P-MAN XIII Update #28 - Happy as a clam, finding Nemo
This had to be my most draining day off ever!
The BentProp team took a much-needed day off today. This is somewhat unusual, as we have attempted to take days off in the past but it has always seemed to turn into another work day. To recharge our batteries today we decided as a group to be tourists in Palau, as long as it didn’t include SCUBA diving. We wanted to do something that would not generate anxiety and although we dive on a regular basis, there is always a level of concern for safety. Joe, as always, is looking out for us and agreed to show us some of the places that he shows tourists through out the year.
To start the day we slept in a bit and met Joe at Neco at 9 a.m. instead of our regular 8 a.m. Joe had a day planned out for us that included our only request, which was a visit to Jellyfish Lake. There were still a couple of us in the group that had yet to visit the famous lake. So off we went to our first stop, the Milky Way. The Milky Way is a call spot in the Rock Islands where the water is shallow and the floor is covered with a white mud. Some people believe that the mud carries various forms of healing factors. There were a couple of boats full of Taiwanese tourists there where we got there. They were all covered in the mud. Joe gathered a bucket of the mud for us and we proceeded to cover ourselves head to toe in the white mask. Once we completely covered, we took a few pictures and jumped into the water to rinse off our therapeutic mud. There has to be some sort of truth to this magic mud, as Pat pointed out, everyone there was smiling ear to ear and having a blast covering themselves and others in it.
Once we were all cleaned off and we spent some time searching for Flip’s hat, we were off to our next stop. This was a shallow over some coral where you could snorkel and feed fish. Joe took out a loaf of bread and explained that the fish would eat it out of our hands. We donned our snorkel gear and jumped in with little expectation. Once in the water and bread in hand the fish came in swarms. If you watched others feeding the fish they would sometimes disappear in a rainbow of color behind hundreds of fish. Feeding fish off the dock will never be the same.
After feeding the fish we were off to Jellyfish Lake. Jellyfish Lake is located in the middle of one of the Rock Islands (Mecherchar, pronounced 'Meh-er-ar). As one might expect, it's full of jellyfish. The odd thing is that over the years these jellyfish have lost their ability to sting through evolution. You can swim through the lake in shorts among thousands of jellyfish and not be stung. To get there you have hike into the middle of the island. Compared to some of our recent hikes, this hike was a joke. We were able to do it in our dive booties. Once you get to the lake there is a small dock where you can put on your gear and get into the water. Jumping in initially there were no jellyfish to be seen. Snorkeling in the lake is different from snorkeling in the lagoon surrounding Palau. This water has a mountain lake feel to it. It’s green and deep, so you can’t see the bottom. As you swim away from the dock, beams of light seem to reflect from the bottom of the lake upward past you into the air above you. After a short swim, jellyfish begin to appear in little dots - pinkish, yellowish, orangish dots. Soon you can reach out and gently touch one or two. Soon you realize you are surrounded by thousands of jellyfish. They swim around in an almost hypnotic dance and before we knew it, we had been in the lake an hour.
After hiking out of the island, it was time for lunch. Joe took us to a beautiful beach where we relaxed and took in our packed lunches. Joe had said he was going to take us to swim with some of the Black-Tip Reef Sharks, so I asked where that stop was. He just pointed out twenty feet from the boat said “right here.” Sure enough, if you spent time looking in the water you could see some of the sharks approaching the beach. Once we had eaten and were rested, we jumped in for a swim with the sharks. There were a dozen or so sharks close to the boat. There were a couple of them with baby sharks in tow. No, no shark attacks here. These sharks have plenty to eat and aren’t interested in eating humans. I would suffer a bite of a different kind later, though.
Once we had our fill of sharks, we made a stop to see some giant clams. The clams aren’t as exciting as the fish, jellyfish, or sharks, but it is pretty cool to see a clam the size of a living-room ottoman.
The next stop was another place where you can feed fish. Joe explained it was much like the first one, except the fish were bigger and different kinds. Once we pulled up the spot you could see the fish approaching the boat. I’m guessing this was not the first boat to this location. Like the first place we stopped to feed fish, they would smother you here too. You could feel them nibbling at your fingers as they grabbed bread from your hands. I was enjoying the hundreds of fish surrounding me when one got a little aggressive and bit me in on inside of my elbow hard enough to make me jump. I didn’t think much of it until I got back in the boat and saw that I had a red bite mark the size of a dime on my skin. Guess it’s better than getting bit by a shark or a giant clam.
Once we were finished visiting one more fish hole, Joe took us on a high-speed boat run through the Rock Islands. The weather was absolutely gorgeous - the best that it's been since we got here. It was amazing to sit on the bow of the boat and let the breeze brush your face as you glided over the glassy green, blue water and slid past dozens of tiny islands.
Arriving back at NECO, we realized that the day in the sun and the water had completely drained us but we had a whole new appreciation for why so many other people make the trip to Palau. Back to work tomorrow.