Location: Nikko Bay
It’s hard to put a day like today into words, but if I had to give it my best, some of those words might include surreal, sublime, and the beginning of typhoon-esque. When we woke up this morning at 6:00, our faces dropped when we realized the sea kayak we had all been looking forward to was going to take place without the bright sun we had anticipated and instead with truly torrential rain. The initial quiet grumbles and repetitive debates about whether to wear a rain jacket or a wetsuit slowly wore off, and our gaggle of kayakers (fueled by Ethan’s breakfast sandwiches) suited up, piled into the dinghies, and headed to land. Soaked through and laughing, our group launched into what would become one of the best days of the trip in one of the most absurdly beautiful corners of our world.
Teamed up in twos, our group launched our rainbow of kayaks into Nikko Bay and took off into the turquoise water and lush rock islands. After a 30-minute paddle filled with paddle splash battles, some healthy competition, and a lot of excitement, we hopped out of our kayaks and snorkeled along a shallow reef with a drop-off into the channel. To grant some perspective of how alive this place is, our guide noted that there are about 700 species of plants that inhabit Palau’s rock islands and about 700 coral species that call its reefs home. Among these corals were brightly colored clams, lively fishies, and an array of other creatures (some swore they saw a stingray, but the jury’s still out on the truth behind that claim). After we got our coral fix, we hopped back into our buddy boats. We paddled to some hidden Japanese WW2 bunkers, where we got a brief history of Palau’s role in WW2 and the Japanese presence in the country, including the chance to hold a genuine Japanese bayonet discovered at one of the bunkers. After our trip through time, we adventured through more crystal blue channels and islands dripping with trees to a massive cave, where we sat among the rocks and enjoyed a delicious lunch and some cold sodas. With full bellies, we ventured out into what Heloise described as “genuine sideways rain” that came down in epic sheets, ruffling the ocean’s surface and keeping us on our toes. Our final destination, and perhaps one of the most special places I have ever been lucky enough to swim in, was a turquoise cave full of stalactites and stalagmites. Sheltered from the rain and surrounded by striped walls of volcanic rock and limestone, we took turns launching ourselves from a 20-foot ledge into the warm water below. Perry, Sierra, Kirstyn, and (sorta) Heloisethis was not without its consequencesdemonstrated their flipping skills, and Sydney racked up the highest number of jumps with about 8 million heel clicks. We cheered each other through a number of flops, a fair number of successes, and some very genuine childlike joy. Tired out and salt soaked, we set our little kayak rainbow back in motion through the trees and azure blue until we met land once more. Feeling lucky to be living this day, we made our way back to Vela for some deck showers and burritos that awaited our return. Squeeze found us gifting each other animal comparisons and sharing our favorite moments of the day.
Although I am constantly served reminders about how lucky I am to be here, today was the kind of day that slows down time and transports you to a different place, both in body and mind. I don’t mean to make this post sappy or overly done, but it is days like today that make us realize we exist in a reality that feels at the same time too spectacular to be real and so vibrant it touches you in the most tangible ways. I love the people that are living this with me, and I am grateful every day to experience the sounds, colors, smells, and moments produced both by this place and these people. We miss you all dearly, love you to bits, and thank you for helping us find our way to this place.
Mom, Dad, Nana, Pop, Cracker, Grace, and Aidan, I’m thinking of you guys every day, and I can’t wait to share more stories with you when I finally get to hug you. I love you guys so much <3
Love from Vela <3