Our day began at 9:00 AM when everyone gathered their belongings and hopped onto the Palau Community College (PCC) bus. This was the start of our journey north to the Ebiil Society in Ollei (www.ebiilsociety.org). We were joined by two PCC students, KB and Midner, and by Dr. Nwe, who will all be with us for the remainder of the course.
Image: All ready to go!
Image: Route for today, PCC to Ebiil with a stop (A) at Ngardmau Waterfall.
After traveling through four states, passing ancient earthworks and grasslands, we arrived at the trailhead to the Ngardmau Waterfall. We trekked through the jungle down many stairs (hundreds according to Bryan). Part of the path crossed a single raised rail that had once been used for a tourist tram as an attempt to bring ecotourism to the area. However, it is now abandoned after that attempt failed. We also walked along the remains of a Japanese railroad that was used to haul bauxite from a nearby mine when Palau was under Japanese occupation. We encountered carnivorous pitcher plants growing in the nutrient-poor volcanic soil, causing them to evolve to feed on insects for sustenance. Other things we saw were several orchid species (there are 80 in Palau!), stingless bees, toads and guppies.
Image: Starting the hike down the stairs.
Image: Remnant tracks of Japanese bauxite trains and tourism rail.
Image: Carnivorous pitcher plant
Image: The beautiful Ngardmau Waterfall.
After reaching the falls, we took the opportunity to relax and take a dip in the water. Then it was time to make the long trip back up all those stairs so that we could eat our bento box lunches and continue on.
Image: Students at the waterfall.
Image: Garret, KB, Midner, and Noah hanging out.
Image: Lunch spot.
We arrived at the Ebiil Society and were welcomed by Cindy, then settled into our dorms for the next five days. While others were exploring, a few of us had the chance to learn about collecting and peeling betelnut leaves. The leaves of betelnut are commonly used for wrapping food or even gifts. Cindy taught us how to find good leaves for peeling and the proper peeling techniques.
Image: Jocelyn, Cindy, Anna, and Haley harvesting betelnut leaves (Areca catechu)
Image: Cindy showing Jocelyn proper peeling techniques
Everyone then broke out their snorkeling gear and we headed down to the docks. We swam through sand flats, seagrass beds and patch reefs where we encountered some familiar animals from the day before (the chocolate sea star, the blue sea star, and giant clams), as well as a few new ones.
Image: A familiar friend the giant clam.
Image: A network pipefish (Corythoichthys flavofasciatus)
While others were snorkeling, Noah caught a bluefin trevally (Caranx melampygus) that he brought back to Ebiil for dinner. They used it to make us an amazing poke and fish soup.
Image: Noah and his catch.
Image: Dinner time.
We ended our day with an evening group reflection on what we had seen and learned. We’re excited to continue spending time here at the Ebill Society.
Today’s blog post was written by Jocelyn Wilson, Hilary Hillis and Melissa McMullen