Alright, the cat's out of the bag and the one-way tickets are booked. Next stop: Palau!

Pa-what? Unless you are a serious dive enthusiast or a World War II veteran, chances are you might not have heard of this tiny island nation, and for good reason. Palau is 1000 miles east of the Philippines, 1300 miles southwest of Guam, and 1900 miles north of Papua New Guinea. Whoa! It's a little intimidating to think of spending a significant amount of time away from any large mass of land, but at the same time it is perfectly fitting. I love the ocean, and what Palau lacks in land mass, it more then makes up for in amazing, vast, ocean.

Fletch and I are leaving February 17 with no real plans past that. If we like it, Palau has a very close relationship with the US and so we can get year-long visas as Americans. It might be difficult to find work though, so the plan is to show up and see what happens. Whatever the case, I can't wait to explore new territory.

Here are ten things I'm most excited for about Palau.

1. Scuba Diving - Palau is listed as one of the Seven Underwater Wonders of the World by CEDAM International. It is world renowned for scuba diving, constantly appearing in lists of top diving destinations world-wide. 1300 species of fish call these oceans home, as well as over 700 species of coral. This great bio-diversity is mainly attributed to Palau being at the crossroads of the Pacific Ocean and the Philippine Sea.

(Image found on Google) 
2. Jellyfish Lake - How crazy does this sound? There are over 50 saltwater lakes on Palau, five of which contain golden jellyfish, and only one of which (the famed Jellyfish Lake) is open to tourists. This lake contains over 13 million stingless jellyfish. That's right, they can't sting you so it is actually possible to swim with them.

(Image found on Google)
3. The Rock Islands - Google image search Palau and you will likely come up with an aerial view of the Rock Islands. 300-400 of these mushroom-shaped, limestone knobs, covered in rich vegetation make up the Rock Islands. They form a labyrinth of blue lagoons, beaches, and caves.

(Image found on Google)
4. History - Palau has a colorful history of European contact and served as major playing ground in WWII. Spanish and Portuguese explorers were the first to arrive on the islands, and in 1885 the Pope granted control of the islands to Spain. After the Spanish-American War, Spain sold the islands to Germany. When Germany was defeated in WWI, Japan then took over occupation. Japan fortified the islands in preparation for WWII. One of the islands, Peleliu served as a major battleground and my great uncle actually fought over there. After the war, Palau was taken over by the US. It wasn't until l994 that Palau became a free association.

(Image found on Google)
5. Shipwrecks - Because Palau played such an important role in WWII, today it is riddled with shipwrecks, which makes it heaven under the sea for any wreck diving enthusiast. To this day, discoveries of new wrecks are being made yearly. I think it's time to go play out my own version of Fool's Gold.

(Image found on Google) 
6. Ngardmau Waterfall - Apparently the hike to get here is not for the faint of heart and leads past some historic remains of a Japanese railway system, or mining tracks, depending on what you read. Sounds like a good combination for a day full of adventure to me!

(Image found on Google) 
7. New Discoveries - Once you get past all the highlights I've already mentioned, there is surprisingly little written about Palau. Choose any mainstream destination like Paris or Tokyo and you will have a hard time sorting through the dozens of different guide books your local bookstore has in stock. I went to Barnes and Noble the other day and couldn't find a single book on Palau. So I came home and got on Amazon and found a total of five books to choose from, (including the ones on Micronesia in general), most of which are sorely outdated. I guess I'll be writing my own guide books!

8. Survivor - I have to admit I've never actually watched Survivor but when I heard that season 10 was set on Palau I immediately started looking for it. (I have a little too much free time on my hands these days). Unfortunately I can't seem to find it available to stream or purchase in digital format anywhere, and I don't own a DVD player. Does anyone with a DVD player want to have a Survivor : Palau party? I'll bring popcorn!

(Image found on Wikipedia)
9. Spear Fishing - In Roatan I got a taste for spearing lionfish (an invasive and delicious species,) and then in Koh Tao if you so much as said the words "spear" and "fish" in the same sentence, the dive community would practically stone you. Oh sure those trawling boats on the horizon are cool but if one diver goes out and spears one fish then they are going to ruin the entire ecosystem. So I was pretty psyched to learn that not only is fishing a "cornerstone of life on the islands of Palau," but spear fishing is the local preference.

10. The Nautilus - I don't know how often divers actually see these things, in fact until recently I thought they were some prehistoric creature that had gone extinct (my discovery of their survival came shortly after discovering that narwhals are in fact real and not mythical). Then my endless Google image searches for "Palau diving" kept bringing up this little guy. I guess sightings of them are rare, as they like to chill at 500-1000 feet (way outside the bounds of recreational diving), but sometimes they will come up to 100-200 feet at night. Fingers crossed!

(Image found on Google)