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 www.westmorland

To read more about Stuart and Michele's adventures in Palau, don't miss the complete story in the April 2001 issue of Skin Diver magazine. It'll be worth the wait!

Day 5: A Hike into the Past and a Sad Farewell

A 200-year-old men's meeting house.
0600: Waking up to the sounds of peeping frogs and crickets, we are disappointed to see dark clouds brewing on the horizon. A quick breakfast of cereal in coconut shells, fresh pineapple, papaya and bananas is consumed without a murmur. There is nothing quite like the smell of fresh coffee in the wilderness. We quickly pack up our site and remove all vestiges of our presence from this pristine island paradise.

0800: The light breeze is quickly gathering strength, as are the clouds that have completely obscured the blue sky. Luckily, the islands will protect us against the wind, and it is a nice change to paddle without hat or sunglasses.

We paddle a different route back to our speedboat rendezvous point. Although there are all kinds of exploration possibilities, the impending rain drives us to an earlier speedboat pickup. Anyway, there are several sites we would like to visit back on the main island.

A 200-year-old men's meeting house.
1030: Arriving by speedboat at Airai Dock at the southernmost end of Babeldaob, we are thankful to have missed the squall, which veered north of us. A short drive through the quaint Bai Village and a 200-yard walk down an ancient stone path lead us to Bai ra Irrai, one of the few remaining traditional men's meeting houses remaining in Palau. This one is said to be more than 200 years old.

1200: We opt for a picnic lunch at Ngatpang Waterfall. The only catch is we have to carry lunch, cameras and tripods down a very slippery half-mile path through verdant jungle and a very steep set of stone stairs. The overcast weather is perfect for hiking and photography. A bright sunny day causes too much contrast for film to record the details of the waterfall.

The falls are magnificent; surrounded by verdant jungle vegetation. It is hard to imagine that we are less than a mile from an international airport! The kids enjoy posing for pictures under the thundering force of water cascading down the rock wall.

1430: Heading back by 4-wheel drive toward Fish 'n Fins, we make one last stop on our action-packed odyssey. Near the village of Ngermid, we turn off the main road and pound our way a quarter mile down a rough road to a small mangrove-filled ocean tributary.

A trail leads past several houses and a stone path, which skirts the border of the mangrove bushes and leads to the open ocean. At the end of the path are the remnants of a WWII Japanese pill box (armored lookout tower). The carefully placed stone path we walked along was used to offload supplies from oceangoing ships. In the shade of the pillbox, Jordan nearly jumped out of his sandals when a giant hermit crab moved near his foot.

A hermit crab among the foliage.
2100: We are invited to a barbecue dinner at Novat and Tova's house, along with their staff and visiting friends. I relish every bite of Tova's homemade garlic-pickled peppers and reflect on the fine wine, gourmet food, friendships formed and renewed during our outdoor adventure. A toast to our gracious hosts, to the paddlers that brought us safely back and to you the reader for joining us on our first internet foray.

Mesulang--Thank you.

[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