Total Miles Traveled: 66,088
Leaving Sydney was a crossroads for us. We knew we wanted to do some more scuba diving but also that we needed to get back to the U.S. soon. So, it came down to how many airline miles we had left, and somehow we were able to convince a Continental Airlines agent to let us do an open-jaw ticket from Cairns to Guam to Palau to Guam to Hawaii to L.A to San Diego. Turns out (surprise!) what we did with our miles wasn’t “legal” but they made an exception since the agent had already offered it to us.
Palau is a remote chain of rocky islands that was the site of one of the most deadly battles (the Battle of Peleliu) during WWII between the Japanese and American forces. The unfortunate thing is that we didn’t have to fight the battle – it didn’t have much strategic value.
Palau also happens to be one of the world’s top destinations for scuba diving with vibrant protected coral reefs. It’s known for big pelagic life (sea animals that roam the seas) like manta rays, sharks, whalesharks etc. Since the dive sites were somewhat far apart – we stayed aboard the Tropic Dancer, a liveaboard, for a week. Here are some photos from our dives:
Unexploded shells in a sunken supply ship:
A baby squid that changed from white to dark brown when I approached:
These fish are called scads – they were unconcerned with our presence, probably because they don’t taste very good:
Lots of colorful little seafans (?):
Sharks were very very common – almost too many to count on some dive sites:
This is a giant trevally or “GT”. It’s a prized catch for deep sea fishermen:
A hawksbill turtle posing for a photo. These are abundant in Palau:
This fish kept nipping at my the bubbles that were sticking to the hairs on my head without my knowledge:
Colorful soft corals were everywhere:
A different kind of sea anemone:
Giant clams were also common – some of them were about 3 feet long!
A hermit crab at night:
The friendly napoleon wrasse at the Blue Corner dive site. This guy was extremely friendly with our divemasters because he’s been fed eggs before and loves them.
Lisa swimming with the barcode barracuda:
Here’s another shot of the napoleon wrasse. There may or may not have been an egg involved to get him this close:
Another awesome find – a full grown cuttlefish that would constantly change colors as we floated around watching it. Really strange looking and fascinating creatures. If you make a peace sign, it will raise two of its central tentacles as a warning.
Happily on our way to our next dive site. Despite it being a tropical destination, the water was still a bit chilly. Would recommend a 3mm full wetsuit.
Huge anemones – bigger than anywhere else we’ve dived:
Here I am with fists of bubbles:
Here’s Lisa “hooked in” with her reef hook. What’s that you ask? It’s a metal hook that you use to hook on to some dead coral or a rock and it’s attached to a string that’s tied to your BCD. Why do you use it? Because the currents can sometimes be so strong that you can barely hang on with your bare hands.
A spotted eagle ray. These guys just glide. I don’t know how they propel themselves!
Here’s a video of the eagle rays:
Beautiful blue waters!
Yes, we were on a boat:
Lisa herds the school of fish:
All of the islands were shaped like this:
Finally, this lesson learned is for divers – if you’re carrying a camera when you dive, make sure you have it cinched tightly to your wrist before you dive, or clip it to your BCD. I lost my camera when I was fiddling around underwater and the current pulled my camera away. I didn’t realize it until I reached for it to take a photo and realized it was gone. Terrible feeling.
The good news was – someone found it! But they found it floating FOUR MILES AWAY at another dive site. Turns out, someone on their boat had lost a camera too and they were looking for it. I got very very lucky.
It was a good 10 days in Palau and we would love to go back some day. Alas, time and money are the limiting factors as always. But we’re glad we took the plunge and spent the money. Here’s the full set of photos: