Stuart and Michele Westmorland are a photographic team residing in Mill Creek, Washington. Their photo files are 70,000 pictures strong and have appeared in a variety of publications, including more than 100 magazine covers. Although Stuart and Michele gather images of all types, from travel to lifestyle, their first love and passion is diving and photographing the wonderful marine environment. From the cold waters of South Africa to dive with Great White Sharks to the gentle warm oceans of the South Pacific, the couple spends many months a year bringing interesting stories and photographs to readers. With a combined experience of more than 25 years, their curiosity to explore new diving territories never wanes. Find out more about the Westmorlands at

Day 2: Canoeing through the Mangroves

Paddling through the mangroves of Taoch Channel.
0600: We awake to the sounds of birds cooing and the gentle lapping surf. My ten-year-old son Jordan has joined us for our Palau adventure. The powder white beach and azure water at the Palau Pacific Resort (PPR) draw him like a magnet. Grabbing our snorkeling gear, I have to sprint to keep up with my pre-teen commando launching into the ocean.

The house reef in the front of PPR is fabulous for snorkeling and scuba diving for macro critters. A gentle sloping beach gives way to a variety of low-slung coral formations.

The crew.
Jordan's enthusiasm is contagious as he squeals with delight through his snorkel at the sight of Picasso Triggerfish, surgeonfish, butterflyfish and Blue Tangs. Reef clams decorate the cracks and nooks of the reef in shades of iridescent blue. Our rumbling stomachs tell us it's time for breakfast, and I swear to myself to return with an underwater camera.

0830: We drive several miles from the Fish 'n Fins dive shop to Arai, a small dock and breakwater not far from the Palau Airport. Our 28-foot outrigger canoe awaits us. As Navot gives us a quick lesson in paddling etiquette, our attention is drawn to a pint-sized child scampering around the outrigger pontoon and into the canoe with all the grace of a battering ram. Navot laughs at our worried expressions and mentions that the canoes are designed to withstand the heaviest abuse imaginable, far more than anything his hyperactive five-year-old can throw at it.

Snorkeling among the mangroves.
0930: The weather is perfect for paddling--a mixture of scattered clouds with a cool breeze. The trips have to be precisely timed with regards to tides, currents and prevailing wind conditions. For our first day trip we load up with drinking water and lunch, and set off with the strong aroma of sunscreen in the air. Joining us today are Navot and Tova's 10-year-old son, Udi, 12-year-old daughter, Yarden, and Guy our intrepid guide.

Paddling the canoe is straightforward, with little or no thought process involved. However, Guy's job in the steering position is a different matter altogether. The large size and stability of our canoe make sharp turns more difficult, but under the calming instructions of our helmsman, we rapidly get the hang of it.

Sunset at the Palau Pacific Resort.
After several swimming breaks and an hour of paddling, we reach the entrance of the mangroves at the western end of Taoch Channel. Paddling through the narrow channel, which winds through a mile of lush mangroves, is absolute magic. The sounds of birds fill the air--herons, egrets and terns to name just a few. The complex root systems are an important breeding ground for all kinds of fish, mammals and birds. Even the kids are quiet (a rare and blessed event) as they too are awed at the sight around us.

1530: We exit through the eastern end of the mangroves and paddle back toward Arai dock, where we left our transport vehicle.

1840: We watch a spectacular sunset from the beach and near the swimming pool at the Palau Pacific Resort.

[Intro] [Day 1] [Day 2] [Day 3] [Day 4] [Day 5]
Exploring with
Fish 'n Fins

Fish 'n Fins, the pioneer dive shop in Palau, offers a variety of activities: diving, snorkeling, hiking and canoeing. It offers a flexible itinerary and personalized service, as well as amenities on the dive boats, including toilet, shower and oxygen. Tova and Navot Bornovski are available every day to greet their guests and assure personal service.

Diving offers high voltage action at Blue Corner, gentle Giant Manta Rays at German Channel, historic WWII wrecks, mysterious jellyfish at Jellyfish Lake and the psychedelic mandarinfish at Fish 'n Fins Wall.

Tova and Navot with their outrigger canoe.

In between dives hikers can discover the rain forest's lush fauna, majestic waterfalls and historical and cultural sites. There is also good fishing available. Canoeing follows the traditions of old Palau, but with a western comfort. There are expeditions to Bat Caves, Yap's stone money quarry, an ancient sunken village, Rock Islands and mangrove channels.

For more information, please visit Fish 'n Fins' website at, e-mail or call (680) 488-2637, fax (680) 488-5418.

Staying at the Palau Pacific Resort

Palau Pacific Resort is one of the top-rated luxury resorts in Micronesia. Situated near a 1,000 foot white sand beach, it has every amenity you would expect of an award winning international resort.

Palau Pacific Resort.

The property features an array of leisure activities such as Splash, a PADI Five Star Dive Center, and Photo Palau, a full service photo and video center. Poolside is the center for watersports, including windsurfing, snorkeling, sailing or kayaking. There is a fitness center, outdoor tennis courts and guided hiking on a botanical nature trail.

For more information call (680) 488-2600, fax (680) 488-1606 or 1601. Check out the website at or send e-mail to