I remember having breakfast in the open poolside restaurant at Palau Pacific Resort, nodding hello to the shy Japanese honeymooners and exchanging notes with some new friends on a dive trip. One of the divers looked out at the water and commented on the resort's beautiful oceanfront setting.
She looked more than a little surprised when I told her that she was actually on the site of an old Japanese seaplane base.
It's true. Much of PPR's property was once a base for Kawanishi "Emily"-type flying boats. The concrete ramp they used to exit the water is still next to the boat dock.
And just up the coast, the Meyuns Seaplane Ramp was once a base of operations for Aichi E13A-1 "Jake"-type seaplanes. Better still, not far from that ramp, one of the old World War II Jakes is still there.
But to see it, you'll have to dive it.
The old warbird carried a crew of three and was used to scout for signs of the Allied Fleet advancing up the Pacific. If they found it, they could leave a potent calling card - each Jake was capable of carrying a 550-pound bomb-load.
Now, it sits in 45 feet of water, with both wings, one float and its cockpit intact. The 14-cylinder engine droops off the front with its blades unbent, indicating that the engine wasn't running when the Jake went in. The other float and the tail section lie under more than 60 years' worth of coral about 20 feet away.
The water on this site is extremely clear, especially at high tide, and if you approach from the front, the old plane appears mostly intact. A favorite photo-op here is to get your dive buddy next to the cockpit - just be sure to check it first to make sure it's not occupied by anything venomous!
Splash Dive Center (splash-palau.com) onsite at the Palau Pacific Resort (palauppr.com) is a PADI Five-Star IDC with five instructors and one divemaster who share 17 years of local diving experience. The Palau Aggressor (aggressor.com) has nine staterooms and conducts all dives from an 18-passenger dive skiff. The Expedition Fleet's MV Big Blue Explorer (islandcruiseadventure.com) has 18 cabins and five dive guides operating from two, 30-foot tenders. Check out Caradonna Dive Adventures (caradonna.com), caribbean dive vacations (caribbeandivevacations.com) and Trip-n-Tour (trip-n-tour.com) for a selection of dive travel packages. Palau Visitors Authority (visit-palau.com) offers travel-planning assistance and a continuously updated event calendar.