Each dive in Palau was magnificent. It’s not every day you come eyeball to eyeball with creatures appearing to wonder; ‘just what are you doing with that funny contraption on your back?’ Such was the case when my dive instructor signaled me to turn around on our safety stop. To my surprise and glee, there was an enormous manta ray staring right at me. I could have touched him, but out of respect I held back as we gazed at one another. That is, after spinning my head around motioning and gurgling “HOLY MOLY!” My instructor proved that you can in fact laugh while scuba diving. I’m hooked.
The biodiversity above and underwater was captivating. Kayaking was a perfect way to catch both along the craggy limestone. Before departing on our carefully planned, 7 night kayaking, camping expedition, we took a day to paddle out for some snorkeling, and practice navigating with the waterproof expedition maps that Planet Blue provided. With countless, similar-looking, uninhabited islands you would too!
Putting our kayaks into the deep turquoise water, surrounded by jungly trees and mangroves, it occurred to me that if I were a salt water crocodile, this would be top notch. So I asked our friend who helped us launch, ‘just out of curiosity – should we keep an eye out for those wily reptiles?’ He grinned, “In Palau? Always Crocodile!”
Vines swooping to the water provided kayak parking as we snorkeled, and I looked behind, below, all around us for croc eyeballs – at which point it would be too late anyway, so why bother? The corals were a vast array of colors, shapes and textures appearing preserved since the dawn of time.
I’ll never forget though, the eerie feeling that also hung in the air that day. It was especially prominent, listening as our paddles interrupted the buzzing, ringing sounds of the birds and insects. I couldn’t help but wonder what it must have been like for soldiers surviving in hiding for years, or decades in the caves. What it must have been like not knowing if the war was over, if it was safe to come out at all. How explosions must have shattered the stillness that now hung in the air. You could feel it, you could just feel the suffering and fear that had once dominated this beautiful place.
About the author: Jeanethe Falvey, EPA New England, on detail, EPA’s Office of Web Communications.