Until today, our trip had not encountered deep oceanic waters despite having sailed over 1000 nautical miles across open sea since leaving Vietnam. Knowing we would cross deep waters this morning, a few of us got out on deck eagerly to enjoy a delightful sunrise in very calm conditions. Flat, calm seas allowed for great viewing opportunities. Glassy waters are perfect for marine mammal spotting, and interesting cetacean data was consequently collected by our on-board guest scientists all day. Various seabird species appeared, and many followed us throughout the day, providing great sightings and photographic opportunities.
National Geographic Resolution
We woke up this morning as National Geographic Resolution made its way around strange mushroom-shaped limestone rocks sticking up out of the sea, with a drapery of vegetation covering each one. In the morning, we all got in power boats for a beautiful ride between the dark green rock islands and light blue reefs. We docked in a bay and walked over a ridge to the amazing jellyfish lake. This saltwater lake was created by a limestone sinkhole, then filled by seawater seeping in through the limestone cracks. Dozens of bird species flew over the green lake and vegetated cliffs. We went snorkeling in the warm lake to see the thousands of clear moon jellyfish everywhere we looked. However, the brightly colored golden jellyfish stole the show, with their long tentacles colored orange by the algae that live in them. What a lifetime memory! Next, we stopped and pulled the boats up on a sandy beach to have a bento box lunch in the shade of pine trees. Some guests walked along the beach, while others snorkeled off the beach. After lunch, we rode in the speed boats to another bay, where we slipped into the water to enjoy the psychedelic colors of thousands of huge brain corals. We enjoyed a leisurely float around the corals, fish, tunicates, and other brightly colored creatures. The clams growing here were a brilliant dayglow blue color. All around us were high limestone cliffs covered with tropical vegetation. Our last planned stop was a silty green bay, where we went swimming. Most of the guests smeared the fine white mud from the bay all over their bodies, creating a comical situation. Then, they jumped into the water to enjoy a swim without goggles or flippers. Several guests examined the strange cave-like indents at the base of the mushroom-shaped rock islands, and we learned that these six-foot overhangs were eroded by animals! It turns out that invertebrates (chitons and clams) erode the intertidal zone rocks about one inch every decade. On the way back to the ship, we suddenly saw huge manta rays swimming at the surface. So we stopped the boats, put on our snorkel gear, and jumped in the water to see these magnificent creatures up close. As they swam under us, we could see their white jaws and gray bodies, seven feet across. What a fantastic way to end such a memorable day in Palau! Photographers : Joe Holliday, Naturalist, and LaBelle Edmiston, Guest