I arrived in Palau earlier today and my first thought was the realisation that apart from water there is nothing else around me. It’s a bit of scary thought. Yet as I’ve been discovering more about the island and its truly exotic culture this feeling of isolation is quickly replaced by fascination.
In Palau, the ocean plays a very important role and there are dozens of legends that tell about the creation of turtles, mermaids and, of course, sharks. I also learn that Palauans are true conservation pioneers, who created their first marine protected area in the 1950s.
Tova Bornovski, SOSF project leader and owner of local dive shop ‘Fish ’n Fins’ is the organiser of Palau Shark Week. She explains, “We created the Micronesian Shark Foundation and Palau Shark Week because we wanted answers to our questions. We need to protect the sharks but there is still so much about them we don’t know.”
Shark week is a wonderful way to explore the current issues and research regarding sharks. The evening lectures are open to everyone, Palauans as well as tourists, and provide a great platform for researchers to engage with the public.
I am lucky because I’ve already met some of the scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Science and have been given a glimpse into their studies during our first dive today. On our return we met a true celebrity, Herbert Nitsch, "The Deepest Man on Earth" who just broke the record for diving to 214m in one breath! Just returning from a dive trip himself he tells us that he encountered a group of about 50 sharks at a dive site close by a few days ago…
Shark week begins in earnest this weekend and the excitement is tangible in the air. I’ll be reporting on the events every few days as the week progresses so stay tuned for updates.