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April 14, 2013

We enjoyed another amazing breakfast buffet at the hotel. It’s amazing how excited we got over seeing what would be offered…vegetable of the day, a soup, beans, hashbrowns, pancakes, a variety of breads, eggs, noodles to order…the list goes on. Today’s breakfast was of Korean influence!

From the hotel we were shuttled by van to our kayaks, where we began our expedition in Nikko Bay. We launched our kayaks into the teal waters and followed the edges of the tree covered islands for as much shade as the emerald beauties offered in the early morning as the sun shined above.

It wasn’t long before a short shower, only a few minutes, sprayed us with welcomed cold drops. Jayden, our guide, suggested we might hide out in the cave where we inspected booger algae, aptly named, but we happily paddled around the small bay, beneath the over hanging trees, and admired the national flower of Palau, the Rur flower from the Rock Islands, before the shower abruptly ended just as quickly as it visited.

We continued following the contours of the Rock Islands in and out of small inlets and bays while we peered into the crystal clear water spotting a carriage and firing pin from a WWII Japanese cannon and seeked out caves, one where the President of Palau hid during the war.

After an hour or two in the kayak, we geared up for our first snorkel. Donned in our mask, fins, and snorkel we scoured Lettuce Coral Wall for all kinds of critters. We were blessed to see beautiful coral, a variety of butterfly fish including the 8 banded, the Pajama Cardinalfish, and of course multiple clams. Ellen, who doesn’t particularly care for snorkeling, wondered what I was diving down to take a picture of so many times. It was the Pajama Cardinalfish. I had never seen one, and it was so cool…yellow head, a black stripe down its middle, and a red polka-dot tail. The way the sun was reflecting in my view finder; however, I never could see what I was taking a picture of once I took a deep breath and dove. Needless, to say the pictures were not spectacular. In the meantime, Ellen noticed something blue and wanted to know what it was. I replied, “it’s a clam…watch…if you move your hand above them they will close up.” That turned out to be her game for the rest of the snorkeling session.

After snorkeling, we kayaked across the bay to our lunch spot at a Japanese Pill Box Island. We used a wooden ladder to get from the water to the land and then climbed a razor-sharp, rocky and slippery trail to a water cistern and bunker. Sonja, who was German and as a small child had to hide in bunkers during WWII, didn’t find the bunker too fascinating. It was, however, shocking to learn how much the Rock Islands of Palau were used in the war. The Japanese fortified the island to protect a nearby ship harbor from the Americans, though the Americans never came through this channel. The men manning the island were also armed with an ammunition bunker, fuel tanks, and beer bottles for Molotov cocktails. The bottles, marked with different lettering, depending on the year it was made, were littered all over the area. Amazingly, from the water, despite knowing the location of the walls and concrete bunker, all I could spot at the top of the island were trees!!

After lunch, we kayaked beneath the shelf ledges to Disney Bay where we performed the kayak limbo through a limestone tunnel into Disney Lake. The edges of the lake were lined in coral while the middle was somewhat murky for Palau standards. This was due to damaged coral that had fallen to the middle of the forty-foot deep lake caused by a typhoon in January. We snorkeled the edges of the marine lagoon while Regal Angel Fish and a variety of other fish flitted between the corals. Ellen opted to sit this snorkel out and her game for the afternoon was to stir the pot for the moon jellyfish, which only deliver a light sting, that floated on the surface near the center of the lake.

Our final stop before returning to camp was Cathedral Cave. What a gorgeous place. Just before the entrance, the water barely covers a reef and then drops to a deep Cobalt blue as the cave opens up with stalactites and bats hanging above. The locals seemed to enjoy this cave too, as they were cooking up their fresh catch on their boat just outside the entrance.

We took a circuitous route back to camp so we could see a B24 wing. At high tide it was submerged underwater, but at low tide it was out for us to see. The tide differential here is quite dramatic. The sites we see, many times are dependent on the tide. We could hardly get into Disney Lake earlier today, but when we left, we had plenty of room to fit in the tunnel…though it still required being able to limbo.

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The camp was at Lee Marvin Beach. The kitchen and bathroom structures were permanent, made of wood and palm leaves. The toilet had a cement floor with a wood box and toilet seat mounted on top…primitive, but I’ve camped more primitively in the states for sure! We each had our own tent and the dining tent was large enough to seat ten! Ludy made us a fabulous meal which included fish, beef, chicken, rice, and a bean salad. The crew, Hamilton, Michael, Bax (the boat captain), and Wilter all come around and serve us off platters. For dessert, we had chocolate cake for my birthday and everyone associated with the trip signed a birthday card! It was a great ending to an amazing day exploring portions of the Rock Islands. ETB

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