Travel [Palau]

Exploring the island of Babeldaob in Palau by car

July 2002

Monday afternoon we drove our rented Mazda SUV through the pouring rain to Sam's Dive Tours to discuss our upcoming camping expedition. We had spent the day driving around Babeldaob, the large island connected to Koror Island by a very nice bridge (as a sign of friendship between Japan and Palau, both of which have similar flags.)

According to our guidebooks (both Moon Guide and Lonely Planet), the compact between the US and Palau included building a nice paved road around Babeldaob, scheduled to be completed in 2001 or so. Our map of Palau indicated in purple the Compact Road, and in black existing road. I took the purple with a thin black line to indicate existing Compact road. This turned out to be a false assumption. We took a left at the road past the Shell Station, which was dirt. Along our drive we saw signs of working on the new road. The new road will be quite wide, and in many parts straightened of those unsightly curves one must brake around. Obviously they didn't hire New Zealanders to design the new road. (Kiwis seem to love narrow windy one-lane roads).

The road was still completely dirt though. We had a 4-wheel drive but didn't end up needing it. We didn't make it too far into the interior of Babeldaob, about 13 km or so. Or maybe miles, I don't remember if the map was in miles. It probably was. I was driving a Japanese car, with the steering wheel on the right, and the speed in kilometers per hour, and of course, watching the odometer in kilometers. It took me about five minutes to realize that I wasn't constantly speeding (25 mph is the limit everywhere in Palau) since I was going 40 km/hr not 40 mph.

so we drove around green hilly Babeldaob. The island is volcanic in origin. We saw cuts in the road of dark almost shiny igneous rock. Occasionally we saw great views of bays and far off green jungle-like hills. Sometimes there were meadows with desert-style yucca-like plants (similar to pineapple plants). We got lost, found our way again, and finally realized it would take all day to drive to the northern end of the island, which has the basalt monoliths and great beaches that was our original goal. But the short drive was quite scenic and allowed us to see more of the interior of Palau.

Unfortunately we didn't have the seven or eight hours to see all of the sights of Babeldaob, nor did we have provisions beyond two small cans of Spicy Hot V-8. So we turned around and attempted to find the Ngaraard Waterfall. (Directions: take the sharp left at where the power lines cross the road at about 13.1 miles (or km?) Park your car near the summer house and walk on the trail behind the house.) We gave up and drove back to Koror, bumping up and down on the road in our huge vehicle. I drove. I rarely see other women drive here, at least not if a man is also in the car. The women driving are always alone.

Back in town

We ate lunch back in Koror at the Cafe@Palau and as we got up to leave discovered the rain was dumping out of the sky. We got soaked running to the car. Eventually we decided to drive to the Palau Aquarium. The aquarium is an outdoor exhibit, so it wasn't quite the refuge from the rain as we thought. Fortunately they supply umbrellas. The exhibits include aquariums with mangrove habitat, coral bay and coral reef. The sheer number of fish was amazing. We also saw huge nautilus. And in the outdoor pool, I could make out a shark (the rain on the water surface made it impossible to see anything but dark shapes swimming in the water). The shark has a distinctive shape.

Eventually we drove to Sam's to set up our latest camping expedition. Us, the kayaks, the Rock Islands, for four days and three nights. However, the combo of the full moon and the weather did not look good. I expressed an interest in seeing Jellyfish Lake, which made Ron's day, since another couple who were to go camping but saw their plans fall apart with the rain were to go on a kayaking/sightseeing tour the next day that is to include Jellyfish Lake. A perfect fit. Read about it here.

More of our stories from Palau:

Last updated Sep 4 2005
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