Text and photos Francis Toribiong
I grew up in Palau after the end of World War II; traditionally, every kid went spearfishing with his dad or uncles to bring home our next meal.
Swimming underwater with my WWII Japanese pilot’s goggles, I suddenly realised that I was not looking at the fish as my next dinner. I was fascinated by the richness of Palau’s underwater beauty.
My goal was to stay as long as possible underwater on a single breath and explore it. In early 1960s, some of the pioneer divers came to Palau, including Jacque Yves Cousteau aboard his boat, the Calypso, leaving a great impression on me. They taught me how to dive and I made up my mind to become a professional diver.
From early days, I realised that the ocean has no limitless resources and we have to protect it. Fortunately, Palau’s traditional leaders and government were instrumental in declaring Palau a marine sanctuary and later, a shark sanctuary.
It took us, the diving community, half a century to convince the world that sharks need our protection and I hope it is not too late.
Blue Corner is one of the world’s most known dive sites and often divers ask why “Blue Corner”? After all, most corners in Palau are blue…
The story is that during the early diving days in Palau, we used to dive the magnificent Blue Holes and always turned right after exiting the cavern. One day, I decided to swim against the current and follow the reef to the left. A short swim underwater brought my divers and I to a corner with an explosion of marine and pelagic life. When I explained to my Fish ‘n Fins guides about the dive I explained, “From Blue Holes, swim left to the corner…” Shortly after that, the site got its name, Blue Corner.
One of my best memories underwater is of the WWII wrecks in Palau. We knew that on March 30, 1944, during operation Desecrate 1, more than 60 Japanese ships were sunk. With documents from the war and calculated guesswork, we managed to find them all. Diving for the first time on an unexplored wreck is a unique experience; you are in a territory no one has explored before you. From the beginning, we made sure that no one removed artefacts from the wrecks, so they can be preserved for future generations.
The 25th anniversary of the largest and longest running dive show, Asia Dive Expo (ADEX) is set to occur on the 11-14th April 2019. Centred on the theme – Plastic free Future, ADEX is more than just a dive show with its commitment to the environment. Among an exciting lineup of programs, attendees can look forward to a Future Forward Series of Panel Discussion on the Single-Use Plastic Conundrum in Asia, on 13th April.
So join us at the event, get inspired and for all you know, you might just liberate the inner diver in you! More details of the event here.