Jane’s Journal from Palau Thanksgiving Kids Sea Camp dive trip
Thanksgiving in Palau with Kids Sea Camp
November 20 & 21, 2009 (Friday and Saturday- crossing international date line): The flight seemed to last an eternity as our family headed to Thanksgiving diving trip with Kids Sea Camp. 20 hours from Denver and four flights later we finally arrived in Palau. Even though it was 10 pm, Palauan time we were greeted by some native girls and boys dressed in native attire. They placed lays on us made of local flowers interlaced in palm fronds. It was late night when we arrived at The Palau Royal Resort so I went straight to sleep. Unfortunately, only one bag out of six arrived with us. The rest had been left at the last stop, Yap, due to “fuel shortages.”
November 22, 2009 (Sunday): I woke up this morning still adjusting to the humidity and heat (82 degrees F and sunny). I went out onto the balcony and I saw a breathtaking view. For the first time, my Mom woke up early and actually wanted to stay awake. I saw tall limestone cliffs where each inch was covered with lush, green growth dipping into the crystal clear blue water. There was no smog so I could see to the end of the Earth. We headed down to an unusual breakfast buffet. It had a combination of American, Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese foods. Not your normal Thanksgiving week fare.
We rented some snorkeling gear (since our luggage was still in Yap) at Sam’s Tours and headed out to the dock for our boat tour of the Islands and Jelly Lake. It was amazing! The boat ride took us through more lush green islands unspoiled by mankind sticking up like heads of broccoli. Jelly Lake was incredible! This is my first time ever touching a Jellyfish (that didn’t sting). The Jellyfish in Jelly lake have lost their ability to sting because they have no need to. The jelly lake is an isolated saltwater lake with no predators to eat the jellies and no fish for the jellyfish to hunt. Now they rely on internal algae for food following the sun during the day, but at night they go down into a highly toxic (to humans) nitrogen-rich layer of water to fertilize the algae. Later that day we had a BBQ lunch, I made a new friend her name is Callie she is 10 years old blonde and energetic, plus a certified diver like me.
We all loaded back up onto the boat and headed for a snorkel at Clam City. The Clams there Mackenzie. She is younger than me, 8, and in the Kids Sea Camp sassy program. From Clam City, we went back to the resort, explored a bit and then we got ready for our welcome dinner at the Sea Passion resort.
We knew the President of Palau was coming that evening so I had to borrow one of my Mom’s dresses (the only luggage that made it). We had an exuberant welcoming by native dancers and a native ritual of “Calling of the Canoe”. The President of Palau gave a welcoming speech where he talked about the islands of Palau and how much he enjoyed having us there. A week before our arrival he had declared to the United Nations that Palau was the first and only “Shark Sanctuary” in the world. I got to shake his hand and take a picture with him and all the kids in Kids Sea Camp. When we returned to the resort our lost from Yap luggage had arrived.
November 23, 2009 (Monday): The second day we had the unusual breakfast again and headed over to Sam’s tours for our first dive. There I was assigned to the “Whale Shark” boat where I met some of the other Junior Open Water Divers and our Dive guides.
Our first dive took us on a one-hour boat trip winding through the Palauan islands to a location named German Channel. We sighted a 6-foot Manta Ray, lots of corals, a porcupine fish and lots of sharks. The German Channel is a cleaning station for all fish. In this area, fish come from all over the ocean to stop and allow cleaner wrasses which safely clean large predatory fish that would otherwise eat these smallish fish. This makes the German Channel a safe and amazing place to view lots and lots of ocean creatures.
The food was OK but the lunch spot was awesome! We went to a private white sand beach with the ocean on both sides and large coconut palms for shade on the edges of a dense jungle. I went swimming and shell collecting with my friend Callie.
The second dive of the day was named “Big Drop Off”. This dive is a wall drift dive. Along with many varieties of fish, we found a lizardfish and a Nudibranch among the corals and sea fans that covered the wall. We returned to the resort and got ready for our next evening. Dinner was served at an Indian restaurant named the Taj. They served us a delicious dinner of different and interesting Indian foods. That evening we had interesting Indian dancers about my age. They did a bunch of dances changing clothes between each one. Some of the dances had veils and some had little bells all over the outfits – like belly dancers. They were quite impressive.
November 24, 2009 (Tuesday): Once again we did the breakfast and headed out to the German Channel. We were met by a lot of rain coming sideways at us like bullets as we sped along in the boat. At German Channel, we saw two humungous Manta Rays the size of cars at the cleaning stations, 28 sharks – all different kinds – white tip, black tip, and reef – the size of surfboards, a Green Sea turtle, and some very interesting sea stars. An excellent and lucky dive!
We had another fabulous lunch – a chicken bento box. This time we had lunch at Sam’s Tours because of the rain.
The second dive took us through rough surf to the Blue Corner dive site. Since I was limited as a Junior Open Water diver to 40 feet of depth this dive was ok. We saw one puffer fish, two warty sea slugs and some starfish amongst schools of triggers, butterfly, and bannerfish.
That evening we went to the Sea Passion for another exquisite dinner. That day we had the Polynesian dancers. There wasn’t much singing like before but there were some instruments like a hollowed out gourd made into a drum and two frayed sticks that sounded like rain and thunder when put together. That night we went home (back to the hotel) and slept like rocks.
November 25, 2009 (Wednesday): That day I awoke to something very unusual – it was absolutely pouring rain. We headed down to breakfast and tried to avoid the downpour. After breakfast we headed down to Sam’s Tours hopped on the boat. My guide, Alex, warned me that I still needed to put on sunscreen even if the sun wasn’t visible. Once again the rain was coming into the boat sideways as we sped over to German Channel. That day I wore my wetsuit before I even got into the water.
One thing about SCUBA it that if it rains it doesn’t matter because you are below water! That day I saw schoolmasters, horse-eyed jacks, squirrel fish – the usual hordes of schools and corals. I didn’t see much in the channel unique or extra large this dive. We had lunch at Sam’s today due to the Typhoon now seemingly closing in on Palau judging by the torrential rains and white tipped water. When I got to Sam’s Callie, two other boys, Jefferson and I played a volleyball/soccer game. We got sopping wet but it was fun! The rain and the air was mostly warm – about 81 degrees F.
That afternoon we headed out to Blue Corner – also there I didn’t see any unique fish – a large puffer but I was told that the adults down at 70 feet saw quite a few sharks.
That night we went to the Sea Passion. It had stopped raining as they Typhoon moved North East from Palau. The Teen Divers also had a painting lesson with Rogest (pirate name of Ron Stevens). Rogest is a funny, funny artist that travels on Kids Sea Camp around the world teaching children how to dot paint.
After the dot painting with Ron, I did my first-night dive. It was amazing. I kept on feeling like I was getting stung by jellies and I got kicked a lot. I saw several interesting Sea Cucumbers but no fish. All of them were hiding. That night we had the Yap dancers. Yap is a very small island just North East of Palau. We were told we were going to have topless girls dancing but instead they sent the young men with bo staffs. We fell asleep just as soon as our heads hit the pillow
November 26, 2009 (Thursday – Thanksgiving): It was my first time celebrating Thanksgiving outside of America. I was told that the locals don’t really celebrate the holiday besides going to church. Catholic is the main religion. They do celebrate Halloween there.
It was a sunny day as we headed out on the Silvertip boat to our morning German Channel dive. There I saw one large Manta Ray going into the cleaning station and a couple of sharks. I was surprised that the sharks were so large. I must say it was quite a thrill to be diving with them. My dive guide told me that in thousands of dives there have never been any issues with the sharks. They are in the channel as part of their lifestyles and don’t bother with us divers.
After a fabulous lunch on the beach, we went to Jake’s Sea Plane. This dive spot is an interesting plane wreck with a lot of interesting coral. It’s down about 40 feet so perfect for Junior Open Water Divers. There were lots of Parrotfish. Part of the planes right wing was missing. I found it 20 feet away hallow and covered in corals. This plane was a WWII plane – I don’t know who’s.
We did a third dive at 10 feet for 15 minutes where I saw a puffer fish and my first Mandarin Fish. It was soooo cute. A native of this area with large yellow lips, green to its forehead, blue chin, orange body and blue squarish circles all over its body.
We finished our Thanksgiving day with dot paintings with Ron and went to Sea Passion for dinner. We had four turkeys baked four different ways and several other sides like cornbread, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn and cranberry sauce. That evening we made a sand Manta Ray on the beach about the size of the real deal. With my guide and new best friends’ boyfriend, Paul, who made a sand shark with the boys.
November 27, 2009 (Friday): Our last day diving. My first dive was German Channel and almost as if there was a going away send-off we saw large Manta Ray, Sharks and lots of interesting Fish. After that dive, we went back to Sam’s for lunch and caught up with our parents.
We went to the Light House dive site where we dove as a family just the four of us with two guides! The other families wimped out of this last dive because the parents had already done two dives. This was my fathers’ 100th dive making him a century diver. My mother got her century dive in a few days before. It was a great dive with loads of fire corals, lizardfish, and bubbles. Dinner at the Sea Passion with lots of playing in the sand again. We went home and crashed again.
November 28, 2009 (Saturday): Today is my last day in Palau. I am not pleased to be leaving. I made a lot of friends in Palau. I will miss my guide Alex and I wish I could stay.
I went to a beautiful waterfall with my dad. I went under two waterfalls and jumped off small ledges into a pool of water along the path of the river. There was lots of mud and one time I actually got stuck. I think my Keens were a little less pink after that hike. We went to the stone head garden. Some looked happy, sad or angry. There we had lunch. The usual Bento boxes but this time we had some traditional Palauan food like candied tapioca and fresh coconut milk/meat. After that, we headed back to the hotel stopping at the Capitol building.
When we got back we packed up our stuff, took a shower and headed over to Sam’s tours for the graduation ceremony. There was a whole cooked pig! There was a ceremony for each of the groups: adults, teens, sassy/seals and junior open waters. Then there was the poem contest. The poem that my mom and I worked on the evening before got first place (out of like 20 poems). We won an underwater digital camera.
We then watched the video made my Nick Martirano, who followed us around all week, said our last goodbyes and headed to the airport. I practically cried all the way there I was so sad to leave. We arrived at the airport for our treacherous flights to Colorado. I slept most of the way through it. The odd part about it was that it started out Saturday, then it was Sunday, then it was Saturday again and finally we got home on Sunday morning at 5 am
I think Palau is one of the best places to go in the entire world. It is a great place to meet new people and learn about the different cultures of the world. I also think it is one of the best places to go diving. Magnificent Mantas and Sharks. Try to go there at least once in your lifetime.
November 2009, Thanksgiving in Palau with Kid Sea Camp, Jane Colon-Bonet’s Adventure Journal