Travel [Palau]

Kayak-camping the Rock Islands in Palau

July 2002

Day One

We went on a three day kayaking trip in the green mushroom-shaped Rock Islands. We started off with a guided day trip, and at the end of the day, paddled our heavily-laden kayaks (water, H2O showers, food, Tiki torches, air mattresses, etc) off to Tiebakl beach with its open-air shelter. During the day we paddled around the islands, watched birds overhead, and often jumped overboard to go snorkelling. I have never seen such colorful coral before in my life. Disney Lake, accessible only by a tunnel at low tide or, at high tide, by climbing over some limestone, looked to me both like Smurf Village (colorful little mushroom shaped corals) or to pursue the Disney reference, like the Alice in Wonderland ride at Disneyland/world.

We ate lunch on land, and got to look at some of the ruins from WWII, such as Japanese pillboxes, water catchment systems, old helmets and beer bottles. Nathan jumped off a cliff (into water).

The shelter at the beach was somewhat disappointing as there were many bags of trash left behind resulting in a malodorous smell in the air. On the bright side, there were no biting insects, often common when camping. Lots of crabs (mostly tiny hermit-crab variety) running around the beach. We left the crabs alone and enjoyed a Burrito Night.

Day Two

The next day we were off on the water by 8 am to paddle around the point into Risong Bay, which has numerious marine "lakes" and coves that are accessed by narrow channels. It was in one of these coves that I had some bad luck. I was out of the kayak, and reaching for a my mask and snorkel from the pocket behind my seat. At that moment of pulling on the mask, my (lovely prescription) sunglasses shot up into the air and began their slow arc down towards the water. Black plastic, slowly rotating, shiny lenses, splashing down into the azure sea, never to be seen again, except by colorful little fishes and perhaps a coral that decides to grow on them. Nathan shouted "grab them!", and I, swam underwater and grapsed blindly. They quickly sank to the ocean floor far far below. The water was deep, just enough so that one can (with glasses) see them lying on the floor, but too deep to retrieve. Next time I will at least drop them in the Marianas Trench, so at least they are the deepest sunglasses in the world.

Poor poor sunglasses. Nice nice sunglasses. Bright bright Palauan day. If anyone reading this blog is diving in Kingfisher Cove, inside Risong Bay, and feels like retrieving them, it would be much appreciated.

Moving on with life, we continued our slow circumnavigation of the perimeter of the bay with its many coves and lakes. There is a bird in Palau that whistles a mournful slow dirge off-key over and over again. I can imagine it as the soundtrack to a movie about a person who is stranded on a Rock Island and eventually goes crazy from the bird song. I think that the whistling bird, the WWII relics covered with fig trees and vines, and all of those man vs. nature movies and books one has read eventually add up to a feeling of eeriness. But that was the hike up to the German lighthouse past Japanese bunkers and general's swimming pools and rusted cannons. In the kayak, there is also the plonking sound of the paddles in the water and all the other birds, and the water splashing up against limestone and occasionally gurgling sounds from hidden caves in the limestone. This at least drowns out the whistling bird.

After exploring Risong Bay, we headed towards our beach, stopping along the way to snorkel in Blue Devil Gardens. The current was strong, making the snorkelling somewhat difficult, though there were many cool fish amongst the seaweed. This night's shelter was much nicer than the previous nights. We ate Mac'n'Cheese and watched the sunset (as reflected in clouds and the water since we faced south-east) and lit our Tiki Torches.

Day Three

We slept well and woke early in order to launch the boats by 7 am. After a long crossing that took an hour, mostly over shallow reef as the tide went out, we arrived at an old Japanese pier. From there we hiked up a now-overgrown road built by Korean slave labour during WWII to the German lighthouse (the lighthouse predated the war and the road.) The lighthouse is riddled with bullet holes, including the rusty iron ladder we climbed to reach the top. From the top were wonderful views of the surrounding postcard-lovely Rock Islands.

We ate lunch on a partial set of stairs (consisting of three risers). Nathan didn't get botulism from the iffy looking tin of "Vegi Sandwich Spread". We ate bread, cucumber, and chocolate pudding for lunch.

We spent most of the afternoon paddling around the island, with another colorful snorkel break, then eventually crossing over to Malakal Island where we returned the kayaks. There was a hell of a headwind at times. The paddle was incredibly beautiful, with small green islands, bright sun, and crystal clear water surrounding us in all directions.

Back to Civilization

After that, we got a hotel room, showered (oh yes, one H2O shower leaked while kayaking, resulting in no shower for Nathan after the first day), and ate dinner at Cap'n Finns, expecting burgers and fries, but getting Chef's Catch of the Day and 16 oz. New York Strip. It was good. Nathan thoroughly enjoyed his steak and his two San Miguels. Then we slept, but not before each of us secretly wished the other was a trained masseuse.

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Jellyfish Lake and Giant Clams in Palau

Exploring Palau by Car

Last updated Sep 4 2005
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