Story and Photos by Wendy Capili-Wilkie
It’s 8:30 am, and the boat is ready and loaded with kayaks. Our guide, Jaden gathered the four of us and conducted the kayak briefing. We were told that we will be cruising around Nikko Bay first and then paddling in Risong Bay. It’s been four years since I last went on a kayak trip, a trip I usually avoid because it involves hard work, paddling that is, and sun – lots and lots of it. Jaden promised that we will have an easy, relaxing day. By 9am, we started our journey and soon found ourselves cruising along the emerald green islands with bright blue skies upon us. Today we’re lucky – the rain has finally stopped after over three days of constant downpour.
Our first stop was a World War II wreck in Nikko Bay. Our guide gave us a brief background of the wreck, complete with actual photos of the plane. It is an American plane downed during operation Desecrate 1. It sits on shallow water, the plane wing still visible. Palau has a lot of wrecks from WWII, sad memories of war. We then started cruising again in the lagoon, meeting a juvenile spotted eagle ray! Nice!
We stopped at the mouth of a cave, went down and waded through knee deep water to get into it, and was surprised how big and beautiful the cavern was. Tarzan cave, as it was called, is a gigantic limestone cavern that has a skylight opening almost covered with a canopy of trees and vines. The sunlight coming through the center of the cavern was beautiful! It looks like Blue hole, but it was on land. Jaden brought us to one part of the cavern which was a burial site during ancient times in Palau. There was an archeological excavation that found remains of ancient people on this site. As proof, Jaden showed us a part of the human mandible! Amazing.
After the Tarzan cave, we went to a small cove near Lee Marvin Beach to snorkel and look for sea horses in the sea grass. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any, but enjoyed taking pictures nonetheless. The water was calm and flat, and it was a perfect day for over-unders or split shots!
The water was cool, and the tide was right, bringing us around Lee Marvin Beach where we stopped over for lunch. This is where the movie “Hell in the Pacific” was filmed, starring of course, Mr. Lee Marvin.
The beach was perfect! Paradise found. After lunch, all the kayaks were unloaded, and this is where we started our Risong Bay kayak tour. After a brief intro on how to get on and off the kayaks, and slathering tons and tons of sunscreen, we were off!
It was an easy paddle. The current took us through Risong Bay without so much effort, and pretty soon we were on a shallow lagoon that is only accessible by kayak. The rock islands are so beautiful and tranquil, the vegetation so lush. The water is so flat and calm, and paddling through it is so relaxing. We could only hear the occasional sound of the birds, and of course our voices echoing around. After so many years of not doing this, I have completely forgotten how close you feel with nature as you paddle around the lagoon. You forget how hot it is, and how sweaty you are because the beauty that surrounds you completely overtakes your senses.
As we paddled along, we saw juvenile blacktips and a stingray. These inner lagoons are nurseries for these amazing animals that we encounter on the reef. We saw the pretty pitcher plant, mangroves, and Palau’s national flower called Rur.
After a brief snorkel stop to cool down, we kayaked to Mandarin fish lake, and saw another World War II wreck along the way. We chose not to snorkel at the lake to see the Mandarin fish because by this time we were so overwhelmed, and a bit tired but very satisfied with all the things that we saw!
At the end of the day, all of us sat quiet on the boat on our way back to Sam’s tours. We were in awe of all the beautiful things that we saw in this trip, and we just can’t help but just to savor it all in. I have been reminded that diving is not the only way to experience Palau’s beauty. Going on a kayak trip is a must, and is a great way to off-gas. We thank Sam’s tours for an amazing day in Paradise!