White Mud, Red Mud, Golden Jellies – Take Your Pick in Palau
There is some muddy business going on in the ecologically clean Palau. Between the white mud of Mother Nature’s own beauty salon and the red mud of ATV-challenging roads, spa junkies and adventure seekers can easily satisfy their respective obsessions here.
Gliding between the tiny Chia-pet islands of the largest Micronesian archipelago, tourist boats stream like miniature spaceships in the direction of what locals call the Milky Way – a pristine cove with a silky white clay bottom. This clay is created by local snails that consume and digest limestone while feeding on algae.
The clay is applied as a facial mask and is said to smooth out wrinkles, clean and reduce pores, and lend its silkiness to the skin. In a big hotel spa it will definitely cost you, but here, at the cove, boat operators just bring up a bucket of white cosmetic gold and let their passengers slather it all over their pasty touristy bodies.
Let it dry, then dive into the gentlest milky-blue water, and it will hold you afloat, like in a dream, or outer space, beyond the gravity of Earth.
This very quiet and darkish lake, not at all shiny-blue like other bodies of water in Palau, is the only place in the world where people safely swim and snorkel among the myriads of jellies, harmless and beautiful to behold. Golden Jellyfish (Mastigias papua etpisoni) lives in glorious isolation here, in the secluded marine lake surrounded by jungle-covered rocks – far removed from predators, and therefore stingless.
Slow-moving “lampshades” ranging in size from golf ball to basketball ascend and descend around enchanted snorkelers in an endless wave-like dance, graceful and enviably serene.
On our way back to the Carp Island Resort, we snorkeled over shallow Clam City. Giant clams were waiting, agape, for their prey among the bright coral and fuzzy seaweed-covered rocks at the bottom of the ocean. They were doing a great job camouflaging with dazzling colors – midnight blue, deep purple, and green-and-brown army camo.
And then there was time for dry land and red mud adventures. The islands of Palau are mostly unpopulated (more than 500 islands, some no bigger than a catnip patch). Those that are suitable for human residences are paved, developed, and well-maintained. However, even on the capital island of Koror there are places to go wild and to test your stamina and endurance.
Fish ‘N Fins Dive Shop is one of the most famous local tour operators, offering a wide variety of diving, snorkeling, boating, and fishing tours. Our group embarked on their most exciting land activity – an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) off-road tour across the Martian-red hillsides of Koror.
I don’t know how, but I was somehow persuaded that an ATV cannot overturn in any circumstances, so I boldly drove over the ditches as deep as a vehicle’s wheel, and narrow slippery ridges between them. Puddles, turns, steep downhill inclines – bring it all on, I thought. Even when tropical rain started to pour into the open vehicle, inexplicably enhanced by still-shining sunlight, I didn’t lose my determination. Later I learned that things happen, but nothing had happened to us! We could even see the rainbow at the end of our trip.