As one of the “Underwater Wonders of the World,” Palau is home to two of the scuba diving industry’s most celebrated dive shops, namely Sam’s Tours and Fish ‘n Fins.
Fish ‘n Fins Celebrates 40th Anniversary with Gala Celebration and New Dive Guide
Thanks to a marine ecosystem hailed as one of “The Seven Underwater Wonders of the World,” the Republic of Palau was chosen to play a starring role in the new 3D IMAX film “The Last Reef: Cities Beneath the Sea.” The movie premiered at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in March 2012 and will be shown at museums and IMAX theaters around the world.
Much of “The Last Reef,” which explores the underwater worlds of the earth’s coral reef systems and the challenges they face, was shot in Palau. The waters surrounding Palau, a tiny nation with only 20,000 people and eight major and 250 smaller islands, are home to 1,300 species of fish and 483 species of corals.
Although a mere speck in the Pacific Ocean about 500 miles east of the Philippines, Palau has become a world leader in marine conservation. Its leaders realized years ago that concerted action must be taken to protect the seas of a nation whose economy relies on healthy fisheries and a burgeoning dive tourism industry attracted by its exquisite coral reefs.
“For small island developing countries like Palau, the reef is the essence of our survival. It is our culture, our way of life,” said Tommy Remengesau, Jr., president of Palau from 2001 to 2009 and current member of the Senate of Palau, at the film’s premier. “Our traditions and our lifestyle are all sustained by what the oceans and the reefs provide.”
Remengesau is no conservation newcomer. In fact, he has been a regional and international environmental leader for many years. It was during his presidency in 2005 that he spearheaded the Micronesia Challenge, a regional initiative in which several Pacific nations – the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands – joined Palau in pledging to conserve 30% of their coastal waters and 20% of their forests by 2020.
In 2003, Remengesau signed into law the Palau Protected Area Network, which set up the structure for a system of established private, state and local conservation sites. The protectors of these sites can apply for funding, which now comes from a $15 Green Fee paid by visitors to Palau. The work of PAN continues thanks to the more than $2 million that has been raised so far, and new sites are being added every year.
Through further legal action on another front, Remengesau sought to protect sharks, whose ranks were being decimated by foreign fishing fleets licensed to fish in Palauan waters. The fisherman were catching the sharks, cutting off their fins – later to be made into shark-fin soup and medicines – and throwing the finless sharks back into the water to die. He signed a law banning the practice in 2003.
Six years later, the nation’s current president, Johson Toribiong, declared Palau’s exclusive economic zone waters as the world’s first shark sanctuary at a meeting of the United Nations. In 2010, the government expanded the sanctuary’s scope to include whales, dolphins and dugongs, Palau’s most endangered animal.
Although Remengesau’s and Toribiong’s efforts have been instrumental in shaping the region’s environmental policies, there have been other major Palauan players as well. These include Noah Idechong, who has served as chief of Palau’s Division of Marine Resources and director of the Palau Conservation Society and is now the speaker of the 16-member House of Delegates of Palau. Idechong won the Goldman Environmental Prize, which honors grassroots environmental “heroes,” in 1995, partly for his efforts to encourage local Palauan chiefs to revive the ancient practice of using a “bul,” or moratorium, to restrict fishing when stocks are low or endangered. This bul system is one of the principles that the local leaders and scientists look to in the actions they take as part of the Protected Area Network and has been an inspiration to other leaders throughout the Pacific region.
As former Palau President and current Senator Remengesau said in his remarks at the Smithsonian, “Out of fear of total extinction of our reefs and terrestrial resources resulting from carbon dioxide greenhouse effect, climate change, global warming, sea level rise, and increase in water temperature, we initiated the Micronesia Challenge. There is a need for mankind to find solutions to this destructive problem. Everyone and every region must do their part.”
And few countries are doing their part better than Palau. Visit the Palau Visitors Authority for more information!
The event and days leading up to it were filmed for a television show named “Sand Masters”, which will air across the globe on The Travel Channel. This episode, which focuses entirely on Palau, will be shown in over 100 countries with multiple replays for 3 to 5 years for hundreds of millions of viewers to enjoy.
Be sure to stop by PPR to see the sculpture while it lasts, depending on weather it could survive from a few weeks to a few months. And for those of you who are wondering, yes, it is only made of sand and water.
“Sand Masters”, creation of reef and sharks
including a complete Bar made all out of sand.
Dermot Keane and the President of Palau
H.E. Johnson Toribiong, President,
Dermot Keane from Sam's Tour and
Founder of the Palau Shark Sanctuary
Dermot Keane Founder of the Palau Shark Sanctuary
with the President of Palau H.E. Johnson Toribiong and other guests.
"Sanctuary Sling" ready to be filled…
For more on Palau and Photo Gallery please go to:
Lieb lives near the Atlantic Ocean and the beaches of Charleston, South Carolina. She knows that encounters with jellyfish can often end in pain. “I once got tangled in a jellyfish’s tentacles,” she recalls. “I was covered in painful welts. But Palau’s jellyfish don’t sting. They’ve evolved without predators, and they’re living peacefully in Palau. Maybe they’re official greeters. Jellyfish Lake is one of the reasons Palau is called the 8th Natural Wonder of the World as well as one of The Seven Underwater Wonders of the World.”
WHERE IS PALAU?
Most have heard of Palau as one of Planet Earth’s legendary dive and snorkel destinations. But for those who wonder where it is, you’re not alone. Located in the westernmost corner of Micronesia, Palau is an archipelago of over 586 islands. Only 20,000 people call this area home. But those willing to travel a to this remote paradise will swim in the translucent Pacific Ocean with over 1400 species of fish, 500 species of coral living underneath the stunning Rock Islands….and incredible jellyfish in Palau’s Jellyfish Lake.
“Jellyfish Lake is a well-known tourist destination,” says Yositaka Adachi, Governor of Koror State. “To swim among millions of harmless jellyfish is an unforgettable experience. Our Government is vigilant about conserving and managing our ecological integrity. We are devoted to preserving our natural environment as part of our heritage and culture.”
THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE NON-STINGING JELLYFISH
The golden jellyfish found only in Jellyfish Lake are called “Mastigias Papua Etpisoni.” Living in their tissues are zooxanthellae, which are symbiotic dinoflagellates. Theirs is a special relationship: the jellyfish rotates in a circle and swims around Jellyfish Lake, making sure the zooxanthellae get enough sunlight for photosynthesis. In exchange, the zooxanthellae provide their jellyfish with energy and nutrients.
The jellyfish capture tiny organisms for food, with stinging cells inherited from their ancestor, Mastigias Papua. But they did not evolve to eat large vertebrates like humans. They bob peacefully in the sun and are completely harmless to snorkelers exploring beautiful Jellyfish Lake.
JELLYFISH FOLLOW THE SUN
These unusual jellyfish swim in a migratory pattern seen only in Jellyfish Lake. At sunrise, they swim towards the east shoreline, stopping at the shadow line formed by overhanging trees and rocks. They hover there in the sunlit seawater. As the sun arcs overhead throughout the day, the jellies turn and swim towards the west shoreline, again stopping to bob at the shadow line. Like sunflowers, and tourists snoozing on the beach, Palau’s jellyfish are ardent sun worshippers.
A LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCE
“For twenty years, I’ve traveled the world, publishing articles about my intense encounters with wildlife,” says travel journalist Sharon Lieb. “I’ve kayaked with orca killer whales, snorkeled with beluga whales, swum with forty foot long whale sharks and photographed wild Canadian polar bears. But, never in my life have I been lovingly touched by a creature that is supposedly dangerous. Their curiosity and intelligence is humbling. Holding a jellyfish in your hand is a real The Twilight Zone moment. I suspended my fear, and floated into the Fourth Dimension, where all creatures share the joy of being alive. Open your heart for this life changing experience.”
(Note: for those interested in a little sneak preview, check out this video:
Shark enthusiasts will enjoy a shark themed week full of adrenalin-packed activities as Fish ‘n Fins together with the Micronesian Shark Foundation (MSF) holds its 10th annual Shark Week at Palau’s Fish ‘n Fins dive shop, from March 14-21, 2012. Between February and April, hundreds of grey reef sharks migrate to the waters of Palau to mate, which generates a great opportunity for shark lovers to dive amongst them and to participate in data collection. Participants will get the opportunity to dive world famous sites like Blue Corner, Peleliu Corner and Shark City without other divers being around. Shark Week features nightly lectures, presentations and documentaries presented by some of the world’s most admired leaders in underwater exploration, conservation and discovery. Hotel/dive packages for Shark Week start at $1,250 per person and include accommodations, multiple days of diving, seminars, participation in studies and research, lunches, transportation, an exclusive T-Shirt and a Gala Dinner.
More than sixty-five years ago, during WWII, Palau was a major Japanese military base. On March 30th and 31st, 1944, US Navy bombers and fighter planes raided the Japanese fleet and sank more than 60 ships and seaplanes in and around the lagoon. Today, Palau is renowned for its beautiful lagoons and thrilling marine action but is also the resting place for the “Japanese Lost Fleet of the Rock Islands.”
The 10th annual Wrexpedition is one of Fish ‘n Fins annual special events, which lasts one week and includes five days of diving; three tanks a day, seminars and tech-diving. Between the dives and during the seminars, participants have the unique opportunity to watch extraordinary documentaries about WWII. Wrexpedition 2012 will be held from June 04-11, 2012. Dive packages are available and include accommodations, multiple days of diving, lunches, transportation, seminars, movie nights, a T-Shirt and much more.
Sam’s Tours’ Kids Sea Camp makes a third appearance in Palau this year in collaboration with Sport Diver Magazine and PADI Diving Society. Scheduled for the week of June 23-30, 2012, this trip “sets the table” for an unforgettable family vacation. With great value in mind, Sam’s Tours offer a variety of packages to accommodate a full family of divers or combination of divers and non-divers.
The basic “Vacation Package” features seven days and seven nights of luxury accommodations; daily meals that consist of seven breakfasts, six lunches and six dinners, including Welcome Dinner, Taj, Beach BBQ, Kramer’s and Graduation “Survivor Day”; round trip airport transfers; transportation for all excursions; Rock Island Tour/Jellyfish Lake; full-day guided Kayak Tour; Babeldaob Island Tour; Ngardmau Waterfall Hike; City Tour; and visit to Palau International Coral Reef Center. Diver packages include all of the above as well as five days of diving at the famed Palau dive sites.
Palau’s “Diversity Fiesta” celebrates the destination’s unique combination of great diving during the day and gourmet cuisine and wine at night. Located in the western pacific and under Japanese rule for decades, combined with culinary influence from Philippines, USA, Malaysia and Indonesia, Palau’s cuisine is a truly Pacific fusion of sea food, fresh fruits and vegetables and spices.
Tova Harel, Fish ‘n Fins and Ocean Hunter owner is an accomplished and innovative chef, cookbook publisher and food and wine lover, and will be the ever gracious host at night with exotic meals. During the day, guests will dive Palau’s best sites and at night there will be a celebration of food and wines from the Pacific Rim. Diners will be served at Barracuda restaurant and on deserted islands under the stars.
The special weeklong fiesta is scheduled from September 3-10, 2012 and the diving program includes a rotation of the following: Day 1- Dancing Sharks: Dive Palau’s blue corners and sheer walls; Day 2- Forlorn WWII Wrecks: explore our 30+ historic wrecks; Day 3- Mysterious Caves: Temple of Doom and Chandelier cave; Day 4- Colorful Coral gardens: Macro heaven and Jelly Fish Lake; Day 5- Majestic Blue Holes: our famous blue holes.