  More missed photo opportunities than I care to remember.

On our second day we opted for the leisurely pace of a kayak tour.  First, you board the boat and they take you out to the Milky Way.  This is where the adventure begins.  While the guides are getting the kayaks ready we busied ourselves by diving to the bottom of the lagoon to scoop up handfuls of sand that is as fine as talcum powder.  The sand is purported to hold restorative and curative properties so we lathered ourselves from head to toe to achieve maximum benefit.  Reality is that we looked more like a crazed group of native Indians bent on head hunting than a group of middle aged health nuts.  The kayaking journey got off to an inauspicious start when my hat got knocked off by a low slung branch. Not wanting to lose my $20 investment I slipped out of the kayak to retrieve my chapeau.  Of course this necessitated a re-entry maneuver that would have been successful if Christie had not continued to lean out the opposite side of the kayak.  The kayak tipped over and we both ended up in the drink.  Fortunately, one of the guides had his camera at the ready so the whole escapade has been captured on film.  We kayaked for a while, snorkeled a bit and then went to Shark City for lunch.  The shallow, sandy beach shoreline at this popular picnic spot is fringed with a coral reef that is patrolled by numerous blacktip sharks.  There are a number of scuba shops that conduct open water check-out dives here.  Sounds good to me…have your students remove and replace their masks while sharks circle their heads.

Next we set off for Jellyfish Lake.  This is not a trip for the faint of heart since it is necessary to climb up and down a steep, sharp rocky path to access the lake.  Permits are required to enter the area but it is well worth the trek.  There are literally millions and millions of jellyfish, some as small as peas, others as large as grapefruit.  It is not possible to swim a stroke without dozens of them making contact with your skin.  It is a good thing that they don’t sting.  Scuba diving and even free diving is not allowed in Jellyfish Lake since at a depth of about 15 meters the dead jellyfish have turned the lake into hydrochloric acid.

Every trip out on the dive boat takes you through the rock islands of Palau.  There are hundreds, possibly even thousands, of these sheer limestone cliffs covered with dense tropical foliage that tower hundreds of feet above the sea.  The ebb and flow of the tides has eroded several feet of these islands at the waterline creating the illusion that these masses of stone are floating on the water.  Numerous words that have been used to describe the colour blue and all of them, teal, azure, royal, pale, deep etc. etc. etc. are represented here.  Many of these islands have caves and one such cave was used by the Japanese as a fuel storage depot during the Second World War.  The Americans bombed this cave and now there is just a large, blackened hole with hundreds of rusted out oil barrels littering the floor.  I cannot imagine having to wage war on such inhospitable terrain.

We still have a couple more days of diving in Palau before we head back to Guam for a connecting flight to Pohnpei.  Internet access here is sporadic and slow so there may not be any further reports for a while and there definitely won’t be any film at eleven.

 

 

Katyk Briceño
"Amazing!!! Beautiful!!" 
 
Daniel LaFrance  
"Beautiful, akin to an underwater spiritual experience of sorts."
 
Walter Marshall   
"Whenever I watch your videos I am just taken away." 
 
Shaun Diaz   
"Well done, very well done. Mysterious, gorgeous and deeply inspiring... The best part is I am not naming any of it. It is nature in its most perfect and beautiful form." 
 
Christie Lopez  
"David...the video is beautiful and so is the music!! I love the music!!!!" 
 
Brian Dodd
"I just wanted to thank you for the moments of peace and beauty these clips brought to my hectic life."