The Palau Project

Photo by M. Hempel

Blue Planet United is dedicated to sustaining cultural and biological diversity. The Palau Project is integral to that mission.

The Republic of Palau is a tropical island paradise in the western Pacific, about 550 miles east of the Philippines. Its giant lagoon, extending 93 miles from North to South, contains more than 340 separate islands, with only eight of them permanently inhabited. Palau is best known for its extraordinary coral reef system and stunning tropical scenery. Its jungles, coral reefs, and marine lakes offer astonishing biological diversity, while its rich matrilineal culture offers a wealth of opportunities to observe traditional clan-based systems interacting with the forces of modern technology and globalization. With a resident population of about 20,000 people, Palau provides a microcosm for the study of changes across the globe that threaten the integrity of both human and natural systems.

Photo by Taylor Miller

The Palau Project consists of three parts:

  1. The Palau Expedition – taking American university students to Palau to experience the fascinating natural and social systems of an island republic that remains beautiful and mostly wild, but increasingly threatened by unsustainabe forms of development;
  2. Blue Planet Films – making documentary films that capture the uniqueness and ecological significance of Palau’s coral kingdoms, marine lakes, and jungle habitat;
  3. Eco-Economy – supporting eco-tourism that celebrates and protects Palau’s natural beauty and culture, while supporting the local economy.

Photo by Ron Leidich

1. The Palau Expedition

Adventure travel with an educational purpose.

Each year, ten students from the University of Redlands trade their classrooms for kayaks and set off to explore one of the world’s most enchanting Edens – the 340 islands of Palau.  Led by Monty and Marilyn Hempel, they learn about coral reefs, rainforests, traditional culture, and the future sustainability of this island republic.  Visiting more than a dozen islands during a three-week expedition, they experience a wide range of environments — both underwater and on spectacular islands, many of which are uninhabited. In the process, they develop important insights about their own country and about themselves.

2. Blue Planet Films

The Coral Corollary (30 minutes)
This documentary film weaves a complex tale about our power to transform Nature and the power of Nature to transform us.

The southern Palauan island of Peleliu was a paradise that was nearly destroyed in 1944, during one of the bloodiest battles of World War II. More than 60 years later, the restored island faces a new enemy, this time threatening its spectacular underwater coral ecosystem. Using Peleliu and other islands of Palau as a microcosm, this film examines the influence of innocence, war, beauty, death and hope in a changing world, wavering between economic prosperity and environmental ruin.

Photo by M. Hempel

The Palau Expedition film (30 minutes)
This 30-minute documentary video examines the role of experiential learning in higher education, using the University of Redlands annual Palau travel course as a case study.

The purpose of the film is to promote discovery-based experiential learning, organized around an interdisciplinary set of environmental, social, and economic field studies.  The film combines brief interviews, stunning scenery, and dramatic clips of Redlands students exploring uninhabited islands and caves, scuba diving on spectacular coral reefs, kayaking up jungle rivers and across marine lakes, encountering amazing animals (including crocodiles, sharks, and manta rays), and meeting Palau’s high chiefs and top political leaders. The film celebrates the power of learning through adventure travel.  It chronicles the process of discovery that takes place in a series of unique ecological and cultural settings, each one inviting both intense observation and quiet reflection.  Narrated by Monty Hempel and accompanied by a professional music score, the film will be distributed for educational use in the U.S. and Palau.

Photo by Ron Leidich

3. Eco-Economy

Dolphin Bay Resort:

Blue Planet United is assisting this family-run resort on the island of Peleliu in its quest to provide eco-friendly experiences for its guests while improving the local economy. Dolphin Bay Resort and Peleliu Divers is owned and operated by Mayumi and Godwin Sadao. The resort uses traditional island architecture and materials, cooks tasty meals using local foods, and provides a crafts shop for island artists. Each year we bring American university students to Dolphin Bay to experience high quality sustainable development, first hand. We also provide assistance with promoting the resort to other visitors who value environmental sensitivity in the design and operation of tourist facilities.

Photo by M. Hempel

Our film A Taste of Paradise describes the eco-tourism experience at Dolphin Bay. Copies can be purchased through Dolphin Bay Resort and Blue Planet United.

Dolphin Bay Resort – Photo by M. Hempel

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