Marine Expedition in Micronesia

Palau

April 30 - May 15, 2019
Cost: $9,700 - $11,600
Leader: Scott Davis + 2
Group Size: 14
Days: 16

Safari Overview

Sail tropical islands in the western Pacific Ocean on our scientific exploration of the newly created Palau National Marine Reserve. This unique new expedition in partnership with Conservation International concentrates on the wildlife and science of a world-renowned group of protected islands. Sail aboard the comfortable Ocean Hunter III for twelve days through these very remote tropical islands that lie in the western Pacific Ocean. Explore Palau National Marine Sanctuary with marine experts and visit the pristine Helen Reef Atoll. Snorkel and dive in the World Heritage Rock Islands Southern Lagoon where tropical forested karst islands meet coral caves and jellyfish lakes. Explore some of the most diverse reefs on the planet, and learn first-hand from scientific researchers aboard about the biology of Palau’s whales, fish, and reefs. You will also experience the unique culture of the people from these rarely visited South West Islands. Your leaders will have just led two trips prior to yours, so the itinerary specifics will remain flexible as they may adjust time spent at the best spots based on these first two trips, making each day the best possible experience.

HIGHLIGHTS
• Learn about and participate in cutting-edge marine science and whale research from captivating lectures and active participation with onboard scientists.
• Navigate through the Rock Islands Southern Lagoon amidst dugongs, manta rays, and spinner dolphins while taking a special opportunity to swim amongst non-stinging jellyfish.
• SCUBA dive and snorkel through crystal-clear waters in pristine, remote, and world-renowned sites.
• Explore the rich culture of this small archipelago by visiting with inhabitants of Tobi Island.

Itinerary Updated: November 2018



Ship Info FAQ Print Trip
Date Description Lodge Meals
Apr 30 - May 1 Travel to Palau.
May 2 Arrive in Koror, Palau. Hotel in Palau D
May 3 Expedition in Risong Bay. Aboard the Ocean Hunter III B, L, D
May 4 - 5 Diving and snorkeling in the Rock Islands. Aboard the Ocean Hunter III B, L, D
May 6 Travel to Peleliu Island for wildlife watching and history of the region. Aboard the Ocean Hunter III B, L, D
May 7 Whale research at sea. Aboard the Ocean Hunter III B, L, D
May 8 Explore the ecologically unique and diverse region of Fana Island. Aboard the Ocean Hunter III B, L, D
May 9 Whale research at sea. Aboard the Ocean Hunter III B, L, D
May 10 Tobi Island for diving and island tour. Aboard the Ocean Hunter III B, L, D
My 11 - 12 Helen Reef for diving, marine research, and visit the ranger station on Helen Island. Aboard the Ocean Hunter III B, L, D
May 13 - 14 Navigate back to Koror while conducting whale research. Aboard the Ocean Hunter III B, L, D
May 15 Disembark in Koror for flights homeward. Arrive home, depending on flight schedules. B

Our Trip Leaders

Scott Davis

Scott Davis is a professional photographer specializing in wildlife, nature, travel, and editorial imagery. Originally trained as a wildlife and marine biologist, Scott's research and photo assignments have taken him to far corners of the globe and all seven continents. His photographic work has appeared in numerous national and international magazines and newspapers, commercial websites, prestigious stock agencies, and corporate reports. His patience for teaching and love of capturing the essence of his subjects make him one of our most popular tour leaders.

Detailed Itinerary

A glimpse into our journey

Fly to Palau

Apr 30 - May 1

Depending on your home departure location, you will leave on April 30 or May 1

Arrive in Palau

May 2

Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris supports World Cetacean Alliance

Arrive in Koror, Palau for an overnight stay before boarding the ship the next day.

Note: Cheesemans' are members of World Cetacean Alliance and abide by responsible whale watching practices.

Visit Risong Bay and embark on our ship

May 3

Jellyfish Lake (non-stinging jellyfish!) by Enric Sala

This morning, transfer from the hotel to the harbor to board a speedboat, while your luggage is boarded onto the Ocean Hunter III. You will start the expedition with a wildlife-rich day in Risong Bay. Here we will benefit from Ron’s extensive local knowledge to guide us through a long morning at Black Tip Lake, Shipwreck Bay, Kingfisher Bay, and Mandarin Fish Lake. We’ll kayak to look at baby black tip sharks, paddle past glorious limestone cliffs with endemic plants and birds, snorkel among jellyfish, and hear about the historical significance of the area during World War II. Mandarin Fish Lake will cap a beautiful morning with a snorkel over pink sea fans and stunning soft corals, perfect habitat for juvenile sail fin tang, pajama cardinal fish, and mandarin fish. While eating lunch, search for dugongs before an early afternoon snorkel timed with the tide where manta rays may be feeding at Lolita’s Garden. By late afternoon, we’ll head back to the harbor where Ocean Hunter III awaits to take us to our next destination with possibilities for more wildlife sightings once out of port.

Diving and snorkeling Ulong and Ngemelis in the Rock Islands Southern Lagoon

May 4 - 5

Manta Rays by Enric Sala

Explore a rainbow of diversity as you snorkel or dive among dazzling schools of mandarin fish, dugongs, manta rays, and spinner dolphins. The complex reef system within this collection of uninhabited limestone islands supports over 385 types of coral, sustaining a large variety of plant, bird, and marine life. You will discover endemic populations of ocean species in the unusual collection of marine lakes located here (isolated bodies of seawater separated from the ocean by land barriers). Some lakes are home to millions of non-stinging jellyfish that you can swim amongst! The ship will anchor in the heart of this distinct landscape, allowing for beach BBQ dinners and visits to some of the world-famous dive sites of Palau. Dive highlights may be Blue Corner, Big Drop-Off, and German Channel where gentle giant manta rays show up at a ‘cleaning station’ for parasite-eating fish to pick them clean of pests. The richness of Ulong and Ngemelis guarantee both snorkelers and divers will have incomparable wildlife experiences. Ulong boasts superb coral life, anemones, sea snakes, and myriad fish species. Timing the tide gives the possibility of finding gray reef sharks riding currents with great viewing for both divers and snorkelers. Ngemelis can legitimately be called the underwater Serengeti of this beautiful planet, yet exploring on land is also a must where cultural finds, like Yapese Stone Money, and birds, such as the mound-building Micronesian megapode, are found.

Wildlife watching and history of Peleliu Island

May 6

Reef by Scott Davis

Keep your eyes peeled for migratory shore birds and whale encounters as the Ocean Hunter III motors toward the island of Peleliu. Here, the snorkeling and diving are glorious and divers may visit the breathtaking fish and corals of the Peleliu Wall diving area.

On land, you will scout for endemic birds while you learn about the role these islands played in World War II, visiting the intense relics of the Battle of Peleliu where up-ended tanks are now taken over by glorious fig roots, reclaiming the island’s wild nature. You will also search for coconut crabs, the largest known terrestrial arthropod, and learn about the biology and conservation of these enormous hermit crabs. Listen for the mysterious whistle of the elusive and endemic bush warbler as you walk through these forested islands.

Whale research at sea

May 7

Join our resident whale researchers as they explain and demonstrate their study methods. You can actively participate in the search for whales and dolphins, and in the collection of behavioral, visual, and acoustic data. Sperm whales frequent these waters; Ron has documented 184 individuals in Palau, so with some luck, we may find ourselves amongst a family group of these incredible mammals with the largest brains of any species on the planet.

Explore the unique biodiversity of Fana Island

May 8

Great Frigatebird

Fana is an uplifted reef flat island in the Southwest Islands of Palau that qualifies as a globally significant ‘Important Bird Area.’ This international designation indicates that this area is critical for the conservation of bird populations. On land, you’ll scout for congregations of nesting black noddy and common white terns, as well as brown noddy, great frigatebird, and red-footed booby. On the beaches, you will search for coconut crabs and nesting green sea turtles. You will also have the opportunity to dive or snorkel through a magnificent rainbow of hydrocorals.

Whale research at sea

May 9

Spend a second exciting day assisting onboard researchers as they search for and collect data on whales and dolphins, participating with them at the watching and listening stations.

Tobi Island diving and island tour

May 10

Reef by Enric Sala

Explore this small limestone island, learning about the culture and lifestyle of the 16 people that live here and that of their ancestors, a culture with a separate dialect endemic only to Tobi. Tour the culturally-modified tiny island to see taro patches that have sustained the inhabitants for over 150 years and visit other significant cultural sites. You will also have the opportunity to dive or snorkel in the reefs around this unique island.

Helen Island Ranger station; diving and marine research

My 11 - 12

Helen Reef atoll has been named as a ‘Marine Protected Area,’ helping to safeguard it from overfishing and poachers. While diving or snorkeling around this spectacular collection of remote reefs, you will encounter an abundance of dazzling fish and other marine life. Inside the ring of coral reef sits Helen Island, which is uninhabited except for the rangers stationed there to protect the reef’s conservation status. Visit the ranger station to learn about the ongoing marine research to better understand and protect this breath-taking site.

Navigate to Koror while conducting whale research

May 13 - 14

Sperm Whale

Surprises may await on the voyage north toward our port in Koror, traveling through rich waters where pilot whales and sperm whales are known to feed. You’ll continue learning about and assisting in marine research during this time at sea.

Disembark in Koror and transfer to airport

May 15

The group will disembark the ship in Koror around 8:00am and either travel to the airport or into town for those departing later in the day. If you wish to extend your stay, we are happy to book a hotel in Koror for you (not included, subject to availability). If you are crossing the International Dateline to get home today, you will arrive home on May 15.

Palau

Sail tropical islands in the western Pacific Ocean on our scientific exploration of the newly created Palau National Marine Reserve.

7.364302, 134.532913

Ship Information

Ocean Hunter III

The 16-passenger Ocean Hunter III is a 96-foot, steel-hulled live-aboard motor yacht designed by divers, making her the perfect choice for our scientific exploration. Special amenities include air-conditioned cabins, spacious gear room with camera table and charging station, dive deck with individual storage bins, and two Jacuzzis. The experienced and friendly crew consists of several local Palauan guides who have grown up on these reefs and care deeply about preserving the Palauan environment and culture.


More Information
Ocean Hunter III boat photo with Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris

Cost & Payments

Costs (in US$)

Type Description Cost Per Person
Standard Double occupancy, one upper and one lower twin bed, private bath, and large storage space and closet. Lower deck. $9,700
Deluxe Twin Double occupancy, one upper and one lower twin bed, plus additional twin bed, private bath, and large storage space and closet. Upper deck. External door to sun deck and Jacuzzi. $10,300
Deluxe Queen Double occupancy, one queen-sized bed and one twin bed, private bath, large storage space and closet. Lower deck. $10,300
Master Stateroom Double occupancy, one king-sized bed and one single bed/sofa, private bath, large storage space and closet. Upper deck. External door to sun deck and Jacuzzi. $11,600

Costs are per person, double occupancy, not including airfare, singles extra. See Included and Not Included sections for more details.

We reserve the right to charge for cost increases that occur between when we set tour prices and the date of travel, for example, changes due to the cost of lodging and transportation. If you are a single traveler and you desire, we will find a roommate for you. If we cannot find you a roommate, we will not charge you a single supplement. If space is available, cabins can be booked for a single occupant by adding 90% over the listed cabin cost. Single rooms are subject to availability.

Please note that we cannot guarantee a specific cabin number. If changes occur, we will do everything in our power to assign a cabin of equal or greater value as the cabin type specified in your reservation. Deck plan, cabin arrangements, and cabin amenities are subject to change by ship operator.


Payment Schedule

Payment Due Date Amount Per Person
Deposit Due now to reserve your space $500
Second June 30, 2018 $2,000
Third September 30, 2018 $2,500
Final December 31, 2018 Remaining Balance

Payments will be due based on the schedule above. All reservations require a deposit to confirm reservation of your space. For reservations made after a due date, all past payments will be due with registration. By sending your initial deposit, you agree to accept our payment schedule and cancellation policy as a contract. If payments are still outstanding two weeks after the due date, your space may be forfeited.


Cancellations

Refunds are given depending on the time left before departure according to the following table. The cancellation fee of $300 per person can be applied toward another tour if reserved within six months of the cancelled trip’s departure date. Cancellations are non-transferrable. Consider purchasing trip cancellation insurance that could reimburse your trip costs in the event of your cancellation.

Dates Forfeited Amount per Person
On or before October 31, 2018 $300
November 1 to November 30, 2018 10% of tour cost
December 1 to December 31, 2018 40% of tour cost
On or after December 31, 2018 100% of tour cost

Included

  • All leaders, transport, landing fees, and permits for all activities unless described as optional.
  • Airport transfers on May 2 and May 15.
  • Lodging the night of May 2 in Koror.
  • Twelve nights aboard the Ocean Hunter III, May 3 through 14.
  • Meals from dinner on May 2 through breakfast on May 15.
  • Non-alcoholic beverages while aboard the Ocean Hunter III.
  • Full gear rental for kayak, snorkel, and SCUBA activities.
  • Onboard lectures and workshops by guides and researchers.
  • Trip Materials – information about flights, packing, entry and departure requirements, airport transfers, gratuities, etc.

Not Included

  • All airfare, airport and departure taxes, and excess baggage fees. Airfare is approximately $1,500–$2,500 from the USA to Koror, Palau (ROR), depending on origin.
  • Airport departure fee (currently $50 cash).
  • Passport and visa fees.
  • Alcoholic beverages while aboard the Ocean Hunter III.
  • We can arrange divergent airport transfers and extra hotel nights for an extra cost.
  • SCUBA certification courses, but can be arranged at an extra cost. Please contact us for details.
  • Gratuities – tipping is, of course, discretionary, however we suggest budgeting about $500–$600 total per participant.
  • Dive insurance, but it is required for you to purchase. Read more about travel insurance.
  • Emergency medical and evacuation insurance, and trip cancellation insurance. Read more about travel insurance.
  • Items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone calls, internet access, medical costs or hospitalization, room service, items not on the regular menu, etc. If you have special dietary needs, please indicate them on your Reservation/Release Form.

Climate

In May, average temperatures range from the mid to upper 70’s°F (24–26°C) at night, up to the mid to upper 80’s°F (29–32°C) during the day, with high humidity and about a 60% chance of daily rain showers. The water temperature averages 84°F (29°C).

Fitness Level

Minimal fitness is required to join this safari, but your fitness and snorkeling ability enrich the experience. Getting in the water to snorkel or SCUBA dive is not required – this safari can be a wonderful experience from the vantage of the ship and tenders – however water activities are a significant part of the voyage. At minimum, you need to comfortably and safely move around the ship and embark/disembark from the landing tenders. To get the most out of this safari, you should be comfortable in the water, snorkeling, and getting in and out of the water via a boat ladder. Please contact us if you don’t have experience snorkeling, but would like to join this safari. Strong swimming ability and the ability to free dive (i.e., diving underwater without SCUBA tanks) are not required, but will also enhance your experience.

Our voyage will include landings and opportunities to hike on shore, typically no more than a mile or two on varying terrain. Walks and hikes are generally at a slow pace with stops for observation and photography and may be skipped by anyone that is not interested or able.

Flights

Airfare is not included in trip costs. Detailed logistical information and the contact information for our recommended flight-ticketing agent are included in the Trip Materials we will send you. Please let us know if you are arriving earlier or staying later as we are happy to assist you with any extra overnights that you might want to arrange.

Flights you (or a travel agent) book: Arrive in Koror, Palau (ROR) no later than the night of May 2. Depart from Koror (ROR) any time after 10:00am on May 15.

FAQ

Do I need to SCUBA dive or snorkel while on this safari?

No, however these activities will significantly enrich your safari experience.

Can I learn to SCUBA dive on this trip?

Yes, you may arrive several days early to Koror and participate in a SCUBA certification course. There are several businesses you can contact on your own, or we can book it for you through the company that has been recommended to us by our local trip leaders. Please contact our office for more details.

Accommodations

Seasickness

Don’t let a fear of seasickness scare you away! For all but the most sensitive, seasickness is rarely a problem in this region. It’s a good idea to bring medication if you get seasick or are unsure, but you may find that you do not need it after a couple days once you have your “sea legs.” Even those who have experienced seasickness reported that the incredible wildlife and overall experience were well worth the temporary discomfort. Read our suggestions for coping with seasickness and contact us if you have any concerns.

Transportation

Conditions

  • Non-smoking policy: We have a strict non-smoking policy. Smoking is not permitted at any time or any place during our tours.
  • Maximum time in nature: We try to spend as much time in nature as possible, sometimes resulting in long days but giving you a more in-depth experience.
  • Itinerary route: The itinerary route, stops, and plans are subject to change by unforeseen circumstances beyond our control, such as weather or road conditions.
  • Additional forms: For some of our tours, you may be asked to fill out additional forms (e.g., medical questionnaire).
  • Medical conditions and travel risks: Travel to remote places is exciting, but it is important to understand and accept the risks, both medical and logistical. Minor medical problems can usually be treated, but because we are often far from medical facilities, there can be no expectation for immediate medical treatment or evacuation, even in cases of trauma. Anyone with health problems needing close medical supervision should not consider going on this tour. Bring enough medication for the duration of the trip for any chronic medical needs, since pharmacies are usually not available. When you send your deposit and signed Reservation/Release Form, you certify to us that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions that would create a risk for yourself or for other trip participants.