Photo of the Week: The Rock Islands of Palau
I’m willing to say, completely free of hyperbole, that the Rock Islands of Palau may be the most beautiful place I’ve ever traveled. The Republic of Palau is already a pretty sparsely populated and rarely visited kind of place, but spending time in the Rock Islands takes that to another level entirely. I spent six days kayaking in the Rock Islands, and though there were certainly visitors on day trips from the capital the only other overnight resident I saw were a Scandinavian family who had quite literally put down anchor for a bit to break up a long sailing voyage.
The natural beauty of the Rock Islands is astounding. These limestone islands, and the array of species that live among them, form a UNESCO World Heritage Site – Palau’s sole entry on the list. As if the reefs and islands weren’t draw enough, the islands also still show some remains of the abandoned villages where Palau initially came into contact with the outside world. Though little more than stone walls overgrown by jungle, walking through them alone with the sounds of tropical forest life all around is every bit as exciting as kayaking on the open waves to cross between islands.
The biggest draw in Palau though, at least in the numbers of tourists who visit each year, is Jellyfish Lake. Famed for its millions of stingless jellyfish, the forty-five minute boat ride from Palau’s capital is worth a swim here even if this is the only chance you get to visit the Rock Islands. If you can manage a visit on your own, without the splashing fins of a tour group, I would recommend it even more.
Palau is a long way from anywhere, and its closest neighbors are all other beautiful island countries like the Federated States of Micronesia and the Philippines. If you plan a trip to the region, be sure to budget a lot of time. Once you see these beautiful islands, you wont be in any hurry to leave!
Have you spent any time in Palau’s Rock Islands? How many defenseless jellyfish did you accidentally swim into while snorkeling the Jellyfish Lake?