Saturday, February 1, 2014

Diving in Palau, Micronesia

All United Airlines' flights in this part of the world curiously depart and arrive late in the evening or in the wee hours of the morning.  Our flight to Palau was a little over an hour and got us into the small island (they call them states) of Koror at about 10pm.  Since we were planning on diving three of the five days while we were in this diving mecca, we chose to budget ourselves down to a small hotel.  The hotel had air-conditioning, was clean, had a communal kitchen and was centrally located, so we could not complain.  Being the outlaw travelers we are...when the stickiness of the tropics got to us we just used the pool and beach facilities of one of the nearby upper scale hotel resorts.  If you are a diver or a water lover you MUST come to this beautiful gem of an island. The water is so incredibly blue and vibrant turquoise.  The formation of the bright, lush green dotting the area, and the spectacle of sea life down below the water will make you wish you packed your bags sooner and discovered this country.  Koror and the surrounding 'states' in Palau do not have much going on by way of night life nor a large selection of restaurants.  There is basically one main 'downtown area with a super market, some great restaurants, gas stations and hotels.  There were only about 8 main hotels in the area and most of them had their own restaurants and facilities inside.  I mention this only because the island caters mainly to diving. Most of the conversations going on are travelers asking each other, "what dive operation you with", "is this your first time diving on Palau", etc.  If you are not spending time on the water or in it you will be missing out while here.
On the causeway looking at the back of a dive operation and two restaurants.
The first day we spent going shopping, getting our orientation and building up our nerve to dive in one of the world's best diving spots.  The dive operation we chose after some internet research was a very well recommended one by the name of Sam's Tours.  We ventured over a causeway connecting our little island to the next and spent the remaining part of the day lounging by the pool at some nice resort we found along the way.

Me standing in front of one of the smaller islands of Palau.
This was at the hotel we spent the day at…and we're going in the water tomorrow with no wetsuit?
Amy said she saw 3 spotted rays from the road while she was out for a run.  In this photo she was keeping her eyes out for sea slugs and snakes.
Great snorkeling and kayaking here at the Seaview Hotel.
After a day of walking, sun and sweat we cooked dinner and went to bed by 8pm.  After all, we had a big day of diving ahead of us and we needed all of our energy to defend ourselves in these shark infested waters.  The first day of diving we saw two kinds of reef shark (4-5 feet long), turtles, a crazy variety of colorful fish, many different types of coral, and …two massive 10 foot wide manta rays.  We also were able to snorkel in the famous jellyfish lake.  The golden jellyfish some how do not have their stingers and evidently this is the only lake in the world that has them.  Aside from these encounters the boat ride through this dotted seascape of the lush green, small islands was a treat in itself and something Amy and I will cherish. (you'll see what I mean in the video coming up)
Just arrived at Sam's Tours.  We rented our gear, met our dive masters and found our boat.  Back in the corner is a nice little bar/restaurant that was convenient for dinner and drinks after a day of diving.
Amy, the flag of Palau and the horizon dotted with the islands of Palau. 
Picture perfect postcard….I know!  Not to hard to find shots like this here. 
Before going out to dive and visit the jellyfish we stopped by one of many Japanese 'zeros' that were shot down during the war.
I think the rest of the divers onboard were so in shock at the view that not too many were taking photos.  I was able to get my mouth off of the floor enough to capture a lot on digital.  We gave our new iPhone 5 camera a workout on this island.  
Amy walking down to jellyfish lake.
Amy in jellyfish lake.  This was taken close to the dock, but out about 75 yards were hundreds upon hundreds of them.  You kind of get taken back a bit when you see a bunch coming toward you from the bottom of the lake.  All of sudden you are floating in the water thick with jellyfish.  Kicking ourselves now that we didn't buy or rent an underwater camera to capture it all.

Amy taking in the sights with other captivated divers.
On our second day of diving we did our first dive in a blue hole and a cavern.  We saw lots of interesting sea life like a Napoleon Wrasse, more shark and some turtles.  Our trip back to the dive operation took about 45 minutes. On the ride back our captain took us on a high speed tour in and out of the islands and coves.

*Enlarge screen for better viewing and keep in mind it is a long video, but worth it.  Did you see the turtle?

Another dive boat cooling off on a sand bar.
Self pic,…and no we did not enhance the water color behind us.

One of the beautiful beaches we discovered on our way to a dive location.
Everyday we stopped off at a new beach to have lunch between dives.
The dive shop served us bento boxes for lunch.
Us enjoying some downtime before our next dive.

This was small compared to many of the clam shells we saw underwater.
A welcomed reward after a wonderful, exhausting day of diving.
Sunset from the dive shop bar.
After our last day of diving we took one day to rest before our dreaded 2am flight to Guam.  We left our bags with the hotel, explored the area a bit more and relaxed poolside at the nearby resort.  We are already looking forward to our return to this beautiful place.
Another lunch spot.
Taking a dip after lunch.
One of the most photographed islands in Palau aside from the rock islands/70 rocks.  I believe they creatively named this one arch rock.
On our next trip back I want to explore all of these caves.  Some were made by the Japanese during the war.
Our lovely, budget accommodation for our stay in Palau.  

The community center across the street from our hotel.

Our last lunch stop location.
We went exploring and found another more private beach.  We went swimming, looked for coconut crab for our nephews and got up close and personal with baby reef shark.
This one was almost 2 feet long.
Then his brothers and sisters came out to visit.  We counted 7 in all.
Old, Japanese cannon left over from the war.  
While walking around our last day we checked out another nearby resort with a nice lagoon.
We discovered this poisonous water snake luckily on our last day.   He was hanging out right next to the foot path.
Stay tuned for our next blog of Saipan and Guam, USA