OK, we can tell you the new season of Survivor begins in February with 20 new castaways, and host Jeff Probst says they're not the most even-keeled group. We can also tell you that the next round takes place in the Micronesian islands of Palau. Still, you might be wondering, "What's Palau?" And "Why don't I get out of my house more often?" We can answer the first question; as for the second, you're on your own.What Is Palau? Palau (not to be confused with Survivor's first locale, Pulau Tiga) is a nation of islands located east of the Philippines and north of Indonesia. It's one of the world's least populated (about 20,000 people) and youngest nations. The economy is based on tourism, and residents of this collective of islands mostly speak Palauan and English. (One useful phrase for the new castaways: "Merkong!" Which means "Stop! That's enough!") Hollywood Highlight This isn't the first time the islands have been the backdrop for a Hollywood production. Some scenes in the 1968 movie Hell in the Pacific were shot there. The film is about two World War II pilots — one American (Lee Marvin) and one Japanese (Toshiro Mifune) — who crash on a deserted island and must learn how to cooperate in order to survive. Sound familiar? Legend Has It Although there are several versions of the story, local folklore says that Palau's islands were created by a giant (think former Survivor Rupert, only bigger). He fell down, and when he toppled, people crawled out of his flesh. Yuck! What Lies Beneath Divers from all over the world come to see Palau's beautiful coral reefs and Jellyfish Lake, where the colorful little buggers — isolated over time from their kin in the sea — have evolved into plantlike beings. They don't sting, but please, castaways, do not eat the jellyfish — they do not contain scrumptious jelly! History Lessons The region was a battle site for American and Japanese troops during WWII. Sunken ships and fallen airplanes still litter the ocean and land. Says Probst, "These wrecks serve as backdrops for many of our challenges." Civilization The Survivors are about a 45-minute boat ride (on a good day) from the modern conveniences of the capital of Koror, where luxurious resorts, karaoke bars and hamburger joints abound. Feelin' Hot! Hot! Hot! Palau has a tropical year-round climate of approximately 82 degrees. The rainy season is July through October, but there is always sunshine. Sound good? Did we mention 82 percent humidity? What's for Dinner? The contestants this time around shouldn't be wanting for food. The blue waters surrounding Palau are filled with many oceanic delicacies, including tuna. So, as the Palauans say: "Bo momengur!" ("Have something to eat!)
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