by Addie Rowe
With our flight from Guam to Yap and then to Palau being delayed until around midnight on Sunday, May 29, the day immediately became jam-packed. We finally landed in Palau and arrived at the Sea Passion Hotel around 3 a.m., but our exhaustion temporarily lifted as we noticed the hotel’s proximity to the ocean and how parts of it are surrounded on three sides by water. Our ocean exploration, however, didn’t continue on Sunday because about five hours later we departed on a Sam’s Tours island tour that took us to Babledob, Palau’s largest island and Micronesia’s second largest land mass after Guam. Our first stop was to a Palau river for a jungle river tour. Much to our excitement, we encountered Sam’s Tours’ pet fruit bat, which several students took turns feeding cucumbers and holding. To imagine what the river tour was like, one only needs to recall Disneyland’s Jungle Tour, minus the automated hippos and elephants. We did see Roger, the river crocodile who enjoyed feeding on raw chicken legs, though!
Our next stop was to a set of Palauan monoliths representing some of the island’s ancient Gods. Although it is undetermined how these basalt sculptures got far from the ocean up to the island, a legend dictates that a God carried them from rock island to island and deposited them to the site we toured.
After eating our bento boxed lunches, we set out on a muddy but thrilling hike, which led us to the highlight of our day, an incredible waterfall within one of the island’s jungles. Our first leg of the hike included a view looking down at the vast jungle’s treetops. With every step we took closer to the waterfall, we noticed more and more development projects, such as the construction of bridges and paths leading to the destination. With this increase in accessibility to the waterfall, more tourists will be able to visit and enjoy the waterfall, but at the same time, I never felt that I was in an untouched area.
After trekking through mud, down rocky waterfall slopes, and across several man-made pathways, the massive waterfall came into view. Before I could even reach the viewing platform, many of my classmates were already wading through the waterfall’s pool. Another new tourist-friendly aspect to the waterfall trip was a set of bright red picnic tables, which were brought to the site after last year’s Guam and Palau trip.
I was able to overlook these blatant developments intended to increase tourism when I reached the bottom of the waterfall. The shower of water felt more powerful than a strong rainfall, and the view from behind the flow of water made the jungle look even more picturesque and pristine than before. If the ocean environments shared this same beauty, our Palau dive research would certainly be a life-changing experience.
Addie Rowe is a junior at USC working toward a bachelor of science in environmental studies.