Palau is a whole bunch of islands, a few of which are connected by bridges, so you can drive between them. There are no street names, and most of the cars are right hand drive (although my rental car is not), so it was a little scary driving around at first. The speed limit is 25 mph & lower everywhere, though, so it's pretty low key. I'm staying at the Sea Passion Hotel, which is on a small stretch of sandy beach with islands and caves and reefs right in front. I rented a kayak & paddled around all the little limestone islands, which are inhabited by a wide variety of birds that are continually squaking & flying overhead. As I paddled, the water was a translucent turquoise in some places & teeming with fish, but in other places it dropped off so that it was black & you could only imagine what was beneath you. I went snorkelling in the lagoon fronting my hotel & was surrounded by fish of all colors and sizes, who didn't seem bothered that I was inches away from them.
Today I ventured off by myself to look for a trail that leads to the top of a small mountain with a radio tower on it, with 360 degree views of the island. It was hard to find, but a lone farmer that was working one of the fields showed me the trail. On the way up I almost stepped on something crawling that looked like a giant hermit crab in an African snail shell. When I got up there, three shirtless Palauans were making repairs to the tower & they pointed to an older, rusty metal tower & told me to climb up for the best view. They assured me that it was safe & held the rickety old ladder while I climbed up. Near the top I started having second thoughts, because it was a long way down if I fell, but I forced myself to continue & was rewarded with the most spectacular views all the way to the rock islands on one side & to the largest island of Babeldaob on the other side.
I also had a chance to go to the museum & the aquarium; the crocodiles & nautilus were pretty cool. And I met up with my friend Suzanne for a great dinner of fresh yellowfin tuna at one of the oceanfront restaurants. The conference starts tomorrow & Thurs I'm taking a boat to the Rock Islands & Jellyfish Lake.