Introduction to Palau
Have you heard of Palau? I did not know about this country until recently, when I started organizing my Pacific tour. This country lies east of the Philippines and there are only a handful of flights that arrive at the capital, Koror. I flew round trip from Seoul on Korean Airlines, since this was the cheapest flight available in November. How much? The cost was an astonishing $600 USD for a 5-hour flight. Well, you have to pay to play right?
To give you a brief introduction on Palau, she is an island country with a population less than 20,000 with approximately 250 islands. The islands look like a green mushroom that sits on top of the clear blue water. The islands grow vegetation and there are birds, reptiles and insects, but I heard there are almost no animals. Some of the islands sport beautiful white sand beaches, while some are impossible to get on. Simply said, beautiful. The country decided not to Micronesia and gained full sovereignty from the USA in 1994. I believe they have a free trade agreement with the USA, since the imported US products were not so expensive at the supermarkets that I visited.
Here we are, In order to complete my world tour, I made it to country 137. I was told about the famous rock islands and swimming with the jellyfish, so I was pretty psyched to visit Palau. I have been stung by a jellyfish once and it was not pleasant, but the jellyfish in Palau have stinging cells, but are not powerful enough to cause harm to humans. That is why you see 100s of photos of people jumping into a lake packed with thousands of jellyfish.
Unfortunately, the jellyfish lake was closed when I visited. I was told that the jellyfish population diminished due to the el nino problem and that the lake will be filled again by next year.
Rock Island Tour
I stayed there for four nights in total, but was not lucky with the weather. It was raining three days while I was there and the rain did not stop. The weather was cloudy and overcast all the time and only one beautiful day to go on a tour. I woke up early that day and signed up for the Rock Island tour immediately. The Rock Islands are a collection of islands and atolls scattered along the Pacific Ocean. Most of the islands are uninhabitable, just rocks that formed during the year. It turned out to be an amazing excursion, but was not cheap at $95 USD for the day, but I think it was well worth it. On top of this, there was a $50 USD Rock Island entrance fee, valid for 10 days. There is no way that you can get out of it, so don’t even try. Unless you charter a boat on your own, you may be able to get away.
Our tour guide Yoshiko from IMPAC tours guided us to our first stop, which was the natural arc, a beautiful place to take photos. It took about 30 minutes to get to the Rock Islands via a speed boat from Koror. Our boat had about 15 people onboard, including a two year old Japanese girl.
The next stop was about 30 minutes of snorkeling at one of the famous points called Paradise. The corals were intact and there were many different kinds of fishes. I’m not into diving, but do a little bit of snorkeling when feasible, but I’m no expert so don’t count on me to explain what kind of fishes I saw in the water. I’m not a big fan of the ocean, since I almost died during the tsunami in Thailand in 2004 and thus, I have this phobia with going in.
After this, we had a simple Japanese bento lunch on Ngemeaus Island, but I was drooling over the lunch that the other tour groups were eating. They had a proper barbeque and lots of meat included on their plates. I wished I could taste a bit of their food, but did not have the courage to reach out. Luckily, I saw the boat captain receiving a few left over lunches from the other crew members. Of course, I asked if I can get an extra meal and the captain happily gave me a plate of chicken, beef, sausage, kimchi, and rice. That was pretty delicious.
The view on the island was beautiful.
We then proceeded on the kayaking portion of the trip. Since I was alone, I had the entire kayak by myself, but it was easy to navigate and handle. It was about one hour of slow kayaking towards one of the calmest bays within the island groups. The trip can be handled with little children, so there is no need to worry if traveling as a family. Don’t forget to bring sunscreen, since the sun was scorching. As we kayaked, we saw snakes, bats, birds, and plant species that roamed around the islands. The water was extremely clear, far clearer than the snorkeling area and I wished I could stay for longer.
The last stop was the Milky Way. We parked the boat in the middle of the water and the captain and Yoshiko jumped into the water with a bucket. I was not sure what was going on at this point. Both of them dove into the water and came up with milky sand. The captain was a large man and only needed two attempts to fill the bucket half full, while Yoshiko came back with a handful of sand every time. I asked the captain (you saw his picture above right?) how he managed to get so much sand and he basically dove down 4 meters into the water and pushed the sand onto his body and carried it up. This can only be done by someone that has been doing this every day! What is the Milky Way? It is a beach formed from limestone from millions of years ago. The sand you step on is very fine and you can use it to exfoliate your skin and hair. Supposedly, it is good for your skin like the Dead Sea minerals (I like Ahava), but I’m not sure if it really is. I saw some of the gift shops selling Milky Way mud if you are interested in purchasing them.
After the Milky Way, we proceeded back to the IMPAC dock and was provided cookies and they drove as back to our respective hotels. It was a full day excursion and I was exhausted by the time we got back.
Next up, I will write about my city center tour and the restaurants that I visited.