Travel [Palau]

Wed Jun 26 00:22:23 2002Kayaking through the Rock Islands in Palau Our day trip through the Rock Islands included about half a day of kayaking around inlets and islands. Great as usual. We snorkelled in an area called Einstein's Lake or perhaps Einstein's Garden (can't remember), filled with brain corals. Saw a large sea anenome and its symbiotic pal the clownfish. The anenome has poison on its tentacles(?) but the clownfish secretes a mucus that protects it. The clownfish helps drive away predators and also helps feed the anenome. I saw one large clownfish and one tiny one. Practiced diving down into the water in order to get better views of coral.

Snorkeling with the Giant (and I mean Giant) Clams

The next snorkelling spot was along a drop off with Giant Clams (bivalvia tridacnidae). They are huge! Huge means three to six feet long and a couple feet tall. They often weigh half a ton. They are somewhat endangered because of the their popularity as food, especially in Taiwan. Poachers will remove only the abductor muscle and leave the rest of the clam behind. THe clams are colorful -- purple with green pattern, black and white swirl pattern, ruddy orange, etc. In the shallower areas, there was what Paul Theroux calls "the boneyard" -- coral that looks like scattered bones. I'm unsure whether it is alive or dead, and I forgot to ask our guide, Shaft, this question. Swimming over the boneyard were three long narrow and skinny reef needlefish. Silvery, almost see through. In deeper water, I saw this weird caterpillar-like, tube-like animal with black "feet" at one end. I had seen this same creature the day before at the aquarium. What was it? A sea cucumber, it turns out. They come in many shapes and sizes. Also saw a number of the beautiful Moorish Idol fish.

Swimming among the jellyfish in Jellyfish Lake

We climbed back into the boat and sped off for the island containing Jellyfish Lake. The Rock Islands formed when coral was uplifted from the ocean, then eroded by rain (now porous limestone), then into islands when the ocean levels rose. Occasionally lakes were formed instead of islands, and after a long long time, this one lake developed some interesting jellyfish, which lost their ability to sting (mostly) from a lack of predators. Now the jellyfish swim in a huge mass, from one side of the lake to the other depending on the time of day. People don lifejackets, masks and snorkels, and swim among them. Wow...the though originally weirded me out a bit, swimming with so many jellyfish. But it was extremely cool, though I wish I had cut my fingernails before hand. (Occasionally, while swimming, my fingernail would go into a jellyfish. I hope they didn't get seriously hurt by this.) There were thousands of jellyfish, ranging from pinky-nail-sized to football-sized. I could see them below and all around me, and on one occasion when I swam down into the water, all around me. They would brush past you as they pulsated this way and that. I watched the jellyfish bump into each other, and like pool balls, they reflected off each other and pulsated in new directions. One little jellyfish got temporarily caught inside a large jellyfishs "dome" (the part that pulsates). It couldn't get out until the large jellyfish rotated around and gravity let the little one fall out. Way way way cool. Nothing like it that I've ever seen before.

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