Of course I woke up after all of that at 4:30 in the morning and couldn't get back to sleep despite the fine bedding at the Palau Pacific Resort. So I put on my boardshorts and slipped out of the hotel room, leaving behind the loud, pungent humidity of my dad and brothers' syncopy of snores and farts for the still, floral humidity of the early tropical morning. Even in the dark of early morning, the air is thick and warm, tinged with a loamy smell you don't get back home. It's the first time I remember feeling clearly the difference of where I was.
The hotel grounds were dark, save for a few lighted paths connecting the various buildings, and around which a host of geckos and toads were congregated, still wrapping up their nightly feast of insects and fornication.
Noting a faint light in the East, I padded out to the beach to look for a good place to watch the sunrise. There's a hill providing about 100' of relief above PPR's dock and beach. It's a quick climb up rocky path to a small shelter atop the hill, affording great views of the resort and surroundings.
I hung for a bit and watched the light come up behind layers of clouds, before heading back down to stroll out the dock and get my look at the water we'd come so far to explore.
To my surprise, among the expected host of nameless tropical fish, one of the first things I found was a group of four lion fish cruising boldly just off the dock. I had always wanted to see one of these guys and took this as a good omen of the days of diving ahead of us.