Today, we got up around 6:15 - getting closer to actually needing our 6:30 alarm. Crystal was worried about her ear, as it had been bothering her through the night. She typed her symptoms into Google, and her best guess was that she had ruptured her eardrum. :-( We weren't going to be diving today anyway, so she decided to see how the day went. For once, it was very sunny outside in the morning. We finally remembered to take the Bonine today. We also packed the dry bag to include a DSLR if needed, since we had scheduled a plane tour for the afternoon.

Sam's pick up was at 7:44 today, so we got to Sam's before almost everyone. Justin learned from the day before, and got a diet coke at Sam's bar for $2 - nice. We met our guide, Mac, and he showed us on a map where we were going on our kayak and snorkel tour. We had everything ready, but we had to wait on our boat to arrive - it was out getting patrons to bring to Sam's. Once the boat was there, we had a 15 minute ride with Mac and Captain Bacon to Risong Bay.

We kayaked around the bay, listening to what Mac called the "Koror Theatre" - lots of different bird sounds. Then we kayaked into a black-tip nursery, and saw one baby shark and also a marble eagle ray. We also saw an upside down jelly fish, called casseiopea andromeda. Mac gave us a long explanation on how that name came to be. We kayaked some more, going west, and it started raining a bit, but not too bad. Along the way, we finally started to get the hang of the dual kayak. On the way, Mac spotted a Crown of Thorns, an invasive critter that kills a lot of marine life. To kill it, Mac scooped it out and put it on a ledge where it would suffocate in 30 minutes or so. At the morning snorkeling stop, we looked for Gobi and Shrimp. But instead we saw crocodile fish and lionfish - Mac was very happy. We also saw a jellyfish on our way back, one related to the jellyfish in jellyfish lake.

Then we had lunch, a little before noon. The fish nearby had been annoying Captain Bacon while we had been snorkeling - they kept swimming up to the boat and then away, taunting him. 3 squid swam up to the boat - we would have hopped in, but we were worried they'd swim away. We also saw some birds mating, and we talked story for a bit before heading back out. Our first stop was at a wreck. There are quite a few wrecks all over Palau from World War II, as it was a major battleground of the war in the Pacific. There are lots of boats and planes all over the place, both American and Japanese. Mac indicated that this boat was scuttled by the Japanese purposely - maybe to block a path?

The rain started to pick up a little after that. We were kayking for awhile, and as we got close to Mandarin Fish Lake, it started pouring. The snorkel in Mandarin Fish Lake was okay, but it was cold and the water was too shallow - we were worried about scraping against the coral. Justin also had the camera battery die on him. But we did see a good amount of coral and fish, including some light pink fish that kept trying to bite when we came near - it was guarding its sand. Back on the boat, we went to Lolita's Garden, right near the main channel heading back into Koror (near the islands and channel on left of this picture). The rain stopped on the way over there. Lolita's Garden was a drift snorkel, with the current pushing us along at a pretty good clip. It was lots of fun, and we saw tons of stuff, to the point Mac asked if we wanted to go again. We did, but we had to get back to Sam's by 3:30 for our pickup to go to the airport for our aerial tour of the islands.

Crystal drove the boat back to Sam's, with Captain Bacon giving pointers on how to pilot the boat. We got back a little early and grabbed a drink. While working on our drink, CJ from the airline company (PMA) met us, so we finished our drinks, then got in the car. PMA runs philanthropic operations with the plane every so often, and in between does tours to keep the plane fresh. It was still cloudy, but we were still treated to amazing scenery on the flight. Crystal was up front, and Justin was in the back, where there was no door (and hence no glare).

We flew east after taking off, going over Koror towards the eastern outer reef, then we turned south. We could see the main channels heading to Koror, including the one that Lolita's Garden was right next to (left side of this picture). We flew over the rock islands, and saw the "Milky Way," an area with natural healing materials in it, which turns the water milky. Heading further south over the rock islands, we went past Jellyfish Lake (pictures here and here), past Long Beach (you can kind of see the Rat Tail shape here), German Channel, and then we banked right in the Ngemelis. On the east side was Big Drop Off, and then rounding the corner we could see Blue Corner and Blue Holes. North of the Ngemelis we went through the "Seventy Islands" area which shows up a lot on promotional materials. Sadly, that was the place where there was the most cloud cover. North of there we came upon the Ulong area, and then we headed west-northwest towards Ngeruktabel and back to Koror.

Crystal piloted the plane a bit on the way back, right before the pilot (Stefan) took us in for landing. Shortly before landing we had a clear view of Sam's (circled in red in the picture immediately above) and our hotel. Back on terra firma, CJ took us back to the hotel, and we got there around 5:45. There was a big cruise ship out in the water, which we had seen on the flight, and which Marian had told us about the day before. We heard it blare its horn while catching up on trip log at 6:30. We got cleaned up, then went down to beach, where there was a party for the cruise ship on the beach. The pool area was pretty busy, so we went into the small indoor bar - it was nice, but pretty noisy. After one drink, we went to outside bar to eat, then grabbed another drink. It was another early night, crashing before 9 yet again.