Palau

Saturday 24 March 2018

We landed into pouring rain, at 6.30pm. So despite all the faffing on the ground, we were landing on time.

Passport was quick. Because I was at the front of the queue.

I was starting to worry my bag hadn’t made it, given the city check in. But thankfully it had!

And I was picked up by the company that I’m diving with for the next week. Handy!

It was about a half hour drive to where I’m staying in the town. Through countryside and past small houses.

I’m staying right in the middle of Koror town. The town is one long main road, dotted with shops, restaurants and hotels. Nothing very exciting looking though!

My hotel is nice enough. Modern inside as it has just been redone.

Finding somewhere to stay here was really difficult. Nowhere was good value. All the really expensive places didn’t look very exciting. And all the cheaper places were really cheap and nasty looking.

I popped across the road to the supermarket. A massive selection of things from the US, Japan and the Philippines. But very expensive. £12 just for a melon, almond milk, a few bananas and granola.

I sorted out all my stuff for diving tomorrow. And just went to bed.

Sunday 25 March 2018

Even though I didn’t need to leave until 7.45am, I was up at 5am. And couldn’t sleep after that.

I was so disappointed that the weather was awful – very, very windy and looked like rain.

I was picked up for the short drive through town, over to another island, where the boat was waiting.

Out for the whole day, diving.

A relatively large boat, for 6 guests and 4 crew! It was the most organised day diving boat I’ve ever been on. Each person had their own little station – tanks lined up. A large forward facing seat, and a large dry box under the seat for all your stuff. Which was lucky, as it was a very bumpy and wet ride.

We went over to Ulong channel. The journey took just less than an hour. Passing by some of the famous rock islands – which are really cool. Islands, made of rock, covered in trees. The water around the edge becomes shallower, so is bright blue.

Shame about the weather.

Just before I went in for the first dive, my fin strap broke. Devastating. So they lent me a (way too big) fin.

The first dive at Ulong sand bank was good. On a sloping reef. A grey reef shark and white tipped shark. Some leaf scorpion fish (some of my fav!). And a twin spot lion fish!!!! No one seemed bothered about this. But they are SO rare. I’ve only ever seen one of them before (in northern Bali).

When I came up, the captain had found me a replacement strap that I could use for the week! But I’ll have to buy a new one before I leave for the Philippines next week.

Second dive was down the channel. A few more sharks. We hooked onto the reef. Mostly I think so people could try it out. As there didn’t seem to much point to it.

A small eagle Ray came by. Then a massive chunky one. So cute.

The channel was really cool. A sandy lane passing between two sloping reefs. The reefs covered in all kinds of corals – as well as some very large lettuce corals. But I clearly didn’t have my strobe on properly. At the end of one of these lanes were two large giant clams.

Lunch was on the boat. In the choppy water. It was wavy – but no where near Galapagos / Mozambique / South Africa wavy. We each had a bento box from one of the local Japanese restaurants. It was cute! I had some tofu and vegetables in a sweet soy sauce, and a carrot and lettuce salad.

Last dive of the day was near to the channel. A nice wall, followed by a reef. Nothing too exciting here though.

The ride back was cold and wet. We also went a different way – through more of the rock islands. So cool.

We were back at 4pm.

And off to find a new fin strap.

But no luck. Despite being a diving island, no one sells anything. Ridiculous.

So I spent the next hour googling how I can possibly buy one before my next diving trip in the Philippines next week. And failed.

I popped out for dinner. There is an Indian restaurant about 5 minutes down the road from me. The prices were rather insane.

I had a vegetable curry and roti. It was ok. Nothing exciting – and doesn’t compare at all to food I had in India last month. And it was the ridiculous price of $17.

Back at the hotel I didn’t do much. But hope for a better weather day tomorrow.

Monday 26 March 2018

My hopes for better weather were short lived. It was cloudy and already raining. The trees were swaying in the strong wind. Not looking hopeful.

My phone rang at 7:30 AM I wasn’t expecting to be picked up until 7:45 AM, so lucky I was ready, but no internet time in the lobby!

Back at the dock. Ready to get on the boat. At least the rain had stopped.

It took 50 minutes to arrive at the dive site. Some of the journey was fine – it was flat, there were pretty rock islands to look at. But some of it was rough. The boat was rocking, waves were splashing in and we were all soaked and freezing cold. The splashes from the waves hurt, they were coming in so strong.

But we made it to a pretty rock Island in an area called Ngemelis.

The dive here was a wall which dropped off right next to the Rock Island, down to about 100m. There wasn’t much going on. Some nice sea fans, one turtle, a few fish here and there. It wasn’t all that exciting. Not a great fan of wall dives. Now and again is okay.

This was supposed to have been one of Jacques Cousteau’s favorite wall dives.

Maybe it was better back then. Pre mass fishing.

The weather hadn’t improved when we came up. But we moved onto our next site, not too far away, by one of the other nearby Rock Islands.

This dive started off a bit differently. We dropped through a large hole, which was about 3 m under the water, dropping through the wall. About 10 m deep, this hole opened out into the rest of the ocean. That was cool.

The rest of the dive was just a wall. So pretty much the same as the previous. So I wasn’t that excited. There were three turtles. And a lot of Soldierfish facing into the wall, which is a bit odd. Not seen that before.

Just before the end of the dive I saw a grey reef shark underneath me. Then a couple more. So I swam a bit out of the blue, and there were loads. The whole school of great reef sharks. Okay, a small school, there were 12 of them. But they were a bit deep and I had no deco time left, so I couldn’t go down any further to see them. The end of the dive was nice, a shallow reef on top of the wall.

Back on the boat we had some lunch. I had the same as yesterday. A bento box with vegetables and tofu. It was good, I was hungry – I haven’t eaten yet today.

The guys were worried that the storm was going to get worse, so we headed back to the town now and we were going to dive near the town.

The journey back was awful. It was now pouring rain. Visibility was about 5 m. All we could see surrounding the entire boat was just a sheet of white. So much rain.

The rain was come coming into the boat so strong that it hurt. Along with the waves, the boat was jumping up and down. We sat on the floor of the boat, to try and avoid the worst of the combined waves and rain. It helped a little bit. But it was rather uncomfortable. And kind of funny.

That lasted quite a while but eventually the rain stopped and suddenly we could see all the Rock Islands surrounding us. When we made back into the Bay of the main town, no one wanted to go diving. Everybody was freezing cold and fed up. I was okay and would’ve gone but no one else was keen.

It was 3 PM By the time I got back to the hotel. And jobs to do. I needed to find duct tape, to mend my fin strap.

The Hardware shop was open but was not very stocked. They didn’t have any. They offered me some parcel tape instead. Not ideal. But pointed me in the direction of a stationery shop so I tried there instead. And success. They had some!

I wanted to go and find the gelato shop, it was supposed to be a 10 minute walk away. But then it started raining. Typical.

So instead I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening lazing around.

Tuesday 27 March 2018

Today the weather was even worse. Rain. So disappointed.

And we weren’t allowed to the outer reef – we could only dive within the bay near the town. The coast guard decides if it is safe or not, and they had put a red flag up – meaning you can’t go.

The first dive was a small wreck. Nothing particularly exciting.

During the surface interval, we headed into a sheltered bay. The wind was much lower here, being blocked by the islands.

So finally time to get the drone out!

I had been waiting for this all week!

I didn’t fly for long. Nor very high – didn’t want to be caught in the strong wind. But it was fun. Although landing wasn’t. The space at the front of the boat was tiny – too windy to try and land the drone on the boat, so just had to grab it. Not ideal!

Second dive was along the channel which runs along the wider bay. Not very exciting. Bad visibility. Nothing of note.

Lunch again was good – the same as previous days!

And for the last dive, we headed further out of the bay. This was much better – a nice sloping wall. Again, nothing too exciting though.

All over, a bit of a disappointing day.

I had hoped to come to sunshine, flat waters. No wind. Tropical islands. But so far, that hasn’t materialised.

I walked up to the gelato to shop, which was about 10 minutes away. Vegan options! Really good. Who would have expected that in the middle of the Pacific Ocean!

Wednesday 28 March 2018

Today was looking hopeful – it was sunny!!

I was really disappointed that I was moved boats today. I really liked the group that I was diving with. But a few of us were moved across to another boat, which was a shame to be split up.

Luckily today we were allowed to the outer reef.

It was a wet, bumpy ride over for the most part. But then suddenly, the sun was back out and we had some amazing views of the surrounding rock islands.

We were in the German Channel area. The first dive was at a wall. Was ok.

It was a bit windy. But I tried to fly the drone anyway. I got nice pictures. But it was rather terrifying – it was flying lopsided (don’t know why). And the wind was far too strong.

Again, landing was near impossible. I grabbed it in slightly the wrong place and caught my finger in the propellors. Quite a deep cut. Not ideal!

Next dive – in German Channel. Terrible visibility. Supposed to be the area for mantas. But none today. However did see a few grey reef and white tip sharks. Plus a lot of hawksbill turtles grazing in the soft corals.

After lunch (more tofu, vegetables and rice!) our next dive was just along the channel, at German wall. The visibility here was better. Some schools of jacks and barracuda. As well as a few grey reef sharks.

I got a bit sunburnt today. Even with a lot of factor 50 on. Typical.

Thursday 29 March 2018

Finally. The day I had been waiting for. Sunshine.

So sad it’s my last day.

The only dive I haven’t yet done – blue corner. We headed out that way to have a look. But it was very wavy.

All the boats were turning around.

So we dived right next to it. Shame.

Finally the wind was also low. What I’ve been waiting for all week! Drone time! Really cool photos – contrast between the reef and the deeper water.

Next dive – German channel again. Still no luck with the mantas.

For lunch, we stopped near to a pretty islands. More drone time! Getting better at landing (ie still grabbing it!) – easier with no wind. But still not easy when you have less than a meter of space to move around on – and completely surrounded by water.

Last dive. A sloping wall reef. Lots of fish. Was good.

Shame the diving is now all over!

Back in my room, I had to sort and pack everything. Which seemed to take ages.

Some of the boys from the dive shop came over – and we went to one of the nearby bars.

Friday 30 March 2018

I’m leaving today, which is a shame. I thought I was here a long time – a week. Which is quite long in one place for me. But it has flown by.

My flight isn’t until 8.45pm tonight. And I had made the last minute decision to go on a day trip. Otherwise, I’m just sat in the hotel lobby for the entire day.

I was picked up at 8.30am, back to the boat dock, and off to the rock islands.

The first stop was at the ‘milky way’.

This is a lagoon, surrounded by rock islands. The rock islands are made from limestone. And the sand / mud in this lagoon is very fine. The guys filled a bucket with it. And then we could cover ourselves with it. Supposed to be a good exfoliant!

A baby black tip shark went by! Apparently there are also baby crocodiles in this lagoon!

After a bit more sailing, we came into a large lake area – we were going kayaking. There was only 2 of us, plus the guide. I wasn’t really looking forward to this. Last time I went kayaking in South Africa and it was rather awful.

However, this was so good. We went along the edge of the islands. The guide explaining everything as we went – showing us the National flower of Palau. Some flycatcher flowers hanging off the side of the rocks. The parrot nests (3 species). And all about the trees which get their nutrients from the limestone.

We stopped off at a small beach. Then headed through a small gap in the rocks, into another lagoon. Here, there were some jellyfish.

Palau was famous for its jellyfish lake, but after bad weather a few years ago, the jellyfish were almost wiped out. So that jellyfish lake is now closed, whilst they recover.

I flew the drone from the kayak pontoon. Perfect spot! No wind. And a nice spot to land! So pretty.

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We stopped on an island for lunch. It was quite busy – seems to be the only island you are allowed to stop on! Most islands you can’t physically land on, as they are mushroom shaped. And other islands are for locals only – tourists are not allowed to visit.

Lunch was good – similar to what I have been getting all week. Japanese style bento – sticky rice and vegetables.

Again, a nice drone spot!

Next up were a few snorkelling spots. But I couldn’t really be bothered. Been diving all week. And I don’t like snorkelling. So I stayed on the boat and spoke to the captain. He was really nice, telling me all about Palau and the traditions.

Enroute back, when we were nearly in town, we passed through the channel that we dived a few days ago. And the captain stopped – he had spotted 3 manta! Cute.

It was 4pm when I got back to the hotel. I have a few hours until I’m being picked up for the airport.

So off to the gelato shop. Was very busy today. I got a cone with papaya gelato – really good!

Then sat around and rearranged my stuff. But some of the boys from the dive shop came over again for a chat!

The dive centre have been driving me around all week – picking me up and dropping me off. And they were too efficient! They arrived 20 minutes early and I hadn’t finished rearranging all my stuff between bags.

Conclusion on diving – was nice. Not the best, or most exciting diving I’ve ever done. I think I was just very unlucky with the weather.

Back to the airport. Sad to be leaving.

It was a 2.5 hour flight to Manila. And by the time I had stood in a huge, disorganised passport queue, failed on every single ATM and got a taxi to the hotel, it was around 11.30pm. (Manila is back an hour, so 12.30am in Palau!).

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