Finding the Rainbow's End in Palau....By Rita Cook
Sure, divers have known about it for years, but visitors looking for a unique destination that also offers nature, culture and a bevy of additional activities will definitely enjoy the Micronesian Republic of Palau. Located just seven-degrees north of the Equator in the western Pacific Ocean, tropical weather is the norm as well as moderate temperatures and soft ocean breezes.
"Although we are a young nation, 12 years as an independent sovereign, we are an old culture, proudly retaining our traditions while continuing to grow as a modern democracy with a sustainable future," notes Republic of Palau President Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr.
Indeed, rich in history, even today the traditions are alive and well and the basis which the locals build on balances an ancient lifestyle integrated with the modern world.
For diving, there are more than 1400 species of fish to see, 500 species of corals and seven species of giant clams. Certified divers can dive with Manta rays, Hawks-bill turtles or discover the Chambered Nautilus, only found in the waters near Palau. Of course you might also come into contact with whales, sharks and marlins. More than one person has noted that "Palau is one of the seventh underwater wonders of the world."
For those who love the outdoors, but aren't big on diving, nature abounds in Palau. About 75% of the Republic of Palau is forest and mangroves. As many as 100 birds and plants found here are solely endemic to the island. Waterfalls are stunning and like none you will have seen before. The largest on the island is called Ngardmau and is majestic in its splendor. Rare orchids also grow here and the jungle interior will leave you as close to nature as you can get. Near the water, but for non-divers the coral reefs teem with sea life and indeed create a magic you can explore while snorkeling or just getting your feet wet.
Another nature must is the Rock Islands. Uninhabited, the islands are located in a lagoon and protected from the sea by reefs. You will see an assortment of schools of fish, and birds. Nature always seems to be smiling. Additionally, there is Jellyfish Lake, Ngermeskang River and Lake Ngerdok, the largest lake in Micronesia that boasts freshwater.
Activities in Palau center mostly around fishing - from trolling for game fish like the marlin, sailfish or wahoo - to spear fishing on a bamboo raft. There is snorkeling the reefs, kayaking, hiking or mountain biking. With 27 miles in length and 15 miles across at its largest, there is much to explore in way of natural beauty. For sightseeing the limestone cliffs give way to secrets from long ago inside caves and, more recent history from World War II. Discover for yourself the planes and war gear that was left behind from the 1940s.
Culturally, Palau is teeming with history. Known as Belau by the locals, the islands were officially "discovered" in 1783 by a British Captain, but life had been going on there for centuries before, in fact dating as far back as 1,000 BC. You will want to explore the ancient ruins of lmeungs in an area called Babeldoab and note that the detailed stone pathways and what is considered a natural amphitheater that will offer more questions than answers as you wander around the area.
The museum, Koror House has strong history and cultural findings and there are over 1000 objects located here. Ask a native about the sunken village of Ngiwal and definitely find the time to enjoy a ceremony of chants or dancing before your trip is complete.
With a population of about 19,0000 and over 300 islands making up the Republic of Palau, not many of the islands are inhabited, but all have a unique history and pull. No matter where you end up on the islands, mingling with the natives and making your own discoveries, you might indeed decide what many natives already know, that this is definitely the Rainbow's End.