We visited Palau and Yap in Apr 2004. We stayed on the liveaboard Big Blue Explorer in Palau for one week, and the Manta Ray Bay Hotel in Yap for 5 days. Big Blue Explorer may not be a luxurious boat to stay onboard because it is an ex-Japanese communication vessel, but it's very spacious. The crew are friendly and helpful, and the food is delicious. Definitely great value for money.

We arrived at Palau at the same time when it was hit by a typhoon. We were unable to dive the first day, but it was no less exciting for the rest of the trip. There were some dive sites which were out of reach because of the typhoon and the fierce currents, but we managed to visit Blue Holes and Blue Corner. We actually went to Blue Corner five times and still enjoy the great scenes of big action every time - oceanic white tips, black tips, gray reefs, schools of jacks, barracudas, Napoleon wrasses etc. We saw two eagle rays at the New Drop Off, with all other schools of fishes and the great variety of all species there made it such a memorable sight.

The Jellyfish Lake in Palau is a must-see site. It's a short walk uphill from the shore, and you carry your own snorkels, fins and masks. No scuba diving. Best to wear boots because of the walk. Snorkelling in this green soup of stingless jellys is a wonderful experience - like in an alien world! The jellyfishes are not as delicate to touch as I have expected, but obviously you need to be careful with the fins so that you don't squash them and beware when you get close to the shore on the far side of the lake because of the stinging anemones. play the video

Manta rays are the residents of Yap. When we arrived in Yap, it was heartbroken to see the damage that the typhoon has done to the beautiful land of Yap. We were the first group of divers who went to Manta Ray Bay Hotel after the storm. The hotel was badly flooded and damaged, and the boat where the hotel restaurant once stood was blown on shore. However, the diving tour was still on. Luckily the mantas were still around, and they came in all sizes! The biggest one that stayed in the cleaning station for over 20 mins was over 4m in length.

My brief encounter with the people here showed that the Yaps were very friendly and traditional. Many women still wore traditional costumes i.e. nude tops and only a sarong covering the legs. Apparently, it was indecent for a woman to show her legs. So, we who wore T-shirts and shorts were acutally stared by the nude Yap women disapprovingly when walking around. They must have thought how indecent we were!

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