Palau & Peleliu

Intro

This is a part of our 1½ months trip around the world in the winter of 2011 - visiting Baltimore [USA], Hawaii, Marshall Islands, Kosrae [Micronesia], Guam [USA], Saipan [Northern Marianas, USA], Palau, South Korea and Taiwan. We are Birgitte and Erik with our two children (5 and 7) - Johanne and Anders.

Corals, rock islands

Continued from Guam & Saipan

Sunday 6.3 – Palau

We arrived at 01:00 and with an hour of time difference. Half an hour to get through emigration; many were surprised that they enforced the return ticket inspection, and had trouble finding it. Our hotel, Sea Passion, had the majority of the guests today, so a bus for the luggage and a bus for us. The hotel had an envelope for us all – thank you, Sea Passion, so we were quickly in bed. The rooms are not only nice – they are very nice with lots of space. Our room was the ‘mountain view’ kind, cheaper, but still it had panorama windows over the harbor. 135$/night + 40$ airport transfer.
We slept until 9 and got up so we had time for breakfast. It was raining with breaks now and then. The hotel had a swimming pool and a small beach, where we snorkeled. There were fish and smaller corals. Later we crossed two bridges into town, did a little shopping and on the way back stopped by the IMPAC office and booked the Jellyfish tour for tomorrow. Very expensive, and IMPAC is even cheaper than some of the others. Totaled 385$ for us, [90$ adult, 50$ child, 3x35$ Jellyfish fee]. From the bridges or beaches, you see many smaller fish – all the time. A sandwich and some snorkeling at the hotel and then afternoon nap after the snort night. Dinner at a very good place, Palm Bay Bistro. A grilled fish and grilled chicken. Our 12 year anniversary – everybody happy. Rained a lot going home, so took a taxi the short ride back.

view from Sea PassionSea Passion
raining palauSea Passion
sea passionSea Passionpalau

Monday 7.3 – Palau – Rock Islands – Jellyfish lake

Expectations were high for today – visiting one of the world’s wonders – the Jellyfish Lake – only found this one place in the World, a small lake in the rock islands of Palau. It was partly cloudy. We were picked up by a bus with Japanese and at the IMPAC office there were even more. Hmm. All equipment was included, and we supplied our stock. People were divided out in boats, by the activity they were going to. Our boat included Win as our guide and another Japanese guide for the 14 other. No problem. The boat slowly left the harbor and powered up the two big motors. The rock islands were right around you – lime stone rock with jungle, as small drops in the ocean. Similar to Halong bay in Vietnam. Passing a beautiful ‘natural arch’ and a cave at water level with an old Japanese canon. Our first stop was a snorkeling spot. Johanne and Anders were by now ready to swim on their own, close to us and we enjoyed it immensely. I saw twice one of the half meter long Napoleon wrasses. Good coral and many fish. Next was the Jellyfish lake. The entrance was at a dead end in like a horse shoe bay. We deposited Johanne’s passport and our 3 tickets and walked up a rocky (coral) path and down on the other side. About 10 minutes walk. Another group was leaving the lake when we arrived, so we were the only ones at the time. The lake is maybe 200 x 200 meters with the Jellyfish to the west in the morning and to the east in the afternoon. We were quickly surrounded by them, often bumping into them, feeling something soft touching you. We were all thrilled and snapped lots of pictures and films. No problem with the children who loved it. Much too early, it was over and we had to go back. Win said there was 4 other similar lakes close by, though much smaller, and not open for tourists. Leaving on the boat, we saw a sea turtle in the clear water. Lunch was at a lovely sandy beach in beautiful surrounding – Japanese lunch packets and burgers for the children. We even had time for a snorkel trip here, and there was a nice drop off here with big schools of fish; Win saw a shark down the drop off, but I didn’t though I was looking intensely. Crystal clear water, so I could see quite far down. After lunch, much of the Japanese were left in a small bay where sea kayaks were hidden and the rest of us went to a snorkeling point with lots of corals. Birgitte had never seen anything like it, and I am about to agree with her (though those in Marshall also were great). Many different kinds and it was forest like – do look at the pictures from there. It started to rain, and after picking up the kayakers we went to the last stop, the Milkyway. A lagoon with white/blue water because the sea floor was made up of clay from the limestone and tree leafs in the bottom. All (except me…) were covered with the white mud and the Japanese had very much fun of it. Next everybody jumped into the water to rinse it off, and it was lovely warm. End of trip – we returned in much rain – back at 16:30. A wonderful, wonderful trip that I cannot recommend enough. A perfect day.
 


arcPalau
jellyfishlakeJellyfish lakeJellyfish lake
rock islandsrock islandsMilkyway


Wednesday 9.3 – Carp Island

Carp Island Resort. I had found this place using Google Earth, and it quickly turned out to a place we wanted to go. Close to Peleliu and in the far south part of the rock islands. It costs 110-130$ for a cottage and boat transfer 25$ per adult each way. The staff were very responsive when booking online. There is transfer in the morning and late afternoon, and it takes about 45 minutes with speed boat. It mostly caters for divers with Japanese as the majority making up their clients. It still is a good place to relax and all staff speak English. The water is very shallow with sand and there are no corals, except a boatride away at the reef.

Carp Island
CarpCarp Island 

Thursday 10.3 – Peleliu

The place of some of the fieriest battles of WWII pacific theatre – from Sept.-Nov.1944. The 10.000 Japanese defenders dug into the ridges and applied heavy casualties to the Americans. Episode 5-7 of the Pacific (Stephen Spielberg) is about the landing on Orange Beach, the fight for the airstrip and the long struggle to dig out the Japanese from the Bloody Nose Ridge.
We had not really booked anything from Koror, thinking that since Peleliu was just across the channel, it would be easy to arrange from Carp. Writing with Amy, the organizer in Koror before coming, had said so. So I talked to Diana the night before, and she arranged a boatman to make the transfer, and she would do the land tour. The price was 2x30$ for the boat and 2x40$ for the tour. It was high tide, so we could take the short way across the channel and to the north of Peleliu. Diana was waiting for us and after buying lunch at a nondescript store, we first went to the Japanese army headquarters. Later in the museum, we saw pictures of the area around the airport – totally leveled and this was the only standing building. Overgrown, with bomb-holes in the roof. One area was with big vault doors, where people would hide during air-raids. Next we crossed the overgrown airfield (I guess the reason for the attack). I could see from pictures that it used to be like an A with the point at Orange beach, and Bloody Nose Ridge at the end of the runway. Next we saw a Japanese tank, some American tanks and moved up in the ridge. There was a canon in a cave pointing out towards the ocean at the west end. We could walk around and there were caves everywhere. Three war memorials are close to the highest point – U.S. Marine Corps monument next to the horse shoe valley that was the hardest to conquer since the Japanese had the high grounds all around. In the pictures below there is a 'now' picture and a picture from the war here from horse shoe valley. Further op the place of the last stand where Col. Nakagawa did seppuku on November 24 and after some stairs on the highest point a U.S. Army memorial and views of the whole island. Many caves were visible and I looked into one of them to see the remains of a canon and several sake bottles. Amazing it could be so difficult, for such a small place. The ridge was not very high and the island very small. The pictures of a barren island, everything burned down was also quite different from the green island now. Next was Orange beach where the assault had taken place. It looked like a superb beach, strange to think of all the blood spilt here. Next to the memorial, there used to be a huge field with all the graves. Diana said they had all been moved to the Philippines - ? Her mother owned the land here, and they thought about making some cottages here. Lunch at the nearby dock, where the dive boats also came in for lunch. Some of the best diving sports are here nearby like the ‘washing machine’ where the Philippines sea and the Pacific meets. Swimming in the harbor with the children, a 10 minute rain shower and then to the museum. Diana had tried 3 times during the day to have a caretaker driver over there to open up. Actually quite interesting with many artifacts and pictures from the war. Several veterans that had died after the war had donated their pictures and albums. Around 15:00, it was time to return to Carp Island, and since it was low tide, we had to sail quite a bit to the west to get to a canal that was deep enough. The sky was blue and gray and the water a turquoise green – beautiful.
Beautiful sunset. Found out that there is actually WiFi at the resort


Command postBloody nose ridge
tank peleliubloody nose ridgelanding strip Peleliu
horse shoe bloody nose ridgehorse shoe Peleliu 1944
orange beachOrange Beach PeleliuSunset


Friday 11.March – Palau – Tsunami

17:30 we are at the Palm Bay Bistro – a worried waitress – there had been a quake in Japan. We order our dinner. Next time she passes by: there is a tsunami coming at 18:30. They turn their TV to a local channel. There is a Tsunami warning – all Palauan on coastal areas are to go to higher grounds. And it is a bit later - at 19:25 that it is coming. We had arrived back an hour ago from Carp island – an isolated island 1 hour away by speed boat. Thinking if we would have had the information if we had strayed there today. The staff are obviously nervous. The restaurant is right at the harbor with the serving area over the water. We quickly finish our dinner and halfway run to the hotel where we stayed before going to Carp. Shops were closing down and people were entering the back of pickup trucks to go to higher grounds. Sirens are sounding every now and then to tell people to turn on their TV or radio. We had asked the hotel if we could go with their airport bus for the evening flight to Manila, and it was OK. They were obviously also nervous, but they have 5 stories, and were going to the higher floors. The bus should leave in 10 minutes (18:30) leaving us time to get to the main land where the airport is before the tsunami. I updated my Facebook status, waiting. 18:35 no bus. The staff had called for the bus several times, and gave up and put us and other tourists in their two vans. A quick mail to my mother that we were on our way now, and an update saying the same (didn’t get updated though, anxious friends). The capital, Koror, is on a small island and we had to get across a long bridge to be safe. Going through the city is slooooow, many people are traveling. 40 minutes left. The traffic eases up, many cars stop uphill in town, no need to leave Koror entirely. The children and very uneasy. Anders is talking all the time about the tsunami and if we can see it soon, his way of reacting, by talking. Johanne is not saying anything, but clutching our hands hard. We cross the bridge and we are safe. We all ease up and the airport seems normal. We talk to some other tourists that say that at their hotel restaurant everybody were still sitting at the restaurant and their hotel was not doing anything. Guess it always will be this way that situations are handled differently. 18:35. Tsunami. Maybe. We are on the way to Manila in the Philippines and back to the first world going to South Korea in the night. Thinking of what would have happened if it had been 5 hours earlier when we were doing a 3 hour kayaking tour, just the four of us to a small beach in the rock islands of Koror. The water was wonderful and turquoise with a beautiful sky. We all enjoyed paddling to a nearby island and being there all alone, just our family, swimming and snorkeling. The last day of summer and swimming, since we were going to Korea and spring temperatures. The tide was high and we just had a few meters of beach on the island. What if the tsunami had hit here? The tsunami did not come. It went mainly east of Japan towards the American coasts. But it could have. We all remember the 2004 tsunami, where also many Danes died in Thailand. Thank you, all who cares and prayed for us and we think of those that were in the wrong place in Japan. Now we’ll see how it is in Japan in a week.

Carp Island
CarpCarp Islandrock islands
dive till you dieCarp Island 


Continue reading about South Korea


Tips and trip planning

Palau: Is expensive, also compared to all other Northern Pacific destinations. Mostly because of the trips and activities that you really need to take to experience the country.

Relevant thread on Lonely Planet thorntree about Peleliu: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=2042238&messageID=18359111

Traveling in the Pacific kind of narrows down to Continental Airlines and a couple of other odd options. The best list the this one:
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=726510&start=32

We traveled on a 'round the world' ticket from Star Alliance - using the dream tool found on http://www.staralliance.com - select the 'book and fly' tab, press 'Start now', click the world map. A up to 16 legs costs about 4000$ for an adult and 3200$ for a child, but if you are visiting several islands, it can also quickly add up if buying single tickets.
Star alliance map

There relevant guide books are the following, where I have all three. The Moon has the best maps and also covers all tiny islands around whereas the Micronesia and Palau is the latest with most updated hotel and restaurant info. Papa Mike's is good for getting an idea of what Palau is about.
You can find the Pilot Guides from Micronesia on-line and it includes Guam.
The Pacific is the obvious film choice with 3 episodes about Peleliu - landing on Orange Beach, the taking of the airstrip and bloody nose ridge.



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