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by Casey Mahaney &
Astrid Witte Mahaney


Operating Blue Kirio Travel and Photography, this photographic team specializes in underwater photography and exotic dive travel and have co-authored 10 books on marine life identification and dive travel, along with a vast number of articles for periodicals. Through the years, they have developed a special interest in exploring marine life habitats and identifying and photographing unusual and uncommon species of fish and invertebrates. While spending several months every year traveling on various assignments, they also specialize in organizing and escorting a limited number of live-aboard dive tours to select remote and exotic destinations around the globe. For more on Blue Kirio Travel and Photography, check out their website: www.bluekirio.com

Day Five

Since we are flying out tonight we have to forego diving, Ethan is taking us on a kayaking tour through the Rock Islands. The weather could not possibly be any better. It's windy again, probably making for rough conditions on the outside reefs, but we are tucked tight into the sheltering mushroom-like isles. While the wind drives the scattered puffy clouds across the blue sky, all we receive is a gentle, cooling breeze.

By kayak, we explore mangrove forests, caves, WWII relicts and shallow coral gardens. We discover that there is a whole other world nestled within the jungley Rock Islands that can only be explored by kayak. Tarzan Cave and Bat Cave are just some of the amazing limestone formations with dripping stalactites and stalagmites and unique flora and fauna. Deep inside the Tarzan Cave, we discover skeletal human remains said to be from Japanese or Korean soldiers from WWII. There are many reminders of the war still hidden under dense foliage ranging from canons, machine gun nests and Japanese pill boxes.

Casey takes advantage of the spectacular view from one of the pill boxes and manages to get some great shots of us kayaking over the turquoise water. In a particularly calm area, a loud splash draws our attention and Ethan rushes over to the source. It turns out to be a school of jumping baitfish, but Ethan tells us that small saltwater crocodiles have been spotted in the area recently. I'm not sure if we should consider ourselves lucky or not, but in any case, we don't get to see one.

For the next couple of hours, we decide to play a little bit, snorkel the shallows and photograph some juveniles while Ethan dons his scuba gear and tries to find some vivid iridescent urchins. Finally, once the sun is high in the sky, we decide to work on some split level images. Normally, this is a tedious, frustrating process, but with today's mirror-like surface, clear, shallow water and blue skies, it's a blast. Sadly, with the last shot exposed, we realize our Palau expedition is coming to an end. While Sam's Tours was able to give us an excellent sampling of Palau's diverse marine environment, we now realize there's still much more to explore, besides there are so many wonderful places to return to. So we'll be back. Real soon!

 


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Sam's Tours


Sam Scott has been exploring Palau's vast reef system, hidden waterways and forgotten jungles for more than 18 years and knows the best locations below and above the surface. An endless enthusiasm for showcasing Palau's diversified ecosystem for every visitor and a willingness to go the extra mile have earned Sam a reputation for unique and personalized service. With his first-class team of PADI instructors, marine biologists and trained naturalists, Sam's Tours offers an array of watersports, including diving, kayaking, snorkeling, overnight sailing and environmentally friendly sportfishing tours. In addition, Sam's offers thrilling land tours to towering waterfalls, ancient Palauan monoliths, prehistoric cave paintings and fascinating Yapese stone money disks.

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e-mail:
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