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 3: Discovering WWII Wreckage Among the Mangroves

The entrance to Bat Cave.
0800: Hello from Palau. This is Michele reporting. With another spectacular day of canoeing ahead, we're all ready to burn off some calories from a huge breakfast and explore some new territory. Guy delivers us to the next site of embarkation--the KB Bridge, near the village of Ngetkib.

Guy paddles past the wrecked WWII plane.
We enjoy a peaceful hour and a half paddle through a mangrove section of the trail, with a slight offshore breeze aiding our progress. Wading birds are resting on the branches of the trees, waiting for the tide to drop so they can pluck delicacies such as snails from the mangrove roots. Our aim is to navigate through the channel while the water level is still high.

A piece of the plane emerges from the lagoon.
0930: Popping out from the watery forest, the lagoons are taking on more hues of blue. The shallow sand areas reflect the sky with incredible brilliance, and the different tones of green envelope the small rock outcroppings, making them look like precious emeralds. Around the corner we glide into a quiet lagoon that harbors some airplane wrecks from World War II. Jordan and Udi don their snorkel gear, excited to see if there are any "cool" relics in the cockpits. Guy lets them know they may run into some ghosts of pilots past. The shallow water makes it easy for them to search every inch of the rusting hulks. I enjoy taking a break and watching the graceful, long-tailed tropic birds compete for airspace with a large and not so graceful fruit bat. Other small bats emerge from a cave?appropriately named Bat Cave--another downed plane sits at its entrance. The small airplanes are commonly called "Jakes" for Japanese reconnaissance aircraft.

The boys explore the site of the wrecked Jakes.
1130: It's time to move on to the spot where we will have lunch. I don't know which is louder--the buzz of the insects on the islands or the boys in the canoe. All I hear are little voices chirping "When are we stopping--I'm hungry!"

We arrive at a nice cool shady spot to eat and then take a short hike. All our food is prepared locally in the Palauan style. Fish, rice and fruit wrapped in banana leaves, no plastic or non-biodegradable items, and no waste left behind.

Chipped stone money left behind in the forest.
1400: Refreshed after our lunch and a cat-nap, we go for a short trek into the rain forest. It's beautiful and lush with ferns and air plants draping the trees. There are stone steps leading to the site where carvers from Yap Island had worked on a massive currency piece (stone money, mined in Palau, is the traditional currency of Yap). How they got these large limestone disks out is a mystery to me! At least eight feet in diameter with a hole in the center, this particular coin was left behind because it was chipped, therefore reducing its value. Jordan wanted to know how much it was worth in U.S. dollars, and I told him that it must have been worth an awful lot. The Yapese risked their lives dragging these large pieces of rock hundreds of miles to Yap in an ancient outrigger canoe.

A crocodile among the mangroves.
We backtrack a bit in our canoes and paddle through Chongehungel Channel. The sky is clear and the tropical sun is intense. A snorkel in the cool water gives us the necessary energy to finish our days adventure at the Old Japanese Pier. There won't be any problem sleeping tonight!

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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