January 8th: A Tour of the Rock Islands

Koror Palau, 18:00, January 08, 2014
Who knew….
…that so many different types of living things could live in such a small area?!?!  Even after being here five years ago, I am still so blown away by the natural biodiversity that the Republic of Palau holds above and below the surface of the water. Today, as a class, we were guided on a kayak tour of the Rock Islands.

The day started with a short rain delay, but after realizing that it wouldn’t be a quick episode like previous mornings had held, we took to our two minivans and headed down to the launch.  Meeting our guides from kayak company Planet Blue Sea Kayak Tours owned and operated by Ron Leidich, we took to the water and started our adventure.  Shoving off with Captain Chase Gruber at the helm of our double kayak, we made way to our first snorkel of the day.  Paddling through the tranquil limestone islands, it is easy to let your senses wonder: the sounds of various birds calling in foreign tones, seeing the grey limestone abruptly meet the edge of the various hues of blue ocean, feeling the last of the rainy seasons cool precipitation melt away the warm humidity, smelling the presence of numerous tropical flowers that are used in pollinating the vast quantities of green vegetation that covers each island… This small nation had already proven to be worth the 31 hours of travel to get here and that was before we even entered the water to witness the unmatched coral gardens.

The coral habitats we snorkeled today are some of the very best, most diverse corals in all of the world.  There were corals of all colors, shapes and sizes that provide shelter and protection for even more species of animals. Most of what we observed was protected from large perturbations that typically limit the size of capable growth, so it was truly an out-of-this-world experience.

In addition to the snorkeling, we were able to kayak and hike through some very interesting caves, cliff dive off of Rock Island high points, explore WWII Japanese defensive fortifications, and learn about Palauan culture from our knowledgable guides.  Though it was never the sunny tropical postcard that people imagine when ‘tropical islands’ are mentioned, Palau showed that true beauty is more than what is taken at face value; it is what lies on the land, under the water and in the air that truly defines a beautiful tropical island nation.