by Mengyi Jenny Sun
Today is the day that I have been certificated as a diver for a month. In the past month, I experienced a totally different life through this program on Catalina Island, and in Guam and Palau. There were so many first-time experiences that happened in the short month that I had never imagined before. For instance, the first time I had a cute fruit bat hanging on my finger; the first time I had a sea cumber sucking on my arm; the first time I had a remora fish “kissing” my leg when I was collecting marine invertebrate data; the first time I had been hurt by a fire coral and a sea urchin. Those amazing first-time experiences continued in the hike in a forest of Palau.
Have you ever been to Disneyland and had a tour in an artificial jungle by boat? We had a real survival jungle tour in Palau. I picked a good stick and then we started our adventure in the rainforest. The path was slippery and muddy. A few times, I almost fell down into the muddy puddle except for my helpful stick. Coming to the center of the forest, we met the longest river in Palau. A few native kids played with vines crossing above the river. We had a boat ride that looked exactly like the one in Disneyland. However, what made the ride different was that a real crocodile, named Roger, swam toward our boat and opened its giant mouth to catch the chicken leg that the captain provided. A friendly fruit bat played with us and sometimes tried to bite our fingers like a little puppy. Crossing the muddy path of another river, we arrived at the great waterfall. We were amazed and jumped into the water immediately. It was my first time standing under a waterfall and it became one of the coolest experiences that I have ever had.
Near the waterfall, there was a bar under construction. Beside it, a roller coaster-like monorail was under construction through the forest. The tourist guide and some of the workers told us these entertaining facilities would be done soon and they hoped there would be more tourists as a result. There is no doubt that with these machines, the hike would be more comfortable. However, with more people and human activities, there would be more trash, and damage to the forest. Local people try to develop tourism in Palau to earn more money. Economic development and protection of the environment are often in conflict with each other. However, all of my amazing experiences happened because of the healthy forest. Although there would be more exciting entertaining facilities built here, without the healthy forest, the fun will not last long.
Mengyi Jenny Sun is an international student from Beijing, China, and a sophomore working toward a bachelor’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.