Day 13: Rain or Shine

Today we started our day with Paddling Palau picking us up for round two. The weather was very rainy but that didn’t stop us from going out to learn and explore new places in the Rock Islands. We got on our boat and we headed off in the rain which was a chilly ride.

Hilary, Melissa, and Veronica enjoying the boat ride

We arrived to our first destination of the day, the Milky Way. The Milky Way is a nice little cove that is full of limestone sediment that is muddy and very white in color. The limestone mud is good for your skin and some local stores even sell the mud for skincare. We also had a great time playing with the mud and diving through a pool doughnut.

Students enjoying their mud bath
Noah, Midner, and Alanna having fun

Our next destination was the famous Jellyfish Lake. It is a small hike going up and over the island to get to this marine lake. Jellyfish Lake is comprised of two stingless jellyfish, the moon jellyfish and the golden jellyfish which look amazing. The lake is also comprised of cardinal fish, silversides, little pied cormorants, and the Entacmaea medusivora which is an endemic species that preys on the jellyfish. The jellyfish population has been low over the past two years, but they are starting to bounce back. On good years, there can be up to 5 million golden jellyfish! The lake is comprised of several layers, the mixed layer with oxygen where the species in the lake hang out, the pink bacterial layer, which is 13 meters deep, and the poisonous layer which is 15 meters deep. Our guide Mac strongly advised not diving to those more dangerous layers.

The beautiful Golden Jellyfish
Rebecca admiring the jellyfish

We went and visited a spot that has a large piece of traditional Palau money . The traditional money piece is called a yap, or they are also commonly called a rai stone. These magnificent stones are made from calcite, which is is formed when limestone and water which calcifies. The yap is very important for the Palau and Yap cultures and once the stone hits the ground, it must stay right where it touches the ground and no longer holds its original value. People can buy the yap, but it still must stay in the same spot. The large stones would get carved from a calcite cave and then they would shape the stone with pumice and other tools very carefully because the stone is fragile and can crack very easily. We learned that the hole in the center of the stone is meant for transportation.

Broken calcite
The class next to the rai stone

After seeing the yap money, it was time for our lunch. We ate lunch on the beach of an island that had quite a bit of black tip reef sharks. Everyone swam with the sharks and were able to check them out up close which was pretty dang cool. We saw as many as five sharks!

Blacktip Reef Sharks with juvenile Golden Trevally
Blacktip Reef Shark with a Remora under it
Everyone swimming with the sharks

Our final stop for the day was at the fishbowl or otherwise known as the fish cemetery. At the fishbowl there were lots of big, beautiful coral and many fish. We also were able to perform some conservation by taking out some crown of thorns. The crown of thorns like to feed on coral reefs, so it is essential to limit their population so help mitigate some of the damages. The crown of thorns is very poisonous, so you have to be careful to not touch their thorns, so the best method of removal is by using a spear to pick them up. While the crown of thorns is not an invasive species, there is a population imbalance, and they require management. Our guide Finn was able to spear one crown of thorns while we snorkeled.

Clown fish peeking up
Finn spearing the crown of thorns

After a long day out on the ocean we headed back to Paddling Palau and then back to PCC. We all freshened up to go out to one last group dinner at Kramer’s. We were joined by a few special guests like Chris Kitalong and Dr. Nwe. It was a lovely evening together just chatting, playing pool, and eating some really good food.

Group photo after the day’s adventures
Everyone eating and enjoying our time together at Kramer’s

Written by Garret and Veronica

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