After a nearly 400-day hiatus, Taiwanese are finally able to travel abroad again, and Palau — a country already familiar to Taiwanese travelers — has become the first “travel bubble” destination during the COVID-19 pandemic, giving members of the public a fresh opportunity to reacquaint themselves with an old friend.
Located in the Western Pacific and neighboring the Philippines, the combined land mass of Palau’s archipelago of islands and islets totals less than 500km2 — smaller than Taipei City — and it has a population of only 20,000. However, Palau’s abundant maritime resources, pristine environment and commitment to ecological conservation mean that visitors to the islands are treated to dream-like aquatic vistas, with shoals of dazzling tropical fish and sea turtles shuttling through the water. Palau’s underwater wonderland also contains majestic cliffs and dropoffs on the seabed, earning Palau the nickname “secret diver’s paradise.”
The first stop on our itinerary was Milky Way lagoon, whose spa waters, according to local legend, possess skin-rejuvenating properties that can knock years off one’s appearance. It is no exaggeration to call it a secret location, since the lagoon is actually a body of water hidden among a labyrinth of small islands. Getting there involves shuttling between numerous uninhabited islands by boat before one is finally able to dip one’s toes in the tranquil turquoise waters.
Photos: Hsiao Yu-hsin, Liberty Times 照片：自由時報蕭玗欣
Due to Palau’s exceptionally rich maritime resources, nearly 90 percent of Palauans are employed in the tourism industry. Both Palau’s government and its residents therefore place a great deal of importance on marine ecology, which has ensured that its waters are a paradise on Earth for divers. Our first diving experience was at a stand-alone island reef located on the eastern side of Locke Islands. Beneath the deep blue sea we were welcomed by its famous multi-colored antler coral: some blue, some a light yellow, and some a whitish color as a result of warming sea temperatures in recent years. Out of the gaps in the coral reef, shoals of small and medium-sized tropical fish shuttled back and forth, which made for a thrilling dive.
The most amazing part of the trip was without a doubt Jellyfish Lake. According to locals, there are apparently five or six jellyfish lakes in Palau, but in order to maintain a balanced ecology and sustainable tourism, only one is open to tourists. Jellyfish Lake was previously a vast stretch of water within the open ocean, but geological shifts over time transformed the body of water into an inland lake. With their food supply cut off, marine life in the lake gradually died out, leaving just jellyfish, which survived by feeding on glucose released by algae through photosynthesis. This produced extraordinary jellyfish-filled lakes. Visitors need not worry, though, since they are not the poisonous variety.
(Liberty Times, translated by Edward Jones)
Photos: Hsiao Yu-hsin, Liberty Times 照片：自由時報蕭玗欣
Photo: Hsiao Yu-hsin, Liberty Times 照片：自由時報蕭玗欣
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