Ben’s Palau Journal
November 2009, Thanksgiving journal from Kids Sea Camp in Palau
Here is Ben Colon-Bonet’s adventure journal from his diving and travel experience from the Kids Sea Camp in Palau at Sam’s Tours.
November 20 & 21, 2009 (Friday & Saturday)
The first day of the trip was one of the hardest. By the third flight I was so tired of sitting vertically it was hard to continue.
The stop in Yap to get fuel worried me because of the security check and the mention they had to leave 46 bags behind. On arrival to Palau, we were missing five of our six bags. We went through immigration with some missing documents so we had to wait and fill those out.
We were greeted by some native boys and girls. We took a 20-minute bus ride to our room at Palau Royal Resort where we fell asleep.
November 22, 2009 (Sunday)
We woke up at 6 am to the shining sun out our window. We saw the beautiful sunrise and right out our front door was a cave and an island covered every inch of trees.
We went down to breakfast at 7 am. It was very interesting because it was American, Japanese and Korean styles. I gave the food a shot and it was pretty interesting tasting.
After that, we went on an hour-long boat ride to Jelly Fish Lake. These Jellies don’t sting. They rely on their own bodies, acting as farms, to keep them alive. In Jelly Fish lake it was amazing. They didn’t sting you even though you touched them. They felt like Jell-O in your hand but you had to be careful because they are delicate.
We took another boat ride to another island for a buffet that consisted of Pork, Potato salad, Watermelon, and rice. After we were done with the buffet I went off to my first dive – a wreck.
The wreck was a Japanese float plane that was downed in WWII. It had plenty of holes in it and it was covered in corals and clams. The plane was cut in half. The tail laying right next to the cockpit next to the propeller. It must’ve been shot down in mid-air. You could see right into it. The radio was hanging out.
We took the boat back to dinner at Sea Passion for another buffet. We had cooked Halibut, rice, potatoes and a few things I don’t know about. It was delicious.
Before they served dinner at the Sea Passion we were greeted by a conch boat calling ceremony where Palauan arrived on a rowboat – 10 people with oars. There was a mock fight between the Palauan on the boat and the ones on shore. The president of Palau, His Excellency Johnson Toribiong, arrived and was formally greeted by all. He gave a brief speech and talked about the ocean. He talked about how the ocean was the Mother of Earth and it was angry. It was a very interesting speech. He also talked about the creation of the first ever shark sanctuary on the planet here in Palau under his leadership. (See attached Press Conference from the United Nations).
After we were done eating we watched the natives do a dance. They sang/spoke in Palauan so I couldn’t understand what they were saying but it must’ve been a war or something because they were holding spears. The girls went on and did something with flowers. They were covered in grease and looked like they were plastic.
We went back to the Palau Royal Resort. Our luggage had arrived! We went to sleep.
November 23, 2009 (Monday)
The second day wasn’t nearly as jaw-dropping as we were used to the scenery. After we looked outside for a while, got swimsuits on and sunscreen. We went down and had the weird food again – trying new things.
After breakfast, we went on the bus to Sam’s tours for our first diving trip with Kids Sea Camp. For the first dive trip, we saw mostly corals and groups of tiny fish. We went down 40 to 50 feet and hung around that depth for a while.
We went to our lunch of Bento Boxes – a traditional Japanese style lunch. I had Pork and Chicken with rice and some vegetables. Lunch was on a beach near the “Blue Corner” dive site. It was a good beach.
After lunch we went to our second dive site “German Channel” we went down to explore. The ocean had a sandy bottom with corals everywhere. Spine corals, flatbed coral, and sea fans covered the ocean. pufferfish, sharks and a turtle.
During the night we went to a local India restaurant, The Taj. It was a buffet so we served ourselves. It consisted of chicken, soup with rice, French fries with chicken cooked and served with a sword. It was really cool. After that, we saw their local belly dancers do their thing. It was very well done. We went home and fell asleep.
November 24, 2009 (Tuesday)
On the third day, the Typhoon arrived bring with it rain. At first, it was a simple rain storm and it just got worse and worse. Like a hurricane. The hotel had posted the typhoon warnings in the lobby. We were just in the tailings of the typhoon at 7 degrees North of the Equator. The typhoon was at 12 degrees North. I learned the pattern, positioning and intensity of the Typhoon named NIDA. Results attached in the appendix.
We had our breakfast and headed out for diving despite the weather.
We started our first dive in German Channel. The boat trip out there was torture because going 40MPH through a rainstorm is like the bucket of rain each raindrop going right through you. I was cold. I didn’t wear my wetsuit there but I did on the way out. Entry into the water from the boat in those big waves was difficult to maneuver until you were down 30 feet. The dive was very interesting. There was a lot of coral giant flatbed, brain and fire corals. We sat down in the sand at a “cleaning station”. A cleaning station is where larger fish go to be cleaned by smaller fish. They eat dead skin, parasites, and bacteria that would kill the fish. While we were there we saw very large Manta Rays, some sharks and large schools of fish. A lot of small schools of fish I can’t identify. When we got back up to the surface it was pouring rain with 5-foot swells. It was virtually impossible to get back on the ladder without being knocked off. When I got back on it was hard to sit because I got tossed and turned all over the place.
The second dive took us through rough surf to the Blue Corner dive site. Since I was limited as a Teen Open Water diver to 60 feet of depth this dive was just ok. We saw one puffer fish, two warty sea slugs and some starfish amongst schools of the trigger, butterfly, and bannerfish.
Dinner was at the Sea Passion hotel – served buffet style. The theme of that evening was Polynesian. They had Polynesian dancers and food. They were a fabulous group of girl dancers with coconut bras and skirts.
November 25, 2009 (Wednesday)
We woke up to another beautiful morning yet again, put our swimsuits on and went down to the lobby to check out the typhoon. We wanted to see where it was and if it was going to hit us. The center of the typhoon was about 100 miles North East of us. We were still located in the tailings. We went to breakfast, watched he tried to avoid torrential rain outside. After the breakfast, we went to the boats.
We were off to the German channel and had a hard time getting in the water since the swells were so big. It felt like we were little dolls getting tousled around and we could do nothing about it. As soon we got in the water we went down and saw a lot of corals. We saw flatbed coral, a variety of fish, a lot of sharks, manta rays, and some barracuda. That was the most of that. When we got back on the surface we held on the rope and attempted to get back on the boat. When we did get back on we went to an island beach where we ate our food.
Following lunch, we headed out to a dive named “Blue Corner” and dove a wall. We saw some turtles, corals, a lot of little tiny fish and a couple of sharks. We surfaced, got back on the boat and went to the dock.
Dot painting with Ron was next on our agenda. Ron is an Australian artist that travels by Kids Sea Camp promoting painting. He is funny and likes to mess with other people. I liked goofing around with him and being in his conversations. We learned how to use a large dot stick. I created a bunch of dots that made a circle where none of them touched. We worked on our final piece starting in the background. My final piece was an abstract angelfish. It was really fun!
After painting with Ron we went back to the hotel and messed around for awhile. We went to dinner at sea passion and ate a great feast and saw the Yap boy dancers do their thing. I think it had to do with a war or something because they had sticks that looked like spears that they crashed together. We went home (hotel) and went to sleep.
November 26, 2009 (Thursday – Thanksgiving)
We woke up, did all our chores (sunscreen and such) in the morning and went to breakfast. There was no rain so that was good but there was a lot of wind so the surf was big. After breakfast, we went to the boats and went out to a wreck called “Helmet”. The Helmet was a WWII cargo ship with depth charges, ammunition, and guns. That was really cool to see! There were a lot of unbroken bottles of alcohol.
After the Helmet wreck, we went back to the dock, ate lunch and went to the Japanese float airplane. I already described it to you on the first dive. We again went back and did our last day dot painting with Ron to finish our art.
The sea passion served a magnificent Thanksgiving feat with four turkeys each cooked a different way accompanied by all the fixings. No dancers this evening but we played on the sandy beach outside of the Sea Passion and had a really good time with my friends.
November 27, 2009 (Friday)
This was our last day diving because a 24-hour decompression is required to purge all of the nitrogen out of our bodies before flying. This avoids a divers illness commonly referred to as the bends.
In the morning we did all our morning chores, set off for breakfast. We headed to the docks, geared up and set out to German channel. When we got there we dove down to see very beautiful corals and fish. When we got to the cleaning station we waited a couple of minutes until we saw a giant manta ray. Its huge base swam over me but it got scared when my bubbles hit it so it swam off.
An unusual thing I did first thing on Saturday was to visit the jail to shop for a storyboard. Storyboard are stories carved into wood usually shaped like a fish or sea creature that tells stories about the Palauan culture. It was interesting seeing the hundreds of storyboards. One of the stories was about this old lady was so upset about not seeing her son very often and getting fish from him. When she complained to the son that she wanted fish he went to a tree and cut it. Every time the tide would come in a fish would come out of the tree. The villagers thought this was unfair that she got to fish for free so they cut down the tree. When they did this it the tree spewed with water and flooded the village. That is known as the underwater village.
Speer fishing is fun, exciting and adrenalin pumping. It’s just like shooting a gun. It’s a metal rod stuck into a wooden stick with a bungee cord tied to a trigger. When you lock the spear in place you put the bungee cord on. This is all done in the ocean, with waves, mask, fins, and snorkel. When you try to shoot at a fish they move so fast and the gun makes a lot of noise making the fish swim away. There are two different kinds of guns. One with a string that is attached to the rod so you can retrieve the rod and shoot again. Ours was a different kind where you shot the gun and the rod just went flying out. You try to shoot really close so when you do shoot it you don’t lose it. You have to free dive to the bottom to grab the spear each time you shoot. You aim for a fish like pointing at it with a stick and pull the trigger when you think you’ve got the fish
The spearfishing trip was just a bunch of guys with three dive masters. My mom tagged along. We took a short boat ride out to the middle of the ocean. I personally did not get any fish. I tried and tried without any luck. The other guys brought in about a dozen fish that was cooked and we ate for dinner.
We got on the plane right after dinner, award ceremony and the slideshow. We when through customs to check out our bags. Everything went perfectly with no problems. The first flight to Yap (45 min) wasn’t too bad since I slept the whole way. The second flight to Guam (3 hrs) I slept the whole way. The third flight to Hawaii (7 hrs) was really boring I played my Gameboy and worked on my homework. The fourth flight to LA (5 hrs) I did more homework and slept. The last flight to Denver (2.5 hrs) I watched a movie, Dancing with Wolves and did nothing.
I would highly recommend Palau for people that really want to go do stuff. People who like to dive and do interesting things. Kids Sea Camp I would recommend if you are going with your kids because you learn a lot, get the best of the island and you get to hang out with kids your age.
Palau is an iconic tropical Pacific island unspoiled by rampant commercialization. This island is not for the weak at heart. The travel there alone will kill you.