The first time I heard of “Palau”, was when the 10th season of Survivor premiered on South African TV. It held some allure for me ever since. For those Survivor fans (Mo!), it was the season where 40 year old fire lieutenant, Tom Westman, won. It is the only season never to have had a proper merge, because the tribe Koror (Koror being the name of the Capital City of Palau, where our hotel was situated), annihilated the tribe Ulong (the name of an Island where we had lunch one day).
Chatting to the locals who were around during filming, they told us that the show was a joke to them. For instance, on the show you see the contestants rowing all the way to Tribal Council. In fact, contestants were actually taken by motor boat most of the way, and then only had to row the last 10 minutes by themselves. I’m sure plenty of behind-the-scenes things like that happened!
On one of the reward challenges, the winning tribe won a “feast” of Pringles and Mai Tai cocktails, and also got to go snorkeling with stinging-free jellyfish in Palau’s famous Jellyfish Lake. We went to visit this land-locked marine lake on one of our afternoons. It is quite an unusual phenomenon – over the course of time, these resident jellyfish have completely lost their sting because they have not had to fight off predators. So, they are completely safe to swim with. And there are millions of them, of all sizes. Someone described the experience of swimming with them as “being high on ecstasy”, it seems so surreal. I wouldn’t know, but it was pretty funky!
We got to do a fair bit of diving too, including Palau’s famous dive site, the “Blue Corner”. This was a pretty exciting dive. We swam along a coral wall, and when we got to the corner, the current picked up, and we had to attach ourselves to the top of the wall with a hook and line. As we were suspended here at about 12 meters below sea level, we got to check out grey reef sharks swimming by on their merry way. These sharks are about 1.5m long on average. So not huge, but still a rush a see them. (When ever we mentioned to other divers that we are from South Africa, the first thing they say is “Oh, you have the great whites, right?”. So we have quite a reputation! We had to explain that the great white sharks are really only near the Cape, and not where we usually dive on the East Coast.)
One gets to meet some interesting people on dive trips. Every person has a unique story of how they landed up in Palau of all places. For instance, we met a young French couple who had left France two years ago, and were traveling and working their way through South East Asia. Another retired couple from Singapore, were sailing around on their 40 foot yacht, and would stop in various ports for weeks at a time. What a way to see the world!
Overall, we loved Palau, and wished we could have explored more of this island nation. But time is running out, and we have to move on!