Spending 30 hours "Where the Rainbow Ends"

Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
Trip End Aug 01, 2007

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Flag of Palau  ,
Thursday, March 22, 2007

He Said:

If it wasn't for a season of the TV show "Survivor" being filmed here a few years ago, I imagine most probably would have never heard of the nation of Palau. The fact that the entire nation only has 20,000 inhabitants (that is less than half the size of our home of Hoboken, New Jersey!) and is just a few small dots in the Pacific doesn't put it in too high of a profile on the nightly news or in school geography classes. Once the USA took over the island chain from Japanese occupiers during WWII, Palau became a Trust Territory run by the USA for fifty years until it became fully independent in 1994. Today the small nation has an agreement with the US whereby they receive of millions of dollars of development aid in exchange for providing the option for the US military to build a base in the future.

Frankly, we didn't know much about Palau prior to coming here. On our frequent flyer rewards ticket, it was an option for thirty-hour layover on our way to Yap in Micronesia, so we figured why not stop and look around for a while? The immigration form you have to fill out prior to landing bills Palau as the place "Where the Rainbow Ends". With a self-congratulatory slogan like that, you'd expect it to be dazzling. I must agree, it is absolutely lovely and easily makes my list of the most beautiful places I've seen!

Since we only had one day here, we spent it visiting the country's premier attraction, the Rock Islands. These are a series of over two hundred small, uninhabited limestone islands grouped just south of the main islands of Palau. They are heavily vegetated and look much like floating broccoli crowns. The pollution-free sky, green of the vegetation, and surrounding pristine coral reefs, give your eyes every shade of blue, green, and turquoise you could imagine. Besides the visual feast above the water, the reefs provide some of the worlds' premier SCUBA diving sites. Since we are flying tonight we were unfortunately not able to dive today (flying less than 24-hours after SCUBA diving can pose health risks due to the cabin pressurization), but managed to see lots of marine life just by snorkeling on the surface. The highlight of course was spotting a number of large marine tortoises, something neither of us had ever seen while diving! I wish we were able to spend a few more days here, coming to Palau and not SCUBA diving is an absolute tragedy!

She Said:

All of the overnight flights back-to-back on our crazy flight schedule (due to the fact that this is a free ticket) are starting to wear on me. We have had so many different flights in such a short time that I feel like I work for Continental Airlines. So it was great to finally land somewhere in the early evening and actually check-in to a hotel with a bed!

Before coming here, I had not heard of Palau, had no idea it was its own country, and could not have picked it out on a map. While Palau seems like it is certainly off the beaten path, it was much more developed than I was expecting, with its 7-11s, Shell Stations, and big resorts catering to Japanese tourists. The island is surrounded by coral reefs, which makes for excellent diving and fishing, and not so excellent beaches. Tuna crowd the waters off the shore of Palau, and just about every single local flying out of here the other night checked several coolers filled with fresh tuna to sell abroad. After spending the day snorkeling, we are really looking forward to getting to Yap so we can go scuba diving!
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